CONNECTING local businesses with booming Asian markets has opened new pathways to prosperity for a Brisbane entrepreneur and her clients.
Lindy Chen (pictured) insists there is no mystery to doing successful business with Asia.
As a growing number of local businesses become reliant on (or hopeful of) critical contracts with clients, customers and suppliers in Asian markets, Chen says the secrets to success are simple: Due diligence, respect, patience and plenty of hard work.
Chen has embraced and practised them all. She has built ChinaDirect Sourcing (CDS) from a business with an opening budget of $2000 into an operation that turned over $1.3 million in the last financial year.
And it has taken her just seven years. On the way, Chen has become one of the most admired and well-connected business operators in Brisbane and Asia.
Her mission is to “make clients prosperous and globally competitive” while her goal is to grow ChinaDirect into the world’s leading sourcing firm.
Chen says no one should consider Asia as a shortcut to profit.
As she outlined in her book Import From China. How To Make A Million…and Not Get Burnt!, Chen advises on the importance of conducting early due diligence to make the most of China’s $7 trillion economy.
She suggests companies wanting to do business with China should draw lessons from those who did import-export deals with Japan in the 1980s.
“Japan has gradually improved its quality controls, but similar issues still exist in China,” she says.
“There needs to be a system with strict control or micro-management to obtain A-grade products all of the time. Quality control needs to be interwoven into the process.
“In China, the reality is there are good and bad suppliers. If you do not do quality control procedures, you either make a lucky order and find everything is great when it arrives, or order A-grade products and receive B-grade products instead, finding it is too late to change.”
Chen recommends identifying good suppliers from the outset. When setting up a new sourcing arrangement, CDS contacts more than 30 suppliers in each category, using its database of 30,000 companies.
Staff analyse options until they are confident enough to proceed to the sampling stage. It is only once sampling is completed to required levels of approval that talks proceed towards doing a deal.
Chen concedes it can be a drawn out process, but determination, due diligence and patience are hallmarks of her career.
From a poor upbringing in China, her first job after migrating to Australia in 2002 was selling movie tickets door-to-door.
She made no money, but quickly learned English and honed her skills in dealing with people from all walks of life.
Chen spent seven months studying English and later taught business administration and lectured on international trade at TAFE.
She also worked as a credit manager with CSR Australia, where she discovered an inherent talent for co-ordinating contracts.
“It was something I could do. I negotiated various matters with suppliers and found I was very good at it,” she says.
Chen branched out on her own launching ChinaDirect Sourcing Services on a PC at an internet café.
She insisted on transparency from the outset providing full details of Chinese suppliers to Australian clients and declining commissions from Chinese suppliers.
Chen describes herself as “a dynamic, bicultural business facilitator blending the best from the East and the West, with a natural ability to connect people from diverse backgrounds".
Her East Brisbane-based company now employs 11 staff and has plans to expand across Australia through a new franchising model, which she hopes to roll out by the end of the year.
“I believe in abundance and sharing those experiences with others. We think a franchise in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth will allow us to specialise in sourcing products, importing and exporting that knowledge to other countries,” she says.
“We have received enquiries from Africa, Canada and New Zealand. I have a dream to service 10,000 clients by the year 2020, covering 10 different countries with a recommendation from the Chinese Government.”
Chen says Chinese interest in Australia remains strong, particularly among the increasingly affluent Chinese middle class who are looking for foreign investment opportunities.
“Australia now has a golden opportunity because the Chinese Government has restrictions on how many houses individuals can buy, which is pushing those who used to buy houses in Shanghai and Beijing to other locations,” she says.
“Putting money into the bank is unwise as China is still a very communist country and, before its liberation, China ran various campaigns to take money away from its rich people [including my family].
“Some Chinese want to invest their wealth in other countries, which seem politically stable with an open policy but are still close to China. That makes Australia a very attractive destination."
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