How to Vet International Companies
When we dream big and want to cast our net wide, it’s inevitable that we’ll have to work with partners all around the world.
But when you can’t easily check up on how your international suppliers are doing (since doing that would require a supersonic private jet), it’s hard to keep everyone you work with accountable.
We know our fair share of entrepreneurs who’ve been burned by international suppliers they’ve worked with, and here’s how to make sure those suppliers are legit:
When you shop online, how often do you make important purchases without reading a couple of reviews first? Exactly.
Make sure the company has and will be around long enough to develop a worthwhile relationship. You don’t want to be caught off guard if the supplier goes under and ding-dong-ditches without giving you your goods! Do they have the resources to make sure their operations can run smoothly? Do they have the backing of well-regarded investors? Who else are their clients? You can also purchase company credit checks before placing large orders.
Depending on what of angle your business is going for, your suppliers will be crucial in cultivating your business’ brand image. Take brands such as Everlane that pride themselves on transparency -- since they’re committed to cutting out the middleman and providing designer-quality clothes at reasonable prices, they’re able to trace back who and where their suppliers are based.
Your supplier’s location is more important than just convenient proximity. Are there any environmental (see Brazil), social (see a sweatshop factory), or political (see China/Cambodia) risks associated with that environment?
Before putting in a production order with your factory, take a glance around their space of inventory to make sure they can physically produce your entire order. And if they’re a suitable enough size to create your order now, what about if you decide to scale? Conduct a walkthrough of their facilities to see if the supplier is capable of supporting your production demands without having to resort to delays or missed orders.
Suppliers and factories are often the biggest committers of environmental, human-rights, and health issues since so many of the violations happen behind the veil. If you don’t want that bad juju to taint your brand, thoroughly research to see if the suppliers you want to partner up with comply with all the environmental, sustainable, ethical, and health regulations that you need. Bonus points if they have certificates to show that they’re in compliance.
Miscommunication is a huge reason behind why relationships break down, and it certainly doesn’t make it easier if you’re in a different timezone and location than your suppliers. Set expectations early on (5 questions to ask distributors)to determine preferred communication methods and meeting times.
Gauge how responsive the supplier is during initial communications, and trust your gut and bounce if you feel that the supplier might ghost you at any point.
We’ll repeat this until the world ends, but get everything you and your supplier agree to in writing -- especially if you’re dealing with a foreign supplier, since pursuing international lawsuits sounds like a headache that belongs in its own category.
When building your contract, be sure to include essential details such as the project scope, price, milestones, and specifications. Then, have it reviewed by your business attorney to make sure you’re covering all your bases.