New client of mine recently sent me a link to a post on the Quality Wars blog (a once good blog that has not posted since April) and asked me if it made sense. The post is entitled, How to Find a Good Factory in China and my response was, “yes, it most certainly does.” The post very nicely lays out the following “surefire steps to ensuring that you only work with a factory that can meet your requirements:”

1. Get references and check them out – While this may seem simple enough, following this rule will help you eliminate about 90% of the potential trading partners you may find on sites like Alibaba or Global Sources. Ask the person whom you’re emailing with to provide you references of others in the US or Europe that they have done business with directly, who you can contact for a reference. It’s understandable if the supplier replies that they cannot tell you all of their clients’ names or brands they are making, but they should definitely be able to provide at least one or two references. When you check them out, set up a phone call instead of just a casual email. You’ll learn very quickly with whom you’re dealing. If the supplier cannot provide you with one genuine reference…run away and don’t look back.
2. Send in a 3rd party to perform China Supplier Verification – These days there are a whole list of professional firms in China who can provide you a detailed report by sending someone first hand to visit your potential supplier. You can usually get this done for less than $150 and let me tell you…it could end up saving you a fortune!
3. Request product documentation – Ask your supplier if they can provide you some documents related to their quality control, or product safety standards, and see what they come back with. You may ask for things such as a “quality control checklist” for the product in question, or for “lab testing documentation” showing that the materials being used in the product are safe and legal for your market of sale. If the supplier avoids this request, or has no clue what you’re talking about, don’t go any further. A professional factory or trading company will be highly familiar and responsive to such requests.
4. Go with your gut – You don’t need to be an expert in buying from China to know when you have a “bad feeling” about something. Feel strange that the supplier is asking you to make money transfers by Western Union? Is the name on their bank account different from the company or contact person’s name with no good explanation? Does the supplier seem to avoid your simple and direct questions? All of these are signs of a bad partner. Don’t rationalize an obvious lapse in professionalism because you feel you’re “locked-in” to one supplier.
5. Note the Quality – When you receive a sample or send someone in to check the goods, what is your opinion of the goods quality? Does the item seem “just not right,” flimsy, cheap or have some other malfunction? If a supplier is willing to send out a sample that has quality issues then you will definitely not get what you are expecting when you place an order. NEVER accept the excuse that “Oh, the sample is just like this but the mass production will be better”. That is the biggest joke in the book.

The above are critical first steps towards ensuring quality product, but after you have chosen the right factory, there is still more to do to help ensure you receive good product on a timely basis. Your next step is to lay the foundation of the business relationship by using a good supplier contract. For more on that, check out our post, China Supplier Agreements.
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Photo of Dan Harris Dan Harris

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network. 

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network.  His work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

He was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), is rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (also its highest rating), and is a recognized SuperLawyer.

Dan is a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and constantly travels between the United States and Asia. He most commonly speaks on China law issues and is the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog. Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed Dan regarding various aspects of his international law practice.

Dan is licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at his firm, Dan focuses on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.