Tips to Evaluating New Suppliers (and Customers)

The ability to accurately evaluate a new business relationship or project at an early stage has a defining impact on your success.  Evaluating custom Android projects are a perfect example of this.  A new custom Android product can seem complicated at first, but a calculated approach simplifies making it a reality.  The same idea holds true when evaluating partners (either a supplier and customer) to work with.  This article discusses how to engage with new partners and provides tips you can use when talking with Hatch or any other potential partner.

When meeting a potential partner ask a lot of questions.  For example when meeting with a new tooling factory you want to know, in depth, what their processes are.  What quality standards do they have in place?  What quality processes do they follow?  How long does it take to make the mold?  What machines do they have in-house?  What do they outsource?  Can you see the written requirements they give to partners?  Be quick to admit when you don’t understand something.  If you don’t understand something it’s either because you’ve missed a key detail or the supplier isn’t providing all the details; good to figure out which one it is.  Don’t ask just one supplier; ask many.  After each meeting you become more educated and ask better questions at the next meeting.

Sometimes ask questions that you already know the answer to.  If the answers seem too good then figure out why.  What are they doing differently?  Maybe you have more to learn.  Maybe they’re dishonest.  Don’t accept all answers at face value.  Occasionally a salesperson shows up at a meeting, alone. When faced with more technical questions they say that they’re only a salesperson, not an engineer.  If possible, have the meeting at your partner’s location to get instant access to qualified personnel (they can’t all be salespeople, right?).  Properly explaining the rationale behind an answer reflects their professionalism.  Asking pointed questions reflects not only your sophistication, but also demonstrates that you care about the topic.

Receiving good questions reflects that the other person is genuinely interested.  This process builds trust and, indirectly, a relationship.  For these reasons it’s useful to have initial conversations with either the company boss or a manager, especially if you’re talking to a typical ‘top down’ Chinese company.  Fielding pointed questions from a boss or engineering manager shows that they care about your business, their company, and take their job seriously.  These subliminal signs are more important for building a rapport than gifts and smiles.  Productive questions arise when someone becomes engaged and cares to know more.  They’re already thinking about the next step of the relationship.  Questions, rather than answers, provide the best means to judge the person you’re speaking with.  This dialog is a meaningful way to build respect for a partner.

The same holds true when a potential customer first approaches Hatch.  I ask about their project, product, and company.  Stimulating answers evolve the conversation and evoke credibility.  Quality questions from new clients allow me to share more about Hatch.  This generates transparency and builds a strong foundation for an ongoing relationship.  An open discovery process positively reflects their company culture.  Engaging in a productive and detailed dialog reveals each others’ professionalism and character while, simultaneously, I can start planning out their project.  Good projects do not have a direct correlation to how much the client knows about custom Android product development.  Having a good reason to make a custom Android device and a good business model matters the most.  Plus, it’s more important that they know about their industry than my industry.  As long as they know that clearly Hatch can take care of the rest.  This is not the case with all suppliers.  Be weary of suppliers who say yes to your project before fully understanding it.  That shows they are more interested in getting the order than delivering a quality result.  Hatch looks for the bi-lateral long term value of the relationship, meaning there needs to be a good match.

Ask good questions.  Push for clear answers.  Happily answer questions.  Focus on the matter at hand.  Business relationships are built on mutual understanding and delivering on promises.  Open communication provides the foundation for this.  Utilizing the right approach to meeting new suppliers allows them to start planning out your project before it even begins. When this happens you may have found the winning combination.