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Resolution for the Chinese New Year: Follow Confucius’ way when interacting with suppliers

The best way to get exactly what you want is without doubt by knowing your suppliers better. As China keeps growing a strong economy, the influence of thinkers from China’s past is thriving. The ideas of China’s early rulers are ingrained in the Chinese mind; not only does it apply for the former generations but without doubt for the new generation as well. As China has become increasingly significant to the global economy, it has also become increasingly significant to understand the mindset of your Chinese partners.

Confucius, the major influencer, is regarded as the educator of China.  In the workplace, Confucianism is still on the cutting edge. Hierarchy, perseverance and thrift are among the central facets of this way of thinking and are still values associated with work management in China.

  • In your next contact with your supplier, give your Chinese new year ’s wishes. Confucius tells us about reciprocity and personalized exchange. This is actually where guanxi come from. Work relationships go beyond work time. With your suppliers, feel free to discuss extra things, world news, leisure, holidays, gossip of the factory. Make the utmost effort to treat your supplier as unique. Try to find what he loves to discuss about and what lets you have good discussion. It could be your latest journey in Greece, the coming graduation of his son or anything else. Also, imagine this year you want to start a cooperation with a factory manager you don’t know. Try to push between you, someone who has a trusting relationship in the past with him. Your suppliers hunt for trust: they need it from their employees to avoid turnover and they need it from you to organize their factories. So, build up something sustainable.
  • Send your email requests to at least two people. If you have something to ask to the factory (redefined sample, detailed quotations…) and you know that two managers of the plant belong to the same guanxi, put them together in your emails and ask them to work together on your request. Confucian values of family are based on collectivism. Let’s sum it up as belonging to groups. Relationships are a big deal in China. The human is key. It goes with respect, trust, attentiveness, honor and need of perfection. You should encourage the development of teamwork in the factory to achieve your desirable outcomes. By taking the collectivist orientation, encourage teamwork. Initiatives will come up faster and smoother… and your requests will be followed.
  • Ask to the Chinese manager to train you, share information. Confucian values give priority to knowledge. Chinese want to learn from you. Act as you also want to learn from them. They will feel very flattered.
  • Ask for their opinions, even about your new collection. Societal order of Confucian values comes along with harmony at work. If you want your suppliers to make special effort, do not threaten them with competitor comparison or unexpected changes in your order. Be courteous, calm, with all ears open, and constantly ask for opinions from your Chinese partners. Avoid “must-do” and do not enforce something in the hope that it will smooth over, as you are risking the staff becoming passive.
Picture of Claire Piccinno, writing for Asian Quality Focus

Claire Piccinno

After experiencing critical quality problems while working for trading company in China, Claire decided to dedicate to the quality control industry since 2009. She is now AQF marketing manager.

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