As some of you might know, I started a business selling stuff ex. Greater China to the west 3 years ago.
My background was a MA in Asian studies with a minor in business/economics, 3 years as a financial analyst in Taipei, and a good year being the export sales manager/everything foreign/whipping boy for a local company making and selling espresso machines.
My studies and sty-related work made me fluent in Mandarin, IE in speaking, listening reading and writing Chinese with a high degree of fluency. All meetings with suppliers are held in Chinese, and I am completely at home with the rapid-fire version where 3 persons tell you 3 different tings at once.
The job as financial analyst taught me a way of thinking, IE that everything regarding business as money at the end of the day, I also got a semi-soft introduction to Taiwanese company politics and how Taiwanese companies actually work.
Later at the coffee machine fuckup, I tried my hand at planning market entry, marketing to overseas customers, and I also tried to a few trade shows and some business travel/sales trips. I did gain a few connections and got the fuckups into a major market, and also found a target customer group for a range of products. (The thing I do was actually suggested by a customer).
I learned the bones and actual bits of exporting etc. at the coffee machine fuckup as well - what to be aware of and stuff like that when it came to actually exporting.
That was my background, and I set out feeling that I had a semi-decent basis for starting a trading company dealing in products from a related but very different industry.
Beginner’s screwups took a year, and there have been rumblings since. I have sued suppliers, been sued by them, but strangely enough not lost any significant customers. Building a customer base was painfully slow at first, however that has slowly improved, I am now there where I add customers in a steady stream and most walk in the door by themselves. My industry experience was zilch and so was my supplier network, and getting that down was hard, and cost me business the first years.
My business is now increasingly succesful and fairly stable, with a very strong orderflow, and my order visibility is now 4-5 months out in the future, IE I get told by the customers when they plan to order etc. so I can coordinate at this end. Also, from a low base turnover had more than doubled every year to a now very respectable figure. I feel very confident in what I do, and I feel how the interest is constantly increasing. I don’t dare to become complacent yet, as I remember the tough start rather well.
The important thing to me is to make sure that relationships with customers run well, and that the quality is monitored very closely. I spend lots of time checking out potential suppliers, but I am very choosy about who I work with. I try to spread orders out among more than one supplier, but at the same time, I keep the number of suppliers small. I spend as much time on factory floors as possible, trying to keep abreast of how they do things and how the factories actually work. I drink with the suppliers, get to know them, and let them know me and my expectations very well. When I go overseas for no matter what purpose, I spend significant time of my vacations visiting possible customers, and when I can afford it I go on sales trips. I try to understand as much about each customer as I possible can, looking for even the faintest trace such as a purchase order in order to glean more information about how that customer actually work.
It would appear that people of verious backgrounds have begun to ask me how to become a succesful trader . That has made me think - what makes a succesful trader? Who would you recommend to start such a business. What set of skills should you try to get before starting and how would you go about getting them?
Ladies and gentlemen - please discuss.