You need manufacturers to make your products a reality, and yet sometimes you may feel as if they don’t have your best interests at heart. Before diving into ways to know they’re not doing a great job, we’ll begin with common things manufacturers do that you may interpret as being a bad relationship but can be totally “normal” behavior among manufacturers.
Common Manufacturer Behavior Mistaken for Bad Business Practices
1. Manufacturers Have Their Own Schedules
Manufacturers are always on deadlines and always have their own schedules. You have to be really clear about your own deadlines because your manufacturer is the key to getting your product. You have to find out what their production windows are, etc. and you have to know that they’ll always kind of run the shots in terms of product deliveries, the sample-making process, etc.
2. Manufacturers Are Notorious for Poor Communication.
Manufacturers are notoriously bad with communication. They’re known for not sending emails on time and not having good communication styles over email. In fact, you might think your manufacturer is yelling at you because he’s writing in all caps when it’s just the way he or she communicates. Still, manufacturers can also be testy at times.
3. Manufacturers Often Offer Shipping; Politely Decline.
Other things you may confuse for bad behavior is when they offer to do all of your shipping. You might think it’s a good deal, but it’s ultimately better to put forth your own ideas around shipping. Chances are, you could get your shipping done for a much cheaper price than having your manufacturers include the cost in your order.
Your manufacturers are in business to make a profit so they’ll also be able to quote you on a price that is almost always negotiable. Your first relationship with your manufacturer is not going to be your last. Go into this with the understanding that it’s a learning experience. They’re running a business and you’re extremely dependent unless you decide to go vertical and create your own manufacturing supply chain. Make sure you have a great symbiotic, empathetic relationship where they’re in love with your product, they love working with you, and they’re going to be able to do you some favors.
Signs Your Manufacturer May Be Up to No Good
1. Missed Delivery Windows
When your manufacturer starts ghosting you between delivery windows and you know it’s time for them to start doing quality control, packaging, etc. you have a huge problem on your hands. A good manufacturer will be on top of communication at these key points on the calendar.
2. No Discussion of Payment Terms
Another issue is if they do not discuss payment terms up front. They just say, “Hey, yeah, we’ll make your goods. Oh, you want to make this thing, amazing. We’ll make that for you.” And they don’t say, “Hey, we need X percentage of a down payment. We need X percent upon delivery,” and then start to talk logistics. Make sure your manufacturer is really logistics-oriented and clear on pricing.
3. Lots of Excuses
Everyone gets health issues, things come up all the time and there are always real emergencies. Still, when a manufacturer starts to tell you they’re having all of these crises and it seems to be happening all the time, you might want to consider it could just be an excuse. Be empathetic when people go through issues but don’t be naive. Talk to the manufacturer to clear the air. If there is a health concern or family crisis, you need to be able to find an alternative solution. Instead of it being something you have to really build into your business model, you can say, “Great, I’m going to do this production with this other factory until you’re able to get things together on your end.” Be sympathetic in that manner but your production should not suffer due to external issues.
4. No Offer to Rectify Their Mistakes
Whenever a manufacturer makes a mistake, they should always rectify the error. If a product bleeds, if they send you something defective, et al., the manufacturer should make those adjustments on your behalf for free. Your manufacturer is up to no good when they charge you to do repeats of certain styles when they actually made the mistake. It happens more often than not, and it’s very important that you have an understanding before you start production as to what happens if they err. After all, these are the people who should be double-checking your tech packs, approving samples, and showing you top of production (TOP: what the final product will look like before they complete the entire order). Make sure you know exactly what they’re up to and that you have a really good idea of what that product looks like.
How to Prevent or Resolve Manufacturer Issues
Sample: Do a lot of sampling, all the time. Make sure your manufacturers are not the only people you go to for production. If you’re doing your job right, you have a handful of manufacturers that you can go to whenever you need certain garments produced.
Be Specific: What I find really fascinating is that there are so many manufacturers out there that say they’ll do the sketching for you, they say they’ll do all the tech packs too and you just tell them what you want. These kinds of manufacturers can be problematic unless you’re with them every step of the way and know exactly what they’re doing. Make sure they’re doing your assortment planning and asking how you’d like to price the goods. If you’re starting off your line for the first time, they should be taking a more collaborative approach to ensure you have the right products and don’t end up with something that retails at $1,200 because you never told them you wanted to sell it for $150 in the first place.
Get Your Goods: If someone is holding your goods hostage (this happens more often than we’d like), tread lightly. Manufacturers that hold goods usually do so because they’re waiting for your payment, there’s been a hiccup in communication or they haven’t finalized production because of their own financing issues. Sometimes, at the end of the day, you’ll need to take those manufacturers to court. If that does come to fruition, it’ll be very important that you have a good paper trail with all the different contracts and agreements you have in place. This is much easier to enforce if you manufacture domestically. When you do business overseas, it can become much harder to enforce contracts.
Go deeper into this topic with our most recent blog post on starting up a fashion label- how to choose the right manufacturers for you. Also get your free download, the 21-point checklist on how to launch a brand effectively. That checklist has been a lifesaver for so many brands.
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