Overcoming Cultural & Communications Issues Overseas
Updated: Jan 10
Establishing a professional and supportive business relationship with your overseas manufacturer is imperative for anyone looking to grow a business that is dependent on the products they produce. Building those relationships can be easier said than done. Here are a few tips to consider when developing a new relationship with an overseas partner.
Communicating around the world is a struggle, and timezone differences are among the most well-known culprits for making consistent communication tricky. Many large manufacturers and printers could have a 12-hour time difference or higher, making conversations during regular business hours all but impossible. For example, China has about a 15-hour difference from the Pacific Time zone, so 9 AM in China is 6 PM in California.
Be sure to schedule phone calls at appropriate times for both parties and maximize the conversations you have at those time. Take what you learn from those conversations and develop your asynchronous communication skills—learn to communicate as fully and clearly as possible without requiring contemporaneous communication.
Details, details, details—they will determine the success of your product. Get them right, and you could be very successful. Get them wrong, and your product's success could be in jeopardy. Language confusion can be a major barrier when it comes to ironing out details, so utilize images to help ensure you and your production company are on the same page.
When facing a language barrier, details and explanations are in danger of being lost in translation or misinterpreted altogether. A tried and tested way to overcome this issue is by utilizing reference photos of the details you need in your product. Add precise notes to the photos to be sure your needs are clearly understood, and you can easily overcome communication barriers and develop the best product to represent your brand.
Keeping a professional, friendly attitude with your partner can show your appreciation for all the hard work that they do. A great way to do that is to understand the important holidays, traditions, and gifts that are customary for those specific holidays. Send a quick note acknowledging a given holiday or plan a little early and drop an appropriate gift in the mail.
Also, take the initiative to research and understand cultural customs that your partners hold. Doing so both prepares you to engage wisely and avoid possible opportunities for embarrassment or even insulting your partner. For example, Chrysanthemums are a very popular flower choice in the States to encourage or show support to someone. However, in many European countries, these beautiful flowers are viewed only as a symbol of funerals and the passing of loved ones. Giving gifts that demonstrate a misunderstanding of cultural norms can become a barrier to building a trusting relationship.
The best way to assure your project is completed to your satisfaction is by building long term relationships with your production partner that can be nurtured over time. That's not always easy, unless you are constantly creating products and have the opportunity to communicate regularly. Of course, you can also lean into a trusted, collaborative partner here in the States who have long term relationships already built. And CōDRA would be honored to help...
If you're ready to delve into the world of overseas printing and manufacturing, contact us here to get started today!