By: Jeff Gawronski CEO: Yak About It
Want to produce a product? You better be thinking of sourcing in China. If your brain thinks USA then your company will have a difficult time competing. The truth is China is better equipped than America to produce goods. As an up and coming CEO your job is to use the resources best equipped for success. You simply cannot pay triple the manufacturing expense in America and expect to compete. The economy is global so by utilizing countries better equipped at manufacturing you’ll actually create a better America.
To those CEO’s that China sounds so foreign, let’s start with the fact that it is. Most factory employees know zero English. Sales reps and managers range from knowing no English to being able to maintain a slower paced conversation. You’ll never be able to tell through e-mail as the Chinese learn to read and write English at an early age, but they do not learn to speak it until later in their adolescent years. Think of how good you are at Spanish or French that you took for 2 years in high school (and didn’t care about) and that is about how good most Chinese factory representatives are adept at English. A suggestion for any CEO that wants to make waves, learn Chinese. A little goes a long way in forming great relationships.
How to Source? Sourcing has gotten much easier since the advent of the Internet. Anyone can go on Alibaba.com or MadeinChina.com and find factories in your needed field. There are also a few trade shows in China that will open your world to so many factories that your head will spin. Finding the factory is easy, knowing whether they can be trusted is a bit harder. The best way is to jump on the 14-hour plan ride and visit prospective factories yourself. Bring your iPhone and take plenty of pictures and after you have visited as many suppliers as you can you’ll have a sense as to which factory can do your job.
By now many of you may be saying where is the ‘party by night’? If your only focus is ‘party by night’ then you may want to switch from CEO to bartender. The good times come, but the hard work and brain headaches from trying to comprehend Chinese come first. After your factory visits there is no culture more hospitable than the Chinese. Often they will treat you to a dinner that you could never imagine.
The food never stops coming. The food is not like American Chinese food and if you ask Americans who have tried it, opinions are mixed. During your meal you’ll be served a tiny glass equal in size to a large Dixie cup. This is for your beer (pijiu). Your table will get what appears to be 22oz bottles of beer and they’ll have it poured in your tiny glass. If you’ve been learning Chinese and your dinner party is ready to have fun, this is when you can impress. Hold your glass up and say ‘ganbei’, traditionally it means ‘bottoms up’ and if anyone at the table says it you have to down your Dixie glass of beer. Present day it also means ‘cheers’ and you don’t have to pound it, but this is where you decide how to party. After your table has gone through 4-12 22oz beers you will know if your group is the party type or if your time together is over. If it’s over your party can pick up by yourself at one of the clubs or bars in your area. How good the party is will depend if you are in a major city or deep in middle China. The Chinese can party and you’ll find a variety of spots to continue on. If you’re in middle China expect lots of stares (from guys and girls), as they don’t see people that look like you. In the major cities you are less special, but still don’t be surprised if you only spot a handful of non-Chinese people.
When your new ‘best friends’ (Chinese will often refer to you in English as ‘best friend’) are ready to party …. Look out! You better get your drunken college game face on because it is no joke. Your first sign that you are in trouble is if you see a little clear alcohol bottle come out at dinner. This is known as baijiu or white rice wine. It tastes like a weak vodka and is often served in a shot glass the size of a thimble. The tiny shot glass will make you think you are 14 years old again trying alcohol for the first time, but in reality the number of shots thrown back will make any drinking champ cringe. While your liquor bottles are getting emptied you might be at a dance club with live singers or you might be at karaoke. You could of course be at dinner too, because the dinners in China can span 4-5 hours and be a party in and of itself. If you are out on the town you can almost bet singing will be involved. The Chinese love to sing and they will love to have their new ‘best friend’ singing and dancing too. If you are at Karaoke don’t be surprised that you’ll find Rhianna’s ‘Umbrella’ available for you to sing. Even Chinese who don’t know English can sing American songs. With your drunken stooper get ready to hold your fake umbrella and sing Rhianna like you have never sung her songs before (because of course you have not). It won’t be long before you are grabbing the mic wanting to sing more of your favorite hits. Or if you are at a dance club you’ll be hitting the dance floor harder than your alcohol induced senior prom. Enjoy the party!
When the party comes to a close you’ll have to snap back into the real CEO reason why you came to China and kindly say ‘xie xie’ (Thank you). With a sure fire headache from the baijiu, you’ll have just enough time to sleep and do it all over again with your next scheduled factory.