One of the first concerns that comes up when I’m helping out new entrepreneurs is how they'll communicate with suppliers on the other side of the globe, and the other side of the clock. It sounds overwhelming, almost like you’ll have to be on call 24/7, but it’s not as tricky as you might think. Here are a couple of tricks that have helped me keep my sanity and my global relationships intact.
1. First, know your time zones. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but time zones can be confusing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed a conference call because I thought I had identified the proper time zone. So be sure you verify your information and record the exact time difference between your suppliers and your local area. It is also a good idea to know the differences for areas you travel to frequently.
2. Next, utilize the communication channel your supplier is the most comfortable with. In the first Bootstrapping book, we went over communications with your supplier and suggested Skype. This is a great place to start, but as you build a relationship, you’ll want to use apps and services that your supplier uses most. The reason for this is because that will make it infinitely simpler to contact them and get a quick response whenever you need to.
3. Get familiar with the communication timeframes your suppliers prefer. Over time you’ll notice a pattern in the timeframes and times of day (or night) when your suppliers respond using different mediums. Emails may not come in until 2 or 3 a.m. most days, whereas Skype communications may be replied to by 7 p.m. These reflect the times when your supplier rep is likely in an office, in front of a computer, or on the production floor. When you familiarize yourself with their patterns, you’ll be able to schedule your day around important information exchanges.
4. Ask for clearly defined deadlines. You may not always be able to dictate how quickly you get information from your suppliers, but you can definitely hold them to their own schedule. So get in the habit of asking when that conversation with the production manager will take place, when the material factory will communicate the production completion date, and so on. The more you know about when critical information will be available to you, the more control you will have over your business.
5. Finally, make sure that all the platforms through which you transfer money overseas are accessible online. You might sign up for programs like PayPal and Western Union, but you will also want to check with your bank about facilitating wire transfers online as well. This will make completing important tasks within a specific time-frame much easier. It is much better to be able to initiate the transfer as soon as the deal is done, rather than have to set an alarm to wake up at 6 a.m. to do it.