Sourcing in India… Sourcing in China? Which is better?

Sourcing in India… Sourcing in China? Which is better?

In this week’s episode, I share some valuable insights and pointers that could really help you – especially if you are considering sourcing your product outside of China.   


Listen to this real story  where we discuss…

  • The “cost” of the product is not the most important thing.
  • Failures are sometimes the best thing that could happen… initially.
  • You don’t know what you don’t know.
  • The Golden Rule is clear communication and knowing who you are dealing with.

If you’re short on time, you can read the whole transcript here.


Want to know how we can help? Schedule your FREE Call!  here.

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David 0:00
Hey guys, welcome to this week’s podcast I’m really excited about today. As most of you know, the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing a lot of replays of interviews of people interviewing me. So you haven’t had much time of me presenting your story. So today’s gonna be a great day, because I’m starting to come back to what the reason I originally started this podcast. And that’s really to share real life experiences and stories with you that happened to us all the time here in China, when we’re sourcing products, and, you know, talk you through the event, what happened, you know, and give you the background story, and then really kind of discuss what we draw what we learned and what we could have done to prevent it. And something I’m really excited about today is we’ve got Kevin joining us, Kevin’s my new co host on the show, which I’m really happy about say Hi, Kevin.

Kevin 0:50
Hey, how you doing, David? As you can tell, we’re both from the same country. Our accents are interchangeable.

David 0:56

So I mean, Kevin I’m so glad you are joining the show. It’s going to be great. I think having Kevin co hosting is going to be hopefully a way of Kevin asking questions and extracting the most information out of me. But I do realize sometimes I ramble on with things. And maybe there’s some pending questions that haven’t been clear about. So really excited about this.

Kevin 1:20
Well, I’m looking forward to it as well. And just an opportunity for, you know, the the adage that says two heads are better than one. So hopefully, between the two of us, we may have a complete whole. That’s the idea.

David 1:34
So Kevin, today’s show actually is quite interesting. It’s about failing in India. And what to do. This is a real story about a client I had. I don’t know if I really say failing in India, as much as I’d say. The real question came up was he started in India, because he wants to source product in India thinking it’s cheaper than China. And it’s really an interesting story, and I thought it’d be a great one to share.

Kevin 1:59
It’s is an interesting topic. And I think the whole idea behind, you know, you, historically, I mean, China has been the big player, you know, when you wanted to, you know, have something sourced off offshore type thing and products created, but your other countries have kind of stepped in the breach a little bit. And and India is another one that’s kind of coming on the world stage. And so I’m really interested to hear the differences between you know, your experiences in those two countries.

David 2:26
Yeah. So and, and I think you’re right, you know, especially with the trade war, terrorists, more and more people are asking the question, should I be sourcing outside of China? And I think, you know, the story of Kevin and what happened with him was, he was looking for some ceramic way, and some crockery and you know, he heard that India was cheaper than China. And he also heard that India can handle much smaller mo queues, which the minimum order quantities, so he popped online, you know, most of us would do ordinarily And sort of searching for manufactured in India found a couple started talking to them and communicating with them. And I’ve got to tell you, Kevin, he was just so frustrated. Just, you know, it started off really well, the communication. And then just when he started getting samples and started getting follow up, you just kind of communication just started dwindling down. And he just grew more and more frustrated. And that’s when he kind of turned to me and said, you know, what do I do, David, I’m on the right track here. And we ended up having a long discussion about enough thought, you know, yeah, I’m sure what he’s experiencing a lot of people experience

Kevin 3:40
is that, does that happen a lot that people try to do it on their own and then figure out that, hey, I don’t have the expertise. So I run into some problems and they circle back with you or, you know, where do you come into the equation?

David 3:53
It’s a combination of things. Really, Kevin, it’s, you know, I think some people of course, and I believe honor, and everybody should tried on their own, I think sourcing products and developing products really is a journey. And you have to experience different things yourself to really understand the nature of how things work. You tend to people like us when you don’t have time where you need extra help, or you uncertain and you need some expertise, and maybe you don’t have the experience you don’t have yet. But I think you know what I like about Chris’s journey in this case in India was it really made me reflect on a couple of things. And that was, you know, what we ended up speaking about the whole time was, is the cost of the product really, as important? Or is it the most important thing as you know, based on the experience, he was having bad samples, bad communication, lack of certainty. As a manufacturer, what I really realized is what he’s experiencing in India is no different from a lot of people experience in China. It’s really the same thing as Just the same rules and principles apply. It doesn’t really change. And as I kind of a few key takeaways. And I think, Carter, for me, what’s important and just listening to Chris’s story is that communication is really critical. No matter what you doing, and you know who you’re dealing with. You need to know who you’re dealing with, and you need to be able to communicate with him. Now, I’m not saying trading companies or manufacturers are better or worse, and you know that there’s a golden rule of thumb, there isn’t actually. But the golden rule of thumb for me is really knowing who you’re dealing with whoever they are, and whatever they are, and just be able to communicate and have the right level of relationship with them. Because if it’s bad at the beginning, it’s not going to get better over time. You know, I think that’s a misconception. I think, you know, part of the whole sourcing process to me is actually People say how do you vet and your filter your suppliers? And to me, that’s exactly how you do it. You know, the key thing for me, besides fancy factory orders and site visits and technical capability assessments, you know, that’s, that’s kind of, for me sending you do one day, maybe the fundamental thing I do is just how they communicate, how well they prepare things, how fast they get back to me, how responsive they on? Are they transparent? You know, do I feel like there’s something shady going on or suspicious? Or do I feel that that they quite transparent about who they are their company, their background, introduce me to other people in the organization, you know, you’ve got to get a second your relationship is going to get that level of comfort. Now, I never thought of that point.

Kevin 6:45
Now, the idea around the just communication as a whole and how Yeah, let me let me ask you a quick question is you were as you were talking there, so how important is it to you You know, even above communication to actually have a trusted partner. How do you find a trusted partner? If I don’t have a David Hoffman this step in the breach? You know, for me, how do I how do I vet someone? I mean, I, it’s you’d love. I love the idea you talked about, you know, you may save a little money on the product, but is it really worth it in the long run?

David 7:20
Yeah, well, I think, I mean, in terms of finding trusted partners, I think there’s that any relationship you get into whether it’s a personal relationship or a business relationship, you literally just start making contact and reaching out whether it’s online or whether you visit the place. You know, and you meet people and you talk to people and you communicate with people and like any other relationship, you find out and you feel your way through it and you start building a bond or a connection with people and find a think about things away. You do have the same values you do. And it’s it’s it’s no different from a normal relationship. You just get out there and you talk and communicate. And you know, always say the expression you kiss a lot of frogs. You find your friends.

Kevin 8:06
There you go.

David 8:07
Yeah. And that’s really what it’s about. And, you know, I think when I was talking to Chris about this issue of what interested me the most was, he was convinced that India was cheaper on ceramics for the types of products that he wanted. And they may be I don’t actually know, because I haven’t done a lot of research into India. But there’s a reason for that. Because I believe that the actual cost of the product is not always the most important thing, because what the price you’re paying is not the final cost of the product. And a lot of people forget that. Yeah, right. So you got maybe your purchasing price is lower, but there’s shipping there’s logistics is communication. And the biggest thing is, is quality and time, right. There’s two things that you really can’t escape and How long is it going to take to get things done and what’s the quality of the product going to be. And if you don’t have the right partner where ever they are in the world, it just doesn’t matter. There’s gonna be so many costs, you haven’t thought off from returns to delays. And those are really the real cost of the products. Because if you’re late for product delays for shipping seasons, or or promotion seasons, you lose that turnover, you lose that revenue, you know, you’re going to pay higher freight rates at peak season, you get a higher return rate on a product, it’s just going to come back, you’re gonna have to deal with customers deal with unhappy reviews. And you can’t put a price on that. So I you know, kind of voice say, don’t focus on only the price of the product is a lot more to it. You know, your margin is inflated, if you buy at a low price. Yes. But you know what that long term costs gonna really be? I think that’s where your key decision has to be right?

Kevin 9:58
I love the idea. I mean, you touched It that the you know, the production cost of the product is not the final cost of the product. And you know, you have to deal with returns, you have to deal with late deliveries, you have to deal with all the issues surrounding the product itself. So, you touched on a couple of couple of key issues one being, you know, communication is so crucial, you know, how not only how they communicate with you, but how you communicate with them, and clearly outlines expectations. But then the second is, you know, cost is not the only issue to be concerned with, what else did did the Christina have in mind, you know, when he’s trying to deal with this?

David 10:35
Well, I think just in general is you don’t know what you don’t know. And I always say that, you know, because when you’re dealing with the unknown, you know, you try and cover all the bases, and it’s just really, really challenging. So, you know, I always just tell people to step away if you if you don’t know you don’t the levels of comfort, you don’t have a great way to communicate. Move on, you know, You got to really feel comfortable, you know, don’t fall into that I really need to make this happen or I’m failing. You know, and that’s, you know, whenever I do these podcasts, or what I really like to do is kind of reflect on a story. And kind of, kind of frame it up and say here is, was this story or the journey, this person went through a success or a failure? Because I think people misinterpret those successes and failures a lot. So I look at Chris’s story. I actually 100% think his journey he went on is a huge successful in contrary to the fact that he didn’t get the product in a terrible experience dealing with India and you know, ended up coming to China. It’s a mess of success. Because, for me, he satisfied himself that he can’t make India work. He tried. He’s got the knowledge. He’s got the experience. And he’s sitting there wondering Oh, should I I’ll be doing this a different way, it’s gonna be cheap in India that I make the right decision. And you know, and sometimes it’s because he knows what not to do. He’s got a lot more confidence now in what he’s doing is right and the right decision for him. And you know, that just doing all that homework, and really understanding it is, to me kind of the key because success is all about having certainty in what you’re doing and not having doubts about maybe you should have done something differently. So that experience to me is a huge success for him.

Kevin 12:31
I mean, what a great way to wrap up the story, the idea that, you know, we may see on the surface that it was a failure, but, you know, the two key points you just mentioned there, number one, that I mean, he he gained invaluable experience in the process. And the second thing he learned was, was really key moving forward was that India is not the best option for him, you know, that China may be the best option for him. So those two things that you know, those are those are PhD Level experiences to take away you know, in just this one story.

David 13:04
Exactly. And it’s not even to say that India’s not an option, it just means it doesn’t work for him because he doesn’t have the right people, they maybe continue on the journey. Who knows, right? I encourage people to get out there and explore, you know, you can do things 123 times until you get it right. But you do have to make sure that you’ve got the right resources and infrastructure around you. And that’s kind of the takeaway from this, it keeps coming back to the same thing for me. The other big thing, just reflecting on it now, is what we don’t know. And I truly believe this is why it’s such a success is because he’s probably stopped and prevented. A disaster waiting to happen. That could have been a lot worse. Right now. All he lost is maybe two three months of time and a little bit of frustration, which really in the big picture of things is not a big deal. If you if you waste seven, eight months, get Terrible product will never get delivery, or pay for a product and it comes in, it’s wrong. You know, that’s where you really start losing. So for me, you know, homework and time is all about experience. So, you know, for me, that’s what I love to share these stories because I think, you know, hearing other people’s stories shortens the learning curve. And that’s really what this podcast is all about. So I hope you guys are all listened and learned something and got some takeaways from it, and do your thing and remember, reach out to us anytime you need that help on the ground in China that’s what we’re here to do. Just give us a call, go to our website. I love talking to people. It doesn’t cost you anything to give us a call and see how we can help. We’ll see you guys later. Cheers.

What To Do When Product Inspections Fail

What To Do When Product Inspections Fail


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In this week’s episode, I share, along with my co-host Kevin, some valuable insights and pointers that could really help you – especially When Inspections Fail.” 

Of course, we spoke in general about Product Sourcing from China, services available in China, and how doing business in China works.  But we also touched on some key points, as outlined below: How entrepreneurs expand businesses.

  • You can’t inspect quality into a product
  • It is better to catch a problem at the source factory
  • What is the “Best-Case Scenario” when an inspection fails?
  • What is a “Commercial Release?”

If you’re short on time, you can read the whole transcript below.  

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Interview Transcript


[00:00]Hey guys. Welcome to this week’s podcast. I’m really happy to bring it to you today and I’ve got Kevin here, say hi Kevin.


[00:13] Hey, how are you doing David.


[00:14] Great. Great. Great. So those of you who don’t know, Kevin is my co-host on the show and it’s really great having a co-host on the show I must say just makes it more conversational and stops me rambling on about things and getting to the point. And Kevin asks great questions that kind of hopefully extract some more juicy value out for you guys.


[00:34] You make it very easy to do that because you know I’m also a learner on this side of the mic so looking forward to the episode today.


[00:43] Excellent. So today’s episode I think is going to be quite useful for a lot of people. It’s a question I’ll get asked a lot and what are my options for rework when my products fail inspection. And for those of you ongoing inspections on your products before they leave your factory in China. That’s a big no no you really need to be doing your inspections and we can talk about that. You can always give me a call if you guys don’t understand what that means. But before anything ships out of China at the factory you got to send people in check the goods before they ship.  Now every just to give you some kind of background to some of the questions I get asked around this is cause I think it is a misunderstanding in the industry really. Kevin and you know I kind of get asked things like: should I inspect my products, what do I do if my products fail inspection, why would my products fail inspection, should I even expect them to fail inspection, and just what do I do if they fail. What are my options really, how do I deal with this. So hopefully I’m going to address some of those topics today and give some practical advice.


[01:50] Well I am, like I said I’m looking forward to diving into this a little more because, and before we get started how often you know give me a kind of a ballpark about the percentage of how many shipments you know would you say would fail on a percentage basis.


[02:10] Kevin I would say, almost every inspection we do on our product there’s always something that we kind of revert to what we call a commercial decision. So, you know we always expect there’s going to be something that we pick up because it’s just not a perfect world: factories make mistakes, there’s always production problems or some type of issue. So, I think every inspection we do is what you call some fail points and some pending points. Really what happens then is we take that information that we get reported back from inspectors and we have to start looking at it and making some decisions.


[02:48] Now firstly, the first kind of things we ask ourselves or is it a safety concern or is it just a what we call kind of a minor or major issue. That maybe I should just touch on that a little bit. You know every inspection you do you get a list of findings right, issues that the inspectors picked up and found wrong with the product, based on the tests and checks that they’re going to do. And they’ll report those findings in. And, the important thing is just to really classify those findings and say is it a major issue or is it a minor issue.


[03:24] And then you make commercial decisions based around that. So, you know for example: if you’ve got a product that there’s a safety problem you know maybe it’s overheating for example and you check when you’re testing it, that could really be a safety issue or a liability issue so you got to deal with it. If it’s a minor scratch on the surface of the product you might look at that and go well, it’s not ideal, but we have to. We’re going to do what we’ve got to commercially release it. 

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[03:55] And that’s kind of a phrase that we use a lot because you never want to go and say, “Okay at this point these findings failed and we’re passing it now and accepting it.” Because that’s kind of setting the precedent. What you really want to say and use that terminology with the factories OK we’re not happy about this. But we’re doing a commercial release. And “we’re doing a commercial release” means it doesn’t make sense to hold the shipment back. It doesn’t make sense to rework it. And you know based on time, cost, or maybe handling the goods again it’s just going to do more damage than good.


[04:31] So, you say well if it’s really minor we should make a commercial release we’re going to accept it this time but we want a running change on the next order or the next production run. So, kind of that’s the first decision you really need to make is do you just do a commercial release or not. Not just on that I want to say it’s not uncommon. I get so many people who say, “Oh it’s not inspection it’s exhaust what am I going to do?” you know it’s normal it’s really normal right. What matters is what how you treat it and how you make those commercial decisions.


[05:06] And it’s not always a case of being too difficult with the manufacturer. I think you got to be practical. You know sometimes to unpack a package and unbox everything is a lot of handling; and that can really sometimes do more damage than good. So, if it’s something really minor you ought to determine what the risk to your business is. And then to add to that to a commercial release or do a rework. So, I think Kevin some of the things that you know get isolated as well, what are your options if it is a major problem?


[05:36] So, I thought you know I’ve just kind of run through a couple of things. There’s two things. There’s two scenarios I should say. The one scenario is that products fail during inspection and still at the factory in China. And there is a scenario where you pick up a problem in your home country. After the goods have shipped and those are really two different scenarios. From my point of view if you catch something at the factory before it ships is the best-case scenario.


[06:10] You’d much rather want the factory to rework the goods before they ship than having to do it in your home country it’s going to be a lot more expensive, you might not have the materials, it’s just going to take a lot of time, and you might even have experience expertise. So, just getting it done at the factory is always the best case. And when those kind of events happen, you want to just deal with it right there and then get the factory to rework it.


[06:39] Now, so the way I look at it your options are really make the factory rework the goods if they can, if it’s something major or really important to you make the factory rework goods. That can rework a number of ways depending what the problem is you talk to them, you negotiate with them, you get their view on how to fix it in a quick, fast, and easy way. It’s very important to maintain your relationship with the factory through these processes because it does cost them time and money and not to get upset that you got this bit wrong to me and get all emotional about it, it really doesn’t solve the problem. 


[07:12] What you really want to do is work with them to fix it, to find the most cost effective way to rework it, and maintain the relationship because you won’t have a good relationship because suppliers don’t try and be that tough guy. “That’s it, I don’t care. I want it 100 percent. I’m not taking risks.” Because nobody going to come up short. Just be as practical as possible and make sure they do things you know better the next time around. And it’s really, really not uncommon.


[07:44] Is that more true in the area of the world you’re working in? Is it more true in say East Asia than it would be in other parts of the world? To really kind of not, not come off as this you know kind of the jerk that wants them to completely redo everything and yelling and screaming and being the tough guy motif or whatever so.


[08:04] I think that I think it happens everywhere and it really is this misconception that it is not perfect, I’m not going to take it, then you just can’t do that you’ve got to make commercial decisions, you’ve got to accept running changes if something’s kind of minor let it go. And you know another thing we do a lot is sometimes we request discounts or something I say, “OK you know what, rather than rework it just give me a couple of percent off and I’ll deal with it in my country” or you know be practical about things.


[08:37] We’ve in many cases also managed to get suppliers to give us free stock if we feel is going going to be replacement issues or something like that. Or if it’s packaging we second print extra packaging we’ll swap some out. Another thing we often do with manufacturers – and this is I think great advance for everyone listening – is we sign declarations of conformity and warranty with the manufacturers. So, what that means is sometimes we’ll pick up a problem with a product or it might be kind of a, bit of a, matter of opinions we think it’s not a good situation they might say it’s actually not a problem at all.


[09:15] And suddenly we can’t really check or verify because it takes time, you know the best stress test of quality is time on reliability is fundamentally how long does something last? There’s just no way you can inspect that. You know my favorite saying Kevin is, “you can’t inspect quality into products.” You know no inspection is going to make it a good quality product, it’s got to be produced with quality. And sometimes what we will manage to negotiate with factories and I encourage people to try to do that, is create a declaration of conformity and warranty which says, “OK you know Mr. factory if you think this is right you know,


[09:57]  I’m not 100 percent sure, I can’t say with certainty it’s going to be a problem, but I feel uncomfortable about it. Would you give me a declaration of conformity or warranty and warranty to state that you will undertake that if I have a problem on this issue in the market you’ll facilitate to return or a rework or some type of compensation?” And we use that a lot in terms of materials because you can’t always test the material, right? You just can’t tell unless you take a sample into labs and go into a lot more detail.


[10:31] So, what we’ll do is we’ll have the manufacturer give a declaration and make that undertaking that this is correct, we’ve used the right materials, or you won’t have a problem related to this issue, and if you do we’re accountable. And that’s actually by the way a declaration of performance in warranty if you do it right, is actually a legal binding document in China. Most people don’t understand that, not that you’re going to litigate in China, it’s another nightmare but it’s something that I take pretty seriously.


[10:58] Right. And it gives you a certain, I guess, assurance or comfort level you know moving forward with the product as well I would think.


[11:05] Exactly. And you know, I always like to wrap these shows up by kind of reflecting on these different scenarios and kind of say is it a success or is it a failure, right?  The kind of these journeys. And I think really a product failing inspection is not a failure at all. And I don’t want people to feel that I want the guys listening to think if product fail them to get all nervous and get all worried. The best-case scenario is to identify as many problems before it leaves a factory in China.


[11:39] Make sure you double check, get it fixed, or just know what you’re dealing with because once it’s shipped it’s way too late. So, a product failing inspection is not a terrible thing. It’s how you deal with it and how you manage it there after that’s really important. And if you all, want to say that’s very clearly if you are, If there is a major problem then you do need to get the factory to rework the goods. And you don’t be shy about that.


[12:07] Just encourage them and motivate them you want this support to do it. Don’t try that iron fist hammer you will do this you will do that. They’re going to runaway costs in time and money. And all you want to do is not have a blaming game but have them motivated to help you. And that’s really important.


[12:24] Yeah, and I think as a vendor you know you want to have a relationship where they’re there.  You virtually view them as a business partner in this endeavor with you not just a you know a vendor – I’m paying somebody and they’re doing whatever I, my bidding so to speak. But I really love the idea that you know be creative on how you resolve the issue whatever the remedy is for the problem that you know it’s not just it’s not black or white it’s not zero or 100. I mean there are other alternatives like you mentioned.


[12:54] And don’t say pass or fail sometimes just like “commercially released” – exactly. And I guess the other really big takeaway for me is you can’t inspect quality into a product. It’s got to be designed and built like that from the beginning. And my next episode actually I’ll give a quick highlight to everybody listening it’s actually all about accountability. And a lot of that is around about how you front load that information and how at the end of the day you’re ultimately accountable. But that’s a whole other episode.


[13:26] Hope you guys enjoyed this and listen and the next episode is going to be all about accountability and why you’re usually wrong and not the manufacturer. So that’s going to be a good one to listen out for.

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Middlemen Outdated, Building Trust with Suppliers is Crucial | Ep. 024

 This week I was interviewed by Jim Palmer from Dream business radio. I thought you might like to listen to the interview… you might pick up some good advice, insights, and pointers

Of course, we spoke about sourcing from china, services available in china, how doing business in China works..

Hope you enjoy it…

Just some of the questions answered:

  • How entrepreneurs expand businesses.
  • How do you find ideas in China?
  • Do you have to go to college to learn the business?
  • What are the biggest challenges for importing products from China?
  • Why middlemen/agents are outdated.
  • Some intellectual property tips and building trust with suppliers… we went deep!.. (actually more than just tips, we went deep!)

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 Interview Transcript


Jim Palmer: 00:35

Good afternoon, everybody. This is Captain Jim Palmer and I am the Dream Business Coach. I have a fantastic interview for you today from somebody I talked to who’s pretty darn far away, but through modern technology, it sounds like he’s my neighbor, David Hoffmann. Let me introduce you to him.

David as a serial entrepreneur and building multimillion-dollar companies. He has led the international trade powerhouse Global Regency shipping products to the US and all over literally 40 countries. He’d been a CEO for 15 years. He’s considered an expert in China outsourcing and sourcing everything you want to have made, so really quite a topical conversation, I would say.

In 2016, David launched GlobalTQM under the Global Regency umbrella after he saw an incredible opportunity by helping friends and family to assist SMEs, startups and entrepreneurs with quality management issues and sourcing from China with a range of educational and mentoring programs and actually provide done-for-you services with his resources of 57-plus people in China. I know with an entrepreneur, you can definitely lower your cost by having stuff made in China, et cetera, but I know a lot of people who actually are very fearful of that, so I’m really excited to talk to David.


Jim Palmer: 02:00

David, how are you doing today?


David Hoffmann: 02:01

Hi, Jim. Good. How you doing?


Jim Palmer: 02:04

Good. Yeah, buddy. We got a clear signal right through… I don’t know if we’re in space, you’re going under the ocean floor, so now we managed to sound pretty good.


David Hoffmann: 02:12

Yeah. As you said, it’s amazing, right? With technology, there’s almost… It’s a borderless world now.


Jim Palmer: 02:19

I’d love to get just a little bit of background. Where were you born and did you go to college before becoming an entrepreneur? What led you down this crazy path.


David Hoffmann: 02:30

Yeah, it’s a great question, Jim. I was born in South Africa, if you can tell from the accent. It’s a bit of a giveaway. I left Hong Kong at the… I’m sorry, I left South Africa at the age of 25. I was working for a big retail group and I left. I came over to Hong Kong really with the ambition of coming here for one year, just for the experience and then moving on to Australia, which was my ultimate destination.


David Hoffmann: 02:57

Sixteen years later, I’m still in Hong Kong. I just got sucked up by the business life and business environment here. The entrepreneurial flair caught me and here I am.


Jim Palmer: 03:12

Have you always been into the import-export business or that’s just something you learned along the way?


David Hoffmann: 03:18

Yeah. Jim, in South Africa, we were in that business. We were actually importing consumer electronics for our own retail stores. That’s really what we did.


David Hoffmann: 03:27

When I came out here it was with that goal to expand that. Once I’ve got here, things… just started realizing there’s so much more opportunity. That kind of led me into really growing and expanding the business from a team of two people to quite a large organization.


David Hoffmann: 03:48

It also laid the foundation for me to start a lot of other businesses and other companies around it because we’ve kind of always had this core hub of access in China to sourcing and to manufacturing.


Jim Palmer: 04:06

For someone like me, for someone like you, this is what you do, but it seems like such a complicated thing. I mean, I know they make everything in China.


David Hoffmann: 04:16

Yeah, they do.


Jim Palmer: 04:17

How do you find a place that’s reputable, that’s not going to steal your idea? How do you manage quality unless you’re going to have somebody living over there? I mean that’s kind of the scary thing for an entrepreneur like myself.


David Hoffmann: 04:29

Jim, that’s a great question and I think that’s actually the very reason that brought me here, was just for our own companies, just managing our own quality control and dealing with our own suppliers and manufacturers. I mean, really getting to know them and understand them and deal with all the hurdles that come with it.


David Hoffmann: 04:52

It’s really through that exposure and journey that I started helping a lot of other people do it because you’re right. A lot of people want to do it and everything is made out here, but there are a lot of hurdles. There’s language barriers, there’s cultural barriers and differences that matter and there’s just that distance of doing business. I think doing business with anyone is probably very similar in most countries, but the distance creates more of a barrier and the communication issues create more of a barrier. So there’s some understanding differences and it just takes time, really.


David Hoffmann: 05:29

I think you mentioned something really important earlier about protecting your ideas and that’s really challenging out here. There’s a lot of counterfeiting, a lot of copyrighting. I do a lot of talks actually on registering your trademark in China, which is something I try and recommend everybody does for a host of reasons. But, yeah, it’s just challenging. It’s knowing your manufacturers, it’s having the right documentation in place. If you have IP like trademarks and patents making sure they’re registered in China and just learning from a lot of mistakes.


Jim Palmer: 06:04

Is that something you learn? Did you go to college for that? Was that like an apprentice situation? Because that’s a lot of knowledge on a lot of different things. How did you get there?


David Hoffmann: 06:15

Jim, regrettably, I wish I’d learnt it. Unfortunately, I learnt it the hard way through scars and battle wounds. But, yeah, I suppose those are the best lessons learned. I had been fortunate I’ve had mentors in my life and business, bosses who became business partners and mentors throughout my career. So, it’s just really learning the ropes as you go through these things and making mistakes and learning from them and recovering from them.


Jim Palmer: 06:49

David, what do you see as some of the biggest challenges for somebody outsourcing their goods from China?


David Hoffmann: 06:56

I think it’s knowing who the manufacturer is or isn’t and controlling the quality. When you try to do these things online, there’s a lot of trading going on, there’s a lot of middlemen and brokers in between, agents or just companies representing themselves as manufacturers. It can really make it complicated and because you can’t actually be there on the ground, it’s very hard to manage the quality and have all your expectations met. I think that those kind of things are the most challenging, is finding the right manufacturer that can produce the right quality consistently. That’s just a lot of time and effort and homework.


Jim Palmer: 07:43

Do you act like the middleman, David? In other words, does someone come to you and say, “I need to have this made,” then you use your connections and sources? Is that how it works?


David Hoffmann: 07:55

It’s a really good question. Not exactly. That kind of middleman concept, I think, is quite outdated now. It has traditionally been a business model for many out here in the East.


David Hoffmann: 08:11

What we’ve done with GlobalTQM and it’s kind of one of my real reasons for starting it, is that in order to be successful in an e-commerce business or in any kind of product business, I’m really a firm believer that the buyer, which is you, has to have the relationship with the manufacturer. Because I think that direct relationship, that direct contact really ensures that you don’t have a lot of problems and that you’re building a positive relationship because it’s really important to have a strong relationship with your supply chain.


David Hoffmann: 08:44

What I’ve done is I’ve really restructured the way we do things and, that is, we provide services on the ground, so we facilitate it. We introduce you to manufacturers, we make sure you know how to do your documentation and paperwork correctly. We make sure you know how to do your quality checks. We help you visit the factory, if required.


David Hoffmann: 09:02

But it’s really important for us conceptually and just as a personal belief that the buyer always owns the relationship with his supply chain. I think that’s really, really important. They just need some guidance along the way.


Jim Palmer: 09:18

David, talk a little bit about intellectual property protection. I mean, it’s in the news a lot, but it’s also one of the things you’d think if you’re dealing with a supplier in another country, another time zone, a language barrier, all the different things that go into it, how do you protect yourself from that? Then also how do you establish enough trust to be able to have somebody make your stuff?


David Hoffmann: 09:45

Yes. It’s a common question and a multifaceted answer. Trust is like anything in my view. It doesn’t matter how culturally different you are or how far apart or close you are. I think trust is something that’s built over time, right? Relationships prove themselves and people and companies prove themselves over time.


David Hoffmann: 10:12

I don’t think that’s any different here in China. I wouldn’t go to a factory that I’ve just met and offer them all my ideas around IP and stuff and ask them to quote on the product. You build a relationship slowly. Over time, you’d see their size, their scale, what else they’re doing and you understand the management team, their management philosophy and you’d form an opinion on the trustworthiness. That’s just kind of relationship-building.


David Hoffmann: 10:40

But in terms of actually protecting your IP, there’s a couple of things I always recommend. One is if you’ve got patents or trademarks, I always say register them in China no matter where else you register them and I’ll give you a really good example with trademarks for example. I’ve had a lot of friends actually that I’ve helped and just even customers that I’ve helped that have had their trademarks registered in other countries and they think they are protected.


David Hoffmann: 11:14

But we know once the manufacturer has seen them being really successful, they’re going to register the trademark in China as a manufacturer and started selling it locally in China under the same brand name, which have kind of become a problem because if they’re selling online on the e-commerce stores, people just search and find it. So I’ve always said to people register your trademark in China. It’s really low cost. I mean, it’s something that just 100% protects you in China, at least in terms of people copying your trademark, which is kind of your reputation and all the kind of things that go around it.


David Hoffmann: 11:52

Then I say separately, if you do have any patents, I kind of said you kind of look at it cautiously. If it’s very technical type of patents like invention patents and things like that, you probably do want to register in China. If it’s just design patents, I normally say to people the best weapon against that is just being first to market and owning your sales channels and your customers. I think that’s kind of where your brand and trademark protects you and being first to market.


David Hoffmann: 12:25

People rip off all the brands all the time, but people still know the brands because of their customer service, their quality of their product and all those other things that go with it. So I kind of always say first and foremost, register your trademark so that your name is distinguishable from anybody else who’s copying a product and then own your sales channel and then the patents, in my view, are always third in line on those things. But it’s a sum of all those things that come together. It’s not a foolproof system.


Jim Palmer: 12:57

Great. I’m going to expose my complete naivete on this subject [crosstalk 00:13:02].


David Hoffmann: 13:02

Sure, sure.


Jim Palmer: 13:05

I’m sure that registering a trademark in China is completely different and separate from a trademark in the US, right? One, a trademark in the US doesn’t have any validity in other countries and same thing with the China trademark. Is that true?


David Hoffmann: 13:20

Yeah. It’s a little bit deeper than that. There is what you call an international trademark that you can register and a lot of the countries comply to it. In theory, how it works is if you register your trademark in the US, you theoretically have one year to register in other countries like China. But that’s in theory.


David Hoffmann: 13:44

In practice, what actually happens is China works on a first-to-register concept, so the first person to register the trademark in China is legally the owner. That’s happened to many famous brands, by the way. A lot of famous brands have had to buy their trademarks back. It is getting better and better, but the reality is the clauses are different, so the trademark clauses in China are different than trademark clauses overseas. When a trademark in a dispute because of an international registration is an expensive long time-consuming process, whereas it’s a couple of hundred dollars to register in China. You get your Chinese trademark certificate and you literally can control everything and people think you can’t.


David Hoffmann: 14:35

But the truth is the legal system actually is quite solid in China in that regard. If you’ve got a Chinese trademark certificate and you go to any online platform and tell them to remove a product that’s infringing on it, it’s almost a certainty it will be done. It gets hard if you try sending international trademark certificate with a whole long story about why it should be removed, that the Chinese don’t follow that. They follow their own local laws, so it just makes it so much easier.


Jim Palmer: 15:05

In doing my research for the interview, I know you’ve written on 10 Rules To Do Business In China. We don’t have time for all 10, but can you share a couple of the more important rules for somebody who wants to do business in China?


David Hoffmann: 15:18

Well, I think one of the most important rules is just understanding that we’re culturally different and yes doesn’t always mean yes and no doesn’t always mean no. I think you’ve got to really make sure that what you’re asking for 100% that they understand it clearly because, culturally, the Chinese don’t want to say no to you. If you push them hard enough, say “I need this. I want this. Can you do this? Can you do that,” they’ll say yes. What will happen is they’ll try their best to do it and they may fail. They may not have the capability or they may take some shortcuts in getting there and you’ll feel it down afterwards. What actually kind of really happened was that they didn’t want to say no to you. They thought they’d rather try their best.


David Hoffmann: 16:10

I think just understanding that cultural difference is really, really important and really do your background checks and knowing if you’re dealing with a Chinese manufacturer or a Chinese trading company, not that I think either… Both have got their pros and cons, don’t misunderstand me. But it’s important to know which one you’re dealing with because their level of control over production differs, right, and, in essence, dealing with a third party. But depending on the amount of volume you buy, your experience in a product category, an agent could be a great idea because they might have more buying power, they might have more experience in that product category. So you really have to get to the nuts and bolts of who you’re dealing with.


Jim Palmer: 17:02

What’s interesting to me is also how there’s probably different standards the way things are made. I guess in the States we have something called the US protection, consumer protection, things like that.


David Hoffmann: 17:16



Jim Palmer: 17:17

You have to take all those standards and bring them to your supplier in China to make sure those things are being met?


David Hoffmann: 17:23

Jim, you say you’re not experienced at this, but you’re asking all the right questions. 100%. We call it compliance and every country has got its own regulatory compliance and standards.


David Hoffmann: 17:39

That’s one of the big challenges is a manufacturer, for example, who’s manufacturing for the USA might understand US standards and might have that experience, but they may have no idea on Australian standards, for example. So people kind of get confused and feel, “Oh, but you’re producing so much of this for one market, you should automatically be able to do it for my market.” It just doesn’t work like that. Factories, just like people, have got core competencies and certain experiences based on their customer base and you can’t assume that they know that.


David Hoffmann: 18:17

I really always say to people it’s your responsibility to know your local standards and research them and find out what they are or get people that can help you do that to make sure that when you’re purchasing the product, the factory agrees to produce to those standards. How you actually test and verify to those standards is a whole ‘nother conversation, Jim, but it’s really, really important to be upfront with the manufacturer on those things.


David Hoffmann: 18:45

I’ve just seen it so many times where people say out of inexperience, “Oh, but you’re the manufacturer. You should have known this, or you should have known that you’re hipping to America, you’re shipping to Canada. You know the standard.” But they don’t. They’ll produce whatever you ask them. So if you don’t ask for a standard, they won’t produce to a standard. If you ask for a standard, they’ll either say they can or they can’t. It’s really about being specific.


Jim Palmer: 19:16

I mean, it sounds like and I’ve heard this on occasion, they’ll make exactly what you tell them to make, right?


David Hoffmann: 19:23



Jim Palmer: 19:23

Then if it doesn’t work or if it doesn’t fit some standards or protections, whatever, they’ll make exactly what you told them to make, so I think there’s a little bit of a-


David Hoffmann: 19:35



Jim Palmer: 19:35

… I don’t want to say gamble, but that’s certainly one of the intricacies of working with somebody in another country.


David Hoffmann: 19:41

Correct. As you said, it’s the intricacy, right? You have to have a certain amount of knowledge and experience to work at a manufacturing level, right? Because if you look at any big brand or company that do products and develop their product in China, they’ve got very competent people helping them make sure the standards are correct, making sure the testing is done correctly.


David Hoffmann: 20:07

The first thing people do when I see them negotiating with suppliers is, “Oh, I don’t want to pay $10. I want pay $9. I want to pay only $8.” All they do is push the price down and there’s no conversation over quality or standards and materials and workmanship. So the manufacturer will say, “Okay, we’ll do it at $8 for you.” They feel happy they’re meeting your requirement, but you said nothing about all the other requirements. That’s where the cultural difference comes in, is that what we assume should be done you can’t assume anymore. It has to be very specific.


Jim Palmer: 20:43

Right. Do you have any success stories from some of your clients? I’d be interested. I mean, maybe like a small, medium and large. Do you have entrepreneurial companies? Maybe $5 or $10 million that do this and give some other success stories as well.


David Hoffmann: 21:00

Jim, I’ve got many success stories and I’ve got many unsuccessful stories, too.


Jim Palmer: 21:07

We’ll call those lessons learned, so maybe you could share one of each.


David Hoffmann: 21:10

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, I’ve actually got a very good friend of mine, his name is Kevin. He had a very successful product online that he is selling. His manufacturer actually genuinely registered his trademark in China and were selling it online on Alibaba. I mean, he was just shocked. He was ordering so much and they saw he was doing so well, so what they started doing was they just went and registered in China for two reasons. One, to make him try and buy from them because, in theory, they could stop other manufacturers producing under that trademark, although that’s become harder to do now. But at the time it certainly was the case, then they started selling it in the local domestic market.


David Hoffmann: 21:54

That, by the way, we actually overturned and we won the contest at the trademark bureau. They’ve got investigators that handle these things. But that, to give you perspective, took one and a half years and we actually won the disputes, so that was really, really good.


David Hoffmann: 22:14

I’ve got loads of clients. We’ve got really small clients who are first-time Amazon sellers and we’ve helped them. I must’ve helped bring dozens and dozens of products to market where they’ve just come and said, “Hey, I’ve got this product idea and I found a couple of manufacturers online. Don’t really know where to go and what to do.” In a couple, three, four months they’ve been selling everything from handbags to toiletries to dolls to plant stands, you name it.


David Hoffmann: 22:47

Then on the larger side, we’ve got clients, brands. We do JVC, we do a lot for Wal-Mart and big organizations like that where they’re just shipping millions and millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars every year-


Jim Palmer: 23:03



David Hoffmann: 23:03

… and under their own private label brands. Those are kind of where we’ve managed the whole supply chain for them and make sure from end-to-end their components comply, production complies-


Jim Palmer: 23:14



David Hoffmann: 23:15

… so it’s quite broad. I mean, every day is like a roller coaster, yeah. You never stop learning lessons.


Jim Palmer: 23:22

This is fascinating conversation. I have time for one more question, David.


David Hoffmann: 23:26



Jim Palmer: 23:26

I’m curious. If somebody, you mentioned like an Amazon reseller, wants to have something made, not a huge conglomerate and they maybe with your help source a vendor, a manufacturer in China, did they have to pay for that all upfront, like even before it ships just trying to get terms? Or is that just no easy answer?


David Hoffmann: 23:48

No. I’ll tell you exactly. Just by the way, our whole division, GlobalTQM, which I started about two years ago, I specifically started to help these small startups and entrepreneurs because I just had friends and family coming to me all the time with issues and problems. My staff would just make a call, speak to them in Chinese and resolve this was like weeks of headaches they had, so it’s very easy to do.


David Hoffmann: 24:17

What we do, for example, is they could come to us. They can ask us to help them find a supplier, help them find a product or develop a product. There are fees involved, but the reality is it’s a cost of time to get things done. But we handhold them through a lot of it. They own the relationship with the suppliers at the end of the day.


David Hoffmann: 24:39

I kind of call it learn by doing. I say if we’ve done our job well, people can do it on their own in the future. They can do a lot of the heavy lifting on their own and then just use people like us for transactional services, doing a site visit or an inspection, and they can do a lot of the negotiations on their own.


David Hoffmann: 24:59

But, typically, to buy something from China from a manufacturer, once you’ve confirmed the product and the samples and you’ve gone through that process, you then pay them a small deposit, maybe 20% or 10% if you can get away with it. Then after the goods are produced, we’d do an inspection on the goods, for example. Once the goods are inspected, you pay the balance and then the good ship out. There’s a little bit of a process.


Jim Palmer: 25:25

Gotcha. Well, this has been a fascinating conversation. This is something I don’t delve into too much, but I [inaudible 00:25:32] about. Thanks so much for coming on my program, David.


David Hoffmann: 25:35

Yeah. You’re welcome, Jim. No problem. Thank you for having me.


Jim Palmer: 25:38

Yeah. We may have some listeners who were curious about getting some stuff manufactured in China. Could you tell them how to reach out to you and connect with them?


David Hoffmann: 25:47

Jim, sure. It’s supereasy. If they’d just go to GlobalTQM.com and that’s our website and then there’s a button there. They just click Schedule a Call or there’s a form they can just tell us their story and what they need and we get back to them straightaway. I handle all the calls myself, so I always like to do the first round of calls and make sure people are really on the right track and path.


Jim Palmer: 26:12

That’s awesome. David, thanks again. I really appreciate your time today.


David Hoffmann: 26:15

Brilliant, Jim. Thanks so much for having me.


David Hoffmann: 26:20

Don’t forget that if you want to talk to us and actually speak to us in person, we got a link in the show notes where you can go to our calendar, schedule a free session. There’s no cost at all for that. We could talk about your situation, what help you need on the ground in China, and see if any of our services are a good fit for you. We just love talking to people, so please feel free to do that no matter what stage you’re at on a sourcing journey. The link is in our show notes. You can also go to our website, GlobalTQM.com and just click the Schedule a Call button. The more we speak to, the happier we are.


27:01 Thank you for listening to the GlobalTQM.com podcast. So you don’t miss a single episode, remember to subscribe to our show on iTunes. We’d also be very grateful if you’d leave us an honest rating and review. Don’t forget to download your free gift, our ebook on China Sourcing for Startups at GlobalTQM.com/gift.



Some Avoidable Costly Mistakes Startups Make When Sourcing From China

Some Avoidable Costly Mistakes Startups Make When Sourcing From China

A few weeks ago, I was invited on the 2X eCommerce Podcast by Kunle Campbell. It’s a show for entrepreneurs interested in eCommerce tips, strategies and best practices.

Talking to Kunle was great because he asked the right questions. It allowed me to cover some of the essentials you need to know if you’re running a business with plans to source products from China.

In this podcast, you’ll discover:

  • What I believe is the main mistake startups make when sourcing products
  • What’s changing in China and what’s in store for the future (hint: look outside China)
  • How I feel about the Trump-China tariffs
  • My best tips for how to make the best of your visits to trade shows
  • Why you should register your intellectual property in China

If you’re short on time or can’t listen to the interview, I’ve had it transcribed for you. Scroll down to read our entire conversation.


Want to know how we can help? Schedule your FREE Call!

Interview Transcript


[00:22] Yup. We’re live. We’re live. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the 2 X eCommerce Podcast Show. This is the podcast dedicated to rapid growth in online retail. So if you’re looking to grow metric shortages, you know, conversions, average order value, and ultimately sales you’re in the right show. On today’s episode…Well before I actually get into today’s episode, I just wanted to make a super interesting announcement. It’s around Klayvio Boston which is just around the corner. I believe Klayvio Boston according to my notes here will run on the 25th and 26th of September. And today’s the 4th of September or 5th depending on when you’re listening to this. And basically, it’s in in three weeks’ time. So feel free to check it out. There’ll be more than 600 marketing professionals and eCommerce founders at Klayvio on the 25th and 26th of September. They’re going to be 50 actionable sessions. You don’t want to miss the keynotes. There are going to be online marketing insights. And I’m going to be attending, which is going to be great. I’m going to be podcasting from there. They’re going to be a few podcast sessions I’m going to have with keynote speakers there. So I’ll be heading out to Boston on the 25th and 26th. You don’t want to miss it.


[01:43] On today’s episode, back to today’s episode, I’m super, super excited. I have with me David Hoffman. He is an expert in product sourcing from China essentially. So when you’re talking about supply chain, he’s somebody who has a deep understanding and supply chain from China and Asia in general. He’s the man. He is pretty much a CEO. Has been CEO for Global TQM for the last 15 years, which is product sourcing company based out in China. He is based in Hong Kong actually. He’s worked with Target, Kmart, Walmart and a ton of smaller eCommerce entrepreneurs, whether they’re selling via Amazon or in other marketplaces. And also direct to consumer in eCommerce as you know it. So without further ado, I’d like to welcome David to the show. Welcome David!


[02:43] Hey Le, thank you! Thanks for having me on the show. I appreciate it.


[02:46] Fantastic. I probably haven’t done you sufficient justice with the introduction. Could you just take a minute or less to introduce yourself further?


[02:54] Well, I thought it was a good introduction, but yeah, I mean just briefly, I’ve been living out in China for 16 years. We started a business called GlobalTQM.com which is really a done for you services business, which stemmed out of us having, you know, servicing very large retail clients and wholesalers and importers. Some of the brands you mentioned and some other brands you never mentioned like JVC and Aiwa. And because of all our knowledge and experience, what really started happening is me and my partner we’re entrepreneurs by heart anyway so we started up a lot of companies and a lot of businesses. And we’ve got friends and family and they would always come to me and say “Hey David, I’ve got a problem with the factory”, or “I need this” or “I need that”. “Can you help me?”


[03:42] I’ve found just through helping friends and family that a couple of calls with our team on the ground and we’ve solved a lot of problems for them. And it just really got me more involved in kind of this division of Global TQM where we try to help first time sellers, startups or entrepreneurs manage their supply chain in China, find the right suppliers, develop the right products and really handle things on the ground because we have a big team here.


[04:15] And then you expanded. Okay. So I’m just going to jump right into a technical question. What’s the number one mistake established eCommerce businesses or startup eCommerce business make in China right now, or in Asia, when sourcing for products?


[04:40] It’s a really good question. I think it’s a simple thing which is really the attention to detail and the patience that it takes to get products launched. I see so many Eastern and Western miscommunications happening all the time and I find people get impatient and get frustrated with the manufacturers. And it’s such a real cultural and communication difference between East and West that I just find you’ve got to be very detailed, very specific and go through that process of checking, rechecking, sampling and sampling again. A lot of people want to shortcut that and they don’t want to do the hard work and homework. And I’ve explained to some of our big clients and our small clients that the difference between them and a large brand is that a large brand has got a team of people doing all this work all the time and you’re just seeing the end result. If you want to develop that you have to go through that painstaking trial and error and detail. There’s no shortcut to the homework as I call it.


[05:51] Yeah, yeah, makes sense. And then there’s also the frustration in terms of time cycles too to get it from factory to your warehouse. And that just piles up the anxiety, I think.


[06:08] Absolutely. And I mean, there’s so much detail that goes into it. So by the time you’ve finished finalizing all those details and finish going through all that sampling, you then want to get it manufactured, check that it’s manufactured correctly and then get it delivered. The last thing you want to do is have it delivered and find the problems. You want to catch that at source. And even at source, you know, I mean we do inspections on products and I always tell people you can’t inspect quality into a product. Inspection is a last minute thing. Like it’s a safety net. Really it’s the process before that which has to be thorough and complete in order to make sure you eliminate problems. By the time it’s produced, it’s too late. It’s a rework and it’s not what you want.


[06:52] What happens when everything goes tits up and you realize there’s just one bit of detail that’s screwed up the whole roll out of products? Who takes responsibility? How do you fix the problem as quickly as possible? Do you have any stories?


[07:15] Kunle, I could tell you so many stories [laughs]. I came to China for one year and I was going to move on, and 16 years later I’m still here because those stories happen every day. You know it’s such a good question. And this is where it comes back to the first question you asked. It’s that attention to detail because who takes responsibility is always the question. You know, everybody says the factory made a mistake when it’s their responsibility. Nine times out of ten when I look into the detail, I find it’s not as cut and dry and things weren’t as clear as they appear to be in somebody’s mind. Whether it was being specific on a specification. You know, sometimes if you don’t say it or you do say it you’ve still got to be very careful.


[08:04] Because not saying something doesn’t mean somebody automatically is going to do it. Or that you can assume it’s going to happen. It just doesn’t work like that. And that’s why I say those details are critical. Ultimately, and this is like you say, who takes responsibility? The harsh reality is everyone says well the factory manufactures so they should be responsible. But the bottom line is you take responsibility because you’re the one that suffers the returns. You’re the one that suffers the problems with the customer. At the end of the day you lose your reputation. So I feel that the people that I’ve met and worked with that are really successful in the space are the ones that take all the responsibility. Because they say, well, if there’s a problem it’s my fault. I should’ve checked this in more detail. I should’ve been more specific on this. I should have been a bit more thorough because ultimately, you know, you’ve got to own it.


[08:50] If you don’t own it, you’ve always got to pay the price in the end. So rather own it from the beginning and do as much management of it to make sure you get the right results. And work with your partners. You can’t dump the problems on your manufacturing partner and just say, oh, everything’s your fault and ruin the relationship. You need them. You need your manufacturer partners. You can’t kill them. It’s hard to be open minded when you’re emotionally invested in a product. And I get that. It happens to me. I’d go through these emotional roller coasters where I want to pull my hair out. But I’ve always been able to take a step back and say, you know what, I wasn’t quite as specific as I thought I was. Or it was a mistake and I’m going to have to step up and cover the cost or compromise on the cost because there’s a bigger picture at the end of the day.


[09:45] So this Global TQM, would you classify it as a trading company or are you a sourcing company?


[09:55] It’s a great question. No we’re not exactly either and there’s a very good reason for that because we’re a service provider. We’re a done-for-you service provider. So we really provide resources on the ground in China to help you source products, to help you find the right supplies, to help you manage your orders and communicate, to help you do the inspections. Why are we not a trading company? Because we won’t buy and sell a product. We help you build your relationship directly with your supplier because that’s how we really believe it should be, as in supplier direct to the end buyer is the ultimate formula. So, you know, we find our role is to help people get there quicker and faster and facilitate that process and help them to not repeat some of those mistakes that they’ve made or that we’ve made even in the past and short circuit for that.


[10:51] You know, I often say to clients which we’ve had, they say oh, we’re new to this, what do we do? And I go, look, it’s a journey. There’s no black and white. It’s a journey and we’re on it with you. At the beginning we hand hold you a lot. I say if there doesn’t come a time where you don’t need us so much anymore and you’re not traveling to China to do this on your own, we probably haven’t done a good enough job of teaching you as you go. You know, you learn as you go. Our relationship should eventually become transactional where you’re just using us to go check a factory because it’s quicker and faster, or consolidate your samples. And that’s how I see it. It’s a done for you service to accelerate your relationships with your suppliers and your supply chain.


[11:33] Okay, and what about like product design? Do you go into that area or are you still more factory validation and product quality checks, quality control?


[11:49] Yes. So, we’re more, as you mentioned on that side. We do have a group of designers we work with. Depending on the client we will look at certain projects and say, okay, we’ll use our resource on this as a design project and develop it. We’re quite selective on those because as you can imagine when you get into R&D and the design there’s a lot of investment of time and money and we’ve got to believe in it because we know it’s going to take a lot from us. But we do, we love those opportunities when they’re the right ones.


[12:26] At the shared office I work out of sometimes there’s a neighbor of mine who just specializes in product design with China. They’re doing quite well and that’s all they do.


[12:42] Okay. So let’s talk about China in itself. You know China’s matured. I was reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, you know, Nike? And back in the 70s it was the new frontier. We’re talking 40 or 50 odd years ago. It was like super exciting for them, as you know Nike’s stock actually accelerated as well as Nike’s scale. Obviously it’s 40 or 50 years on now. What is changing in China? What other countries should we factor in from a sourcing standpoint? And what do you see the landscape like? How do you navigate China?


[13:32] Yeah, it’s a really good question and there’s so many dimensions to it. I mean, I’ve seen the change in China in so many different ways. I think purely from a manufacturing perspective it’s very clear. A lot of manufacturing is moving out of China to Vietnam, Cambodia etc. I even know a really large clothing brand that’s now manufacturing in Ethiopia at a much lower cost. And you know, those guys were actually telling me the story of how much management they’ve got there to manage the quality and train the people. He’s questioning whether it’s more cost effective, but obviously in the long run it is. I don’t think China’s looking to be a low cost manufacturing country anymore. I think China’s moving more into the AI side of the world.


[14:25] I mean, we’re dealing with factories now that are going into chip design or into software design. They’re actually mirroring a lot of the US in all those aspects and starting to get their own proprietary technologies and the big manufacturers in China are servicing the Chinese domestic market, which is a huge market for them. So I don’t believe China is trying to compete at low cost manufacturing anymore. I think they’re progressing. I read a lot about China and their development in AI which just fascinates me. Alibaba would be one of the major players, not just as a platform, but even on government projects. What Alibaba do in terms of AI and government projects is mind blowing.

[15:12] Did you see the trending YouTube video about the artificial intelligence conference? I think it was held like a week ago. On one hand it’s Elon Musk and on the other hand it was Jack Ma. And Elon Musk pretty much took Jack Ma down. But I think what Jack Ma’s companies do in Alibaba with AI is light years ahead of what Tesla or even Space X is doing. It’s very, very interesting. He was very conceptual. Have you seen it?


[15:51] Yeah, I saw it. It was actually brilliant. I mean, I love just watching Elon Musk. He’s just such a character. I mean he sees AI as the biggest threat to humans and Jack Ma is kind of playing it down. And I promise you, Alibaba is the biggest AI company in the world. It’s frightening. I mean, they’ve developed credit systems based on your behavior. They’ve got air traffic control systems that they’ve tested with the government. They’ve got traffic control systems all through AI. You can’t move in China without the AI.


[16:24] You can’t or you’re removed.


[16:26] Yeah. Have you heard of the FlyZoo hotel? Alibaba have got an automated hotel where you check in through facial recognition and robots serve your room service. The only humans in the hotel are people that are there to greet you and say hello just so you don’t feel strange that there’s no people around.. This is what they’re testing. And then Jack Ma was kind of trying to say “No, you know humans make AI…”


[16:49] Yeah he was playing it down totally deceptive. And then you know if you read the comments everybody fell for it and it was like, seriously?


[16:59] I mean if you watch Elon Musk’s facial expressions it was actually quite funny. Because he kind of looks up like “What are you talking about?”


[17:07] [laughs] He knows what they’re doing. It was very, very fascinating. So in China, I got a notification from one of these newsletters I’m subscribed to and they’re saying that there’s new tariffs on Chinese goods for U S businesses. So basically from December the 15th there’s going to be a 15% tariff for over 40% of consumer products imported from China, which are going to be footwear, electronics, machinery, plastic products etc. And there’s going to be inflation in America and the consumer is going to pay. How do we balance this out? And how do you see this playing out in the next one year?


[18:05] You know they say out of one disaster is born more opportunities right? And I almost think this situation is forcing people to look outside of China. It’s forcing even the Chinese manufacturers, who are opening production plants outside of China so that they still keep their clients. And they’re just expanding. So I think what’s happening is it’s creating an alternative and it’s taking that threat away. So although there’s a short term pain I almost feel like there might be a long-term gain out of this, without a reliance on China and without a threat from the USA and they’re tariffs. You know a lot of factories I go to now I will say, “Do you want me to produce this in my China plant, my Vietnam plant or my Cambodia plant?” Because you know, antidumping duties, we can accommodate you either way. So in a way people always find a way around it and I think that’s what’s happening. It’s spreading the risk, which is good ultimately for the consumer I think. Because these trade wars just don’t benefit anyone.


[19:10] Absolutely agree with you. Okay. So one final point I wanted to cover before let you go is trade shows. You know a lot of people get into trade shows. Initially they’re like a kid in a candy store and then all of a sudden its analysis paralysis and they don’t know what to do in trade shows. What is your take on the right approach to trade shows? Give us a small guide, a David Hoffman guide to trade shows.


[19:40] It’s a good question. You’ve got a lot of good questions, what can I say Kunle. Firstly I think focus at a trade show is critical because it is. I mean, even me, I’m still like a kid in a candy store when I go to trade shows. But you know, the beauty of seeing things and seeing a variety of things is creativity comes from the strangest places. And I think you can get so many great ideas. And sometimes they’re half-baked ideas that are the right idea but not the right execution. Or maybe it just needs a little bit more to complete the idea. So you can find really wonderful ideas but I think the reality is it’s all in the execution and follow up afterwards. You know, when I would go to a trade show I’ve got a list. And I make a list of great ideas I want to do in the next one year and I’ve got a list of stuff I need the next two months.


[20:30] Right? And I just keep going back to my two months list and I allow my mind to wonder free with all these great ideas. But I write them down, I collect the cards, I kind of plant the seeds and let the idea simmer. And I actually genuinely look at those ideas quite regularly and just by default some of them fall off the bandwagon. I go, ah, not interesting anymore. Or still interesting because you start finding actually that the concept might be growing more and more and you go, “Okay, I think I want to look deeper into it”. And then you’ve got those name cards, you’ve got the factories to go see. I just think if you organize yourself into those compartments and accept them for what they are you’ve got a recipe for success.


[21:34] You’ve got your potential opportunities. You keep revisiting them until, you know, some things get what I call a natural growth, right? So, the more you revisit some you get a natural growth and they keep growing and keep growing and they get more of your attention.


[21:57] Exactly. It’s kind of like reference cards really. Once they’re in mind, at some point you will get back to them and those ideas. There was a time I visited a show in London, I think it was an eCommerce show, and I picked up some contact details of a packaging company. They do all sorts of packaging and when the need arose I did get in touch with them and give their details to an eCommerce store. So it makes massive sense. Would you go to the source, i.e. straight to China, Guangzhou, Shenzhen or even Hong Kong for the shows? Or would you prefer the shows to come to you? I know there’s one in Germany I might be attending in January or February. I think that there are a ton that come through Excel center in London. Where’s the best shows to…?

[23:00] Yeah, I think depending on the type of business you’re in the closer to source the better. I find that when the shows are coming to you those manufacturers are a lot more established in terms of branding and marketing and very often they have their own sales channels and they’re looking for distributors, or more sales channels or outlets. They’re quite sophisticated. I’m generally looking for the less sophisticated guys that don’t have these sales channels but are good manufacturers that can make our products and our designs. Otherwise, not a lot of guys need you. You get ideas from everywhere so it doesn’t hurt. Generally, the closer to source the better, but the harder the work.


[23:53] Okay, that makes sense. I thought that was going to be my final question, but I have one more question which is the big elephant in the room. It’s about intellectual property protection. What quick tips or rules do you have? Because, you know, eventually goods would be fabricated (copied)…

[24:15] Right. I’m glad you asked that question. I’m going to give you my single biggest tip, and I do webinars on this. I preach it all the time to everybody and I really recommend everybody does it in the end. If people want to contact us to do it we can help get it done as well. And that is register your trademark in China. That simple.

[24:41] Is it as simple as it sounds?


[24:42] Yes it is. And let me explain why. People don’t understand because people think “Okay, I’ve got it registered in the US” or “I’ve got it registered in Europe”, or Australia or wherever they are. And that’s fine and there is a one-year period where you can register in other countries but, and I’m talking from firsthand experience since I’ve helped so many people do this, anybody can register your brand in China. And the first one to register it owns the brand.


[25:11] I mean your brand could be registered right now in China and you wouldn’t know until you try to register it and then you see that you can’t because somebody else has done it. And it’s not expensive to do. It’s a couple of hundred dollars. It’s time, some processing, and it’s really not a big deal. But I’ve had cases where the manufacturers have gone and registered our clients’ trademarks. I’ve had manufacturers register my trademarks. Which basically means they start selling the same products online in China. So especially if you’re in the eCommerce space, you might go to Amazon China or JD.com or the big Chinese selling platforms and see your brand and sometimes your product selling online. It’s happened to countless people and it’s a nightmare to deal with because you don’t have your trademark. If you register your trademark in China you can give them one certificate – a Chinese trademark certificate – and you can get it delisted. That alone, for me, makes it worth it.

[26:06] Does the trademark cover form? You know, the properties of your products. Or is it based on your brand? Because anybody can copy Nike and then change the tick upside down and…


[26:25] Yeah, it’s a really good question. So it doesn’t cover from a trademark that is like your brand in the class that you register it. But why that’s important is because ultimately everybody’s looking for product differentiation. Your biggest differentiator is your brand. You know, people buy Nike because they’re Nike and they buy Adidas because it’s Adidas. Because your brand is your reputation, your customer service, your quality and everything around that. So, you know, first and foremost I say to people, protect your brand everywhere because it’s like your personal name, right? Would you want your name to be tarnished anywhere? You’d say no. And your brand is the same thing. So that’s the first thing you want to protect.


[27:10] Even if people copy the product 100%, if it doesn’t say Nike it’s not a Nike, right? Because Nike have got a reputation for quality and all those things. So that’s the easiest, lowest level fruit. Now, yes, there’s a whole separate discussion on design patents and other patents. You know, invention patents or utility patents and things like that where you can say, I want to protect the design. Of course you can do that. If you’ve got a very special product, you should do it. It’s costly. We do it. After countless legal battles I’ve had, and I’m still dealing with, the single biggest thing that has always mattered at the end of the day is your brand and your trademark. Protect that first and foremost. Products change. Life cycles change. You know, Apple changed. Their iPhone changed from the 5S to the 6, to the 7. The design is going to come and go. But your brand name lives forever.


[28:09] And that’s why I say that the best advice right now to any eCommerce person is register your trademark in China. Don’t rely on international. It’s a couple of hundred dollars, get it done. And the minute you register it, by the way, you’re protected. It takes about one, one and a half years for the application to go through, but it’s a process. Our people help with all of that stuff, but the key thing is that the first to register gets the priority on the brand. So even though it’s not registered yet because you’ve put the application in, nobody can do it afterwards. I’ve got guys now who are a very successful lighting brand. They’ve done exceptionally well and they want to launch internationally now. The first thing I said to them was “Have you registered the brand in China?” They said “No.” I said “I told you to do it. Please get it done.” Because your factory can see you reordering and reordering and reordering. They’re going to go and register it especially when it’s really nice brand; I can’t mention what it is. Just protect it. It’s a couple of hundred dollars. It’s a no brainer for any business.


[29:04] I agree. I agree. It’s first thing you do to secure the market and to secure yourself essentially.


[29:11] Yeah register your trademark in China. It’s one of those things that you’ll look back on in five years and go “Wow, that was the cheapest, best advice I ever had.”


[29:19] Brilliant stuff. Brilliant stuff. Any other thing you want to say? Any parting words or, do you think we’ve covered everything sufficiently enough?


[29:31] No I think we’ve covered a lot. I’m always free for conversations. You know, on our website people can just schedule a call and chat to me and talk to me. I love talking to people about their issues, seeing how we can help or just even giving advice. The more people we meet and network with the happier we are.


[29:49] So, you’re based in Hong Kong and your team is based in Shenzen?


[29:53] Yeah, I travel up and down. It’s about a one hour travel on the train through the border. So yeah, I do that commute three, four times a week.


[30:03] Okay. So for people who want to get through to you, I know your website address and I’m going to share it in the show notes. I’m going to share it on Facebook group. It’s…


[30:14] It’s GlobalTQM.com and they can just click ‘book call’ and really I’ll take 90% of those calls, or my team do and we can discuss anything.


[30:27] Amazing. And you guys work with like Amazon sellers, SMEs and enterprise?


[30:33] A lot of Amazon sellers, a lot of Amazon startups, a lot of SMEs and massive brands we work with. You know, the key thing for us is that it’s scalable to whatever level you’re at. And startups are our favorite because we’re just passionate about that. That’s kind of our home ground.


[30:56] David, thank you so much for your time and sharing all that stuff. Good stuff.

[31:01] No, thank you! I appreciate it.

He Was Forced To Go To China To Save His Business But Now He’s Launching His Own Brand

He Was Forced To Go To China To Save His Business But Now He’s Launching His Own Brand

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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of our clients, Robert. His company sells designer lighting in South Africa.

Robert’s company was the sole agent for an international lighting brand. They sold it successfully for over 10 years until the principal suddenly decided to drop them.

This left Robert in a predicament. A large part of his business was now gone and they had to make some changes fast.

After a mutual friend introduced us and we had a long chat about his options, Robert decided to take a trip to China.

Nearly 2 years after that first “expedition” to China, I sat down with Robert to talk about his journey into sourcing from China, what his experience was like, and his plans for the future of his brand.

In this podcast, you’ll discover:

  • The power of building a brand in China
  • The challenges you’ll face sourcing products and customizing them with Chinese manufacturers
  • The recipe for success: what it takes from you that many business owners ignore
  • The reality of the journey vs. your expectations
  • And much more!

If you’re short on time or can’t listen to the interview, I’ve had it transcribed for you. Scroll down to read our entire conversation.

Want To Talk To Us About China Sourcing?

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Interview Transcript


[00:49] Robert, you’re in South Africa, you’ve got a lighting business. I know you’ve been in the lighting business for 20 to 30 years. And I really love your story because you’ve been selling – and I’m just giving some background for those who don’t know you – you’ve been selling lighting for 20 to 30 years, mostly European brands. And your story of coming to source from China kind of started from a tragedy. And I really, I’d love for you to share that story with everybody and give them a little background and how you started getting to China products and what happened.


[01:25] Okay, David. So, basically, we with the South African agents for a brand from Spain. We, in fact, opened up a store and had their name for South Africa and we ran it pretty successfully for close to 10 years. After all the hard work was done, they decided, “thank you very much.” They decided to come into the country. Which really left us hanging there with a very big part of our business now suddenly taken away from us. So, that’s when we decided we need to get off our butts, basically, and look at some other options of getting some new lighting ranges in. And you must understand that for many, many years we’ve represented the top European brands. So our knowledge in European brand lighting was very high. We attend all the overseas shows, Milan, Frankfurt, Meson in Paris, obviously the Hong Kong show.


[02:29] So we had a very good understanding of what people liked. And then I think it was around about the beginning of December 2017, when we were introduced to you, we had this idea of forming up our own brand. And being absolutely novices in it we needed some guidance and thankfully, Josh introduced us to you and we had a sit-down meeting and that’s how we basically started our venture into China.


I remember the meeting well, a few warnings I gave you.


Needless to say, we were totally green. I mean I’ve been to China before but I’ve never really sourced directly myself. So, as you can imagine, our first trip was a couple of days after meeting you and there we landed in the lighting capital of China. My partners and I, and one of the guys from your company as well came with us, and…Wow! What an eye-opener.


[03:38] So then we arrive at a place called Guzhen town, which is part of the, just outside Zhongshan. And we drive into this town and I was amazed. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Wherever I looked, every direction, it was just lighting stores. It was like being a little kid in a candy store. I didn’t know where to go first. So now, being greenhorns, we thought, well, this is it. This is how you do business in China. We’d get out of the car and we’re walking up and down and, honestly, I mean just, literally thousands of lighting stores. We didn’t even know, We didn’t even know where to go first. And we started walking and we got an understanding of what we’re looking for and we started to understand pretty quickly the pros and cons of being in China and not really knowing what’s around the corner. Anyway.


[04:33] I think it was about the second or third day, I don’t know how we found it, I still to this day don’t remember, but suddenly someone said to us, hold on a second, you need to go to these big shopping centers. There’s a place just for lights. That’s where all the big brands are. So, the next morning we rock up to this beautiful 15-story shopping center and we were absolutely blown away. I’ve never seen so many beautiful lighting showrooms in my life. Each one was almost bigger than the next. And now you’ve got these youngsters – well, these South African guys – now we were running amuck boy. We didn’t know where to go. I think after the first two hours I said to the guys, “you know what guys, this is actually a bit too much. Let’s just sit down and let’s just try and focus on what we want and how we are going to get it.”


[05:37] Because can you imagine? You’re like thrown into the deep end there. Anyway, so yeah, we spent a whole day at the shopping, at this center, going from one store to the other and you learn quickly. You learn which of the guys that, well, first of all, we noticed that you know, one or two of the stores just weren’t our type of lights. So you start, like, bypassing those and going to the guys that you liked. And they, that’s basically how we started, you know, got going on it. And one thing led to the other and yeah, we started making one or two connections over there. We started understanding the process. The biggest thing you’ve got to understand is, straight away, when you’re dealing in China, the first thing – you guys already know – is what are the minimum order quantities. Because you’re starting with a new brand, you can’t afford to bring in a container of each piece.


[06:37] Was that a big change for you? Because you, I mean, your business with the brand and stuff, you were used to being able to buy smaller quantities, right? And now you have to kind of move to bigger quantities.


[06:46] Yeah, correct. I mean the European brands that we bring in, we would bring in per customer’s quote on a job. If a guy wanted one, we would bring in one. We couldn’t afford to keep stock of anything. Yeah. It’s very scary, especially on the European side, how expensive the stuff is, you bring it in and you can sit with a product for, for a year before someone comes to buy it.


[07:16] Robert, it’s a year, year-and-a-half down the line and you’ve got a couple of key suppliers, a couple of key factories. I know you’re visiting them all the time, I see you all the time. How did, what did you expect China’s sourcing was going to be like compared to what it actually is? I mean, did you kind of have an expectation and then like a kind of realization? Were they very different?


[07:43] Well, I think the most important thing is you’ve got to understand that, I think you’d put it so well the other day when we met, you’ve got to do your homework. At the moment we’re, most probably, dealing with about 12 different factories, which in itself is great but it also becomes a bit of a problem. Yeah, now you’ve spread yourself thin. And ideally, the best thing is to try and narrow down the number of factories that you’re working with. And I think that only comes with time and experience. You’ve got to go through all the hassles and everything.


[08:21] And I think without working with them you don’t know how to filter them down. So yeah, that’s what I always say. The homework is everything because at the end of it, you kind of got smarter and wiser and there’s just no substitute for that experience.


[08:34] Correct. And this is it: it’s time on your feet and going and visiting. And it doesn’t mean that you go to a lighting showroom that is beautiful and everything, that that is the correct factory for you. So generally what I like to do, for me, the important thing is to actually go to the factory and see. Because 9 out of 10 times we’re looking for something that’s a little bit different. We’re not looking for run-of-the-mill stuff. So when we go to the factorie, we find, lying on the floor, pieces of glass and steel and everything. And we try and become a little bit more unique by trying to design our own lighting as well.


[09:17] Yeah, the changes And differences make a whole new product.


[09:25] 100 percent. So, you know, we’ll find something we like. We’ll go to the factory. We’ll sit down with the buyers. We tell them we want 4 meters of cable. We don’t like this in black, we want it in brass, or whatever it is. We want the lamp poles to be different. We want, you know, bits and pieces. So we almost try and fine-tune it to our own likes and dislikes. Using our knowledge from European brands.

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[09:47] Do you think this whole launch of your own brand and your own range in China has been successful? I mean, how do you view it? Was it a blessing in disguise?


[09:59] You know, yeah, it was. Definitely, without a doubt, it was a blessing. I wish I would’ve done this 10 years ago. Yeah, lets put it that way. It’s a long process. It’s a very difficult process. I’m not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. You’ve got to put in hard work. But definitely, I think that we’re forming a brand that is unique. That people love because it’s a little bit different. I mean the brand name is [redacted].


[10:29] I was just going to say, I’m going to bleep that out because I don’t want you to repeat the brand name yet. Because I know we’re in the process of trademarking it et cetera, et cetera. So, for everyone listening, I’m going to bleep it out. Let’s keep a low profile for now.
Robert Kalish

[10:46] So yeah, so it’s taking time. People are very excited about it. I think that it’s got legs, definitely. I’m now looking at expanding and looking at the rest of Africa. We’re looking at other ideas, where to bring our brand into. But it’s exciting because, you know, it’s your own. And you, you’re not beholden to anyone else but yourself.


[11:10] Correct. And then it’s your hard work that creates it and makes it happen. And I always say to people and, I’d love to hear your view on it, is that there are just certain things you can’t outsource and there are some things you can, but it’s very much a collaborative process to build a brand and a range. I mean, would you not agree with that?


[11:32] Absolutely. 100 percent. And yeah. I mean, you’ve got to go there and you’ve got to look and you’ve got to feel and you’ve got to see, and you’ve got to make the mistakes. Because please believe me, they will be mistakes made. And the most important thing for me is to make sure that if you choose something before you order it, is to get a sample made up, and then you inspect the sample and you check it out. And 9 out of 10 times there’s something wrong with the sample. And it’s up and down and up and down until you feel that that is good enough for you.


[12:06] Robert, what’s the next step for you here? I mean I, and I don’t mind sharing with people that, you know, we’ve even started discussions of looking at expanding it as an international range into other markets because you’ve done such a good job on that product development. And, you know, I think just once you start something, it can expand into anything. What do you see the future as?

Robert Kalish

[12:31] Well, you know, the South African market fits the brand beautifully, and well, is to expand to other countries. That’s definitely my focus now, is to look at that and just to see that, you know, as with anything, starting up a brand and trying to do it yourself is not easy. It takes a lot of effort and money. And the money part of it is a huge aspect of it. Yeah. So, putting all this money into building a brand. It’s trademarks. It’s having them tested by laboratories. It’s all the marketing material. It’s bringing in samples. It’s bringing in containers of lighting that you just hope is going to move. So you’re putting all this money into something all the time, and it’s going to take time, obviously, for it to start, you know?


[13:30] And I think what’s interesting as you were saying to me the other day, you know, some of the lines weren’t selling and then they just suddenly started selling and sold out. And it’s just hard to predict what those patterns are going to be, especially with designer products. It’s incredible.


[13:44] Yeah. In just under 2 years or a year-and-a-half. We’ve managed to put together a catalog of about, well the catalog’s nearly a hundred pages, about 88 or 89 pages, but we’ve got about 30 products in there. Some in different sizes, same range and what have you. And yeah, I mean, you know, the thing is you bring in stock, you sit with it, and it doesn’t move. And it can take 3 or 4 months and then suddenly in a week you sold 50 of it. So it’s very difficult to predict how to go forward. Up until now, there’s been really, none of our ranges have NOT moved. Some quicker than others. But I think that the more we’re out there and the more we wholesale to other lighting companies and get the brand out there, I think is there are legs on everything.


[14:49] Yeah. I, I agree. I Robert, thanks for sharing that all. I’m hoping that guys listening to this get some value and some insight out of it because everybody kind of starts their own journey in their own way. What I really love about the whole story is that you were, like, out of a disaster you’re forced to come to China. And I remember the first day we met and we had that whole long conversation about what lays ahead. And, I mean, looking now, like a year-and-a-half, 2 years down the line, it’s been an incredible success story. It’s a great relationship we have, we certainly enjoy it, looking at all the partnerships we are looking at now. So little things become big things, you know, It’s exciting.


[15:31] Yeah, no, absolutely. And as I say, this is something that’s given me a definitely a spring in my step. I’m enjoying that tremendously. I really am. I’m very creative or that side. And I love that challenge of finding new stuff.


[15:49] You’ve got a great eye for it. Robert. Thanks for that. And I’m going to end the recording now and we’ll carry on chatting.

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Should I Register My Trademark In China?

Should I Register My Trademark In China?

“Should I register my trademark in China?” is a common question I get from clients.

Let me simplify it for you.

There are 3 scenarios that apply.

1) Are you sourcing products from China?

If you source products from China and you buy from Chinese manufacturers, the short answer is YES!

You should definitely register your trademark in China.

We’ll get into why in a minute.

Take my word for it and just do it.

Don’t waste time.

I’ve got so many experiences I can share with you – first-, second-, and third-hand.

And it’s so cheap and easy to register your trademark that it’s a no-brainer.

The protection it offers you, the aggravation is saves you, is worth it.

2) Are you a strong E-commerce brand selling your products online?

Even if you don’t buy products from China.

Even if you don’t sell your products in China.

You still want to register your trademark in China.

And the reason is that the online world is so small.

All the big E-commerce sites like Ali Baba, Taobao, and Amazon are global.

This means they operate in China too.

If companies in China see you doing well with your product, they’ll copy it.

Not just the Chinese, others too.

But in China, they’re great at figuring out what works and what does well, then copying it.

They’ll copy the product AND the brand.

And they’ll start selling it online in China.

It’s quite disheartening because when your customers do searches online, they’ll see the copycats.

This is the last thing you want because it confuses your customers.

And there’s nothing you can do about it.

On the other hand, if you had registered your trademark in China, it very easy for you to approach these online platforms and get the copycat products taken down.

Now, I have to make this clear:

If you’ve registered your trademark in other countries but haven’t in China…

And you need to take a copycat off the market…

You’ll still need to register your trademark in China, prove your use-case, etc.

I fight these cases all the time and they take about a year to resolve.

That’s PLENTY OF TIME for a copycat to kill your brand online.

If instead, your trademark was already registered in China – and it only costs a few hundred dollars – all you have to do is take your Chinese trademark registration certificate, hand it in to the online platforms, and they’ll take it down.

They will comply.

People have this misconception that you can’t protect your trademark in China but you actually can. There’s huge respect for the law.

As long as you have the right documentation, it’s very easy.

Especially with the legitimate online platforms – I’m talking about the big players – that follow and respect the law, having your trademark registered will save you a fortune.

3) Are You Starting A Business?

If you haven’t started selling yet, but you’ve got an idea or you’re setting up your business, you’ll be spending money on setup costs.

Setting up your Amazon account, your business registrations, you’re paying for samples, etc.

My recommendation for you is to spend a few hundred dollars more to get your Chinese trademark registered from the start.

Just consider it part of your setup cost and an investment.

It’s one of the cheapest investments you’ll make in your business.

Because if you’re successful and your brand takes off, a few hundred dollars are insignificant compared to the problems you may have to deal with down the line.

These problems are so vast and so expensive to deal with, and the truth is you almost always get nowhere.

Now, having that trademark certificate with the Chinese registration really gives you a lot of power.

And it is enforceable cost-effectively.

It’s really a misconception that China will rip-off anything.

If you have your intellectual property registered in China it’s very easy to protect.

And again, I’m not talking about international IP, where you’ve registered under the Madrid Convention and you think you’re protected for a year.

That’s all fine academically and in theory.

But protecting your IP this way will cost you thousands and thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees and so much time and energy.

I say for a few hundred dollars upfront you can save all that aggravation.

Get your trademark registered in China so you can put all your time, energy, and resources into your brand, your reputation, and your product, and not get ripped-off.


To summarize, here are the 3 cases where you must register your trademark in China:

  • You source products from China, nomatter what business you’re in
  • You sell online globally, even if you don’t sell in China or sourcing products from China
  • You are starting a business and are busy setting up all your accounts and business registrations

That last one is like a crystal ball you’ll wish someone had given you, saying,

“If only I had known this at the beginning, it would have saved me a fortune.”

Well, I’m going to save you that fortune now. And I couldn’t recommend it more.

In my client trainings, I share so many case studies where I go into detail about real situations that have happened to me, to friends of mine, cases we’re defending, etc.

This is real, first-hand experience. It’s cost us tens of thousands of dollars.

And the reality is I could have stopped it all.

I could have prevented it all if I had spent a couple of hundred dollars on registering my trademark certificate in China.

And that’s what I want you to do.

If you want to dive deeper into this topic, you can opt-in to watch our free training.

OR if you want to talk to an expert on the phone, book a consultation with us.

This is a subject I’m super passionate about because I’ve been burned. And I really want to protect other people from making these mistakes.