Issues with your overseas manufacturer? Here is what you can do. Hey, guys, I’m Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail. And man, working with overseas manufacturers can be a real pain in the tuchus. I mean, I hear all the time from my clients every time that they have to deal with an overseas manufacturer, there’s something wrong, it’s being held up at the port, what do I do, they’re not on time with my samples. Trust me, you guys are not alone, this happens all the time, especially these days when you have so much access, right, in terms of being able to find manufacturers. You know, I mean, there’s so much information these days, how do you really source and find the right people?
So let’s talk about what you can do. Today, I’m going to chat about things like stockpiling contacts, we’re going to talk about getting things in writing, and we’re going to talk about sampling. All right, let’s dive into it. When it comes to finding the right manufacturers, you’re always going to want to stockpile who these contacts are. You’re going to want to continue to ask people who you meet, “Oh, where are you manufacturing? Do you like them?” Most brands are not going to be so forthright about who they’re giving up their information to unless it’s a friend in the industry or a friend of a friend, right? So you’re going to want to make sure that you are bridging and creating networks and relationships with other people who might be willing to share their contacts with you.
I also highly suggest starting to develop relationships, even with your sourcing manufacturers and finding out who their relationships are within the industry. Oftentimes, we can get so misled, you know, when we come to finding these things on our own, that going through word-of-mouth and networking, I think is really, really important. Clients of mine who are doing millions of dollars in business oftentimes, even still to this date, have issues with their manufacturers. And so the things that you need to remember are maintaining a strong Rolodex, always being networking out there, always making sure that you’re connecting with people and taking notes of who these people are.
Now, of course, if you’re interested in Made in U.S.A or you have access or are using Maker’s Row, of course, you’re going to find a whole host of, you know, different manufacturers who can produce for you domestically in the United States. But if you’re looking for external manufacturers, yes, you can do some researching online, but I personally think attending some trade shows where you can understand and speak with different sourcing agents and seeing who they are relationships and connections with.
Now, the second thing that I think is really important, especially when you’re dealing with overseas stuff, is to make sure you get as much as you can in writing. It’s not necessarily because you’re going to be able to hold them to any kind of contract, but it’s really because when you have something in writing, it is a firm timeline. Now, as a small business, chances are your sales are going to take a little bit of a backseat action to whatever else they have going on, in terms of production, because they’re used to working with bigger accounts, right? They are putting all of their larger orders in first, and you’re going to be the person who is kind of waiting for your stuff to get pushed through.
And that can certainly be an impediment to getting your orders on time. But you do want to have a conversation with your manufacturers and say, “Hey, here’s how many units I’m anticipating to produce. What is the best cutoff date for us in order to make sure that I can produce this on time?” Come up together, collaboratively, with a document that you guys can then stay on top of, right? Think of it as a little bit of project management. Now, of course, this doesn’t necessarily bear any weight on whether or not these guys follow up with it, but it is helpful because you guys can refer to a collective document that can help keep you guys on the right path.
Now, one of my clients these days has been up till 2:00 in the morning having conversations with India, you know, and she seems to always be up really early, I think these days, maybe 4:00 a.m. or 5 a.m., having these conversations because she’s staying on top of her manufacturer. Now, in an ideal scenario, you might have a production agent or someone else is able to help you do that, right? You don’t have to be the person doing it. But if you are the person who is doing it, you’re going to want to have your timeline together, you’re going to want to know that production management is, in and of itself, going to be a huge task.
So falling short of taking a trip to wherever it is that you’re manufacturing and making sure that what they’re producing is on time, overseeing the process, get as much of it as you can in writing and have some kind of timeline that you’re all adhering to. Also, make sure, guys, that in that timeline and process, you’re taking into consideration quality control. Just because someone makes something doesn’t mean it’s any good, right? So find out if it’s going to be you that’s providing a quality control person on site or what kind of quality control they have.
Never forget references, right? References are also really important in determining if that right manufacturer is going to be a good fit for you.
Now, lastly, and this I love, and most people don’t even think about this. Always be sampling, because once you do find a manufacturer that you like, you’re not just going to shift your entire production to working with them, no, you’re going to want to sample with them. And as we all know, in this field of retail, you’re constantly in the process of producing one collection and sampling for another. So always have some manufacturers that you are in the process of sampling with. You never know when you’re going to get a better price, you never know when you’re going to get a better product, you never know when you’re going to get better managers or people who are actually able to help you get that product to customs and to the retailer on time, and all of those things are extremely valuable and important.
So while you might be paying more money for sampling, because as we all know it does cost money to sample, you don’t have to sample your whole line every season with a lot of different manufacturers, but take a couple pieces and see who’s doing what every season and have a small budget just for sampling.
All right, guys. I hope this helps you in your process of dealing with overseas manufacturers. Obviously, communication is key, knowing if you have an agent on the ground who’s going to be there to oversee, do quality control, and then, of course, making sure, guys, that your lists of contacts and also your sampling and that whole process is happening as smoothly as possible. If you need help, ideas, ready to take your business to the next level, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Do hit subscribe and head on over to Instagram. I am where you are. Have a great day. Bye.