Sunday, December 18, 2011

Producing Trust

Handblown Glass Production

Todd With Colleagues In India

 I  learned many years ago that I prefer working with the same factories, over and over again versus chasing a better price somewhere else;  only to find that the better price often came with some interesting strings attached, or worse yet nothing attached, not even the product in the end.  It has been my experience that most owners of factories are honorable and trustworthy  people, regardless of the country involved.   In the end, no matter what language we speak, or what food we eat, the goal is the same;  to make a reasonable living, which means we can pay for our house, and raise our children.  This becomes very important when negotiating with someone from another country where language and culture can be a barrier;  trust is scarce and misunderstandings abound. 
I recently had an experience working with a glass factory, which could make beautiful large handblown decorative glass bowls and hurricanes.  The owner was my “perfect” stereotype for a “glass man”; he was short, stocky,  and very willing to work on any new idea I might have creating new molds, and finishes.  A factory owner with this can-do attitude is essential for real success on new projects; as they always require a lot of effort to pull together.  After some time however; un-explicably, he began falling behind on deliveries, which only became more severe and remained unexplained.  He would always say that things were on track and that he had another order that he needed to finish first;  but in the end he was never producing what he said he was; and when he did work on our orders, the quality was not shippable. The problem was not payment terms, or the factory’s ability to produce the glass itself, it was certainly a problem of price even though he never brought it up.  It is not uncommon for a factory owner, in fact, to simply stop producing for a customer because of price  The culture of a country often times is such that the owner will not want to say anything negative and risk upsetting the customer;  and the result is simply to stop producing anything; which results in the customer (a westerner usually) leaving bewildered and confused. 
It is my philosophy to spend as much time with factory owners as possible to share information and build trust.  Had we been working together for a longer time, I am sure that the pricing issue would have surfaced and we would have been able to resolve the issue without the factory losing the business altogether.  With the commodity price increases over the past couple of years, this would not have been an unexpected conversation.
In the end, no matter what the reason to start working together, both the factory and the buyer need to keep an open mind towards the challenges that the other faces.  It is easy to be consumed by our own daily issues and not want to worry about what the other side is dealing with. If we do, we will find that our counterparts will also be more sensitive to what we are dealing with and over time, a relationship of trust will build; and when the buyer needs a better price, terms, or delivery dates for a large order, the trust and confidence will be there, and the potential relationship ending misunderstandings will be a thing of the past.