China is one of the most important markets in the world today, but their culture and government often make it a complicated process to capitalize on their resources. To be a successful player, a business owner must gain an understanding of the dramatic changes in business, culture, the government of China, and the dealings of the Chinese with other countries. Or, they can hire someone else to understand it for them.
That’s where companies like Global Link Partners enter the picture. After all, if doing business overseas went smoothly, there would be no need of a third party. But since things do go wrong, having us on your team is hugely beneficial. There will always be someone who knows the ropes responsible for putting out the fires.
I got a call yesterday from a customer. Their shipment came in, but didn’t get through customs. My customer didn’t understand what the problem was, and he didn’t want to understand what the problem was. He just wanted me to fix the situation. It’s my job to handle these situations so that my customers can focus on other aspects of their business.
There are many reasons for enlisting an agent to facilitate your activities in the Asian market. The biggest reason is to save your company’s money. After all, saving money is more important than sales because every nickel you save goes right to the bottom line. Some people want to squeeze the very last nickel out of everything by doing it themselves, not realizing that their time — and their employees’ time — is worth money.
Buyers at big companies love this because they get out of the office and go overseas, and they don’t want to give up those perks even if it means saving 20 or 30% (it’s not their money!) If they thought about it, they would know that ultimately they are the ones subsidizing their own wining and dining through the increased markup.
If your company doesn’t want the cost or hassle of going overseas, you should look to someone else to handle it for you. And whether you go through an agent or go through someone like me, you will need to have someone local, someone who can communicate in the local language, someone to inspect the goods, and someone with connections to find and manufacture the items you want. Global Link will prevent and eliminate your importing problems.
And with those connections comes something else: face. A solid reputation with the Asian companies. Strong relationships are built over many years, not in a day, or with a phone call, fax, or email.
Many businesses aren’t at all interested in becoming importers themselves, so they contract with a third party like Global Link Partners. For those that are, there’s a learning curve going into the import business. And the curve can be steep.
To do what I do, I have to be in the transportation business, the freight negotiations business, and the customs and duty handling business. Unless you have a big staff, a big overhead (these things cost money), and a large supply of Rolaids — think long and hard before you leap. And even with the staff and overhead, you may not have the knowledge (or the stomach) to do it.
If your business isn’t big enough to have a traffic department, you or someone in the company will have to know how to buy and arrange for all the freight and duty fees along with all their usual responsibilities. The big companies like Wal-Mart have entire departments to do this, but most companies don’t have that luxury and aren’t able to get the best rates.
When you’re doing business overseas, there is always the possibility that the people you’re dealing with aren’t going to be 100% reliable. You may get a shipment of merchandise in the wrong color, or the packaging isn’t up to your specifications, or the item itself is inferior to the original sample. If it can go wrong, it will, and if it’s your first time it could be a disaster for you.
Global Link Partners will never authorize shipment until we inspect it. Someone must go to the factory and make sure everything is right before the order is signed off and put on the boat. A good agent will also do that, but his services come at a premium. And if you had a good agent, someone you trusted and whose services were inexpensive enough to give you a competitive edge — you would not be reading this.
Needless to say we have many “war stories” based on over two decades of experience working with sources in Asia. After some hard early lessons we would never do business with anyone we don’t know and/or have not checked out carefully. We would never facilitate business between two companies with anyone or any entity we don’t know, either. Our clients benefit from our hard-won experience.
The Chinese economy, laws, culture and customs are changing dramatically every year. I think that most people, when they get right down to it, would never attempt to do business in China without a facilitator to run interference for them!
It is difficult, if not impossible, to make inroads in Asia without having help. It has taken years to get some factories to do business with us, until we were accepted and trusted by them. The question is, do you have those years? And do you have the ability to make equitable deals and get the merchandise on time and as agreed?
I have found that my clients and the manufacturers in Asia, and I are best served when I stay in the areas I am well-known for. Where am I best? In the niches I’ve been working in for twenty-five years! I’ve got a strong background in sourcing and merchandising everything from plumbing to electrical, lawn and garden, hardware.
If you’re a buyer, then I’m working for you — sort of like a “hired gun.” There are a couple of important reasons you to look for a guy like me to make the entire process from sourcing to delivery from Asia a seamless process:
First and foremost, you will need an experienced and well-connected assistant. If you don’t have one or the budget for one and you don’t see how you can get all the work done yourself, I can help. I become your eyes, ears, arms and legs during the process and I have the Rolodex of well-placed contacts.
Second, if you don’t have time, energy, or interest in going to Asia, regularly and effectively, I can do that for you too. My regular trips to the Pacific Rim are packed with visits to the right resources. My associates have me booked from the moment the plane lands until it takes off again.
Third, from a management standpoint, your boss might say, “I want Stan Coben because I don’t want to hire another full-time buyer or a permanent assistant for you.'” Your boss might not want to incur the additional salary, overhead, and travel expenses until it has been demonstrated that it is the most prudent approach for the company.
For example, let’s say a buyer works for a lawn and garden company that has decided to expand operations to sporting goods. They don’t know anything about sporting goods. In order to find out enough about sporting goods to create a profitable line, there’s a steep learning curve.
By hiring Global Link Partners, they get someone who already has expertise in the sporting goods category without having to hire another buyer. They’re not only getting an agent, but educated experienced consultants as well.
What are the key advantages to hiring Global Link Partners, things that are or should be toward the top of any client’s priority list?
We offer very personalized, client-centered service.
You’ll receive the kind of expertise that only develops after many years in the business.
When discussing whether or not we, or another organization like ours, can help you, today, tomorrow, or in the future — ask yourself these questions.
What is most important to you? Is it cost savings, access to resources, merchandising experience?
What is your (your company’s) real motivation? Is it to test the possibilities sourcing from Asia, see if your existing sources are doing the best job possible, get faster turnaround with a new product to test a new merchandising initiative, or what?
What course of action is the most leveragable? Is this is a one-time event or will Asia be an integral part of your future, and in either event, what will give you and by extension your customers the biggest bang for the buck?
When you’ve answered these questions for yourself and your company, you just may find that Global Link Partners are ideally suited to help you get your Pacific Rim ventures off the ground.
Stanley L. Coben, President
Global Link Partners, Ltd.
24200 Chagrin Boulevard, Suite 256
Cleveland, Ohio, USA, 44122-5531