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If you’re looking into outsourcing your product’s manufacturing process to China, the most important thing you will need to find is a good business partner. But what exactly constitutes a “good” partner? And once you’ve figured out what you need, how do you go about finding the right one? Here are 6 steps you can take in order to help you find the perfect partner in China for your business.

1. Know what you need

It’s important to understand exactly what you’re looking for in a partner. Do you need a manufacturer or a 3rd-party supplier? A big corporation or a family-owned business? Do you need an in-house product development team or will a buy-in sell-out supplier work? Vertical integration or assembly-based manufacturer? Understanding your business and its needs is the first step you need to take, and will help you immensely in your efforts to finding the right partner.

2. Do an internet search

There are many online aggregators that compile huge lists of Chinese manufacturers. If you know the type of business you’re looking for, you’ll be able to filter out many of the wrong choices. This will help you get an idea of how many companies fit your requirements, their sizes and prices.

3. Talk to your network

You should already have a strong network of business relations. Talking to them is a great way to hear stories about what has worked and what hasn’t. You’ll be able to talk about strategies for finding manufacturers, pitfalls to avoid, and it’s possible that you might even be able to find a reliable manufacturer that an associate is using.

4. Research your competitors

Reach out to companies and people that produce similar products to yours. If they aren’t willing to share their secrets, then do some digging on their website and into their employees. Find out what roads they’ve taken and whether it has worked out for them.

5. Narrow down the list

Once you’ve compiled a list of manufacturers, it’s time to create a shortlist. Come up with a list of requirements that you want your future partner to fulfill, and send an email to everyone you’re considering. The ones that respond and meet the requirements should make the shortlist.

6. Talk to them

Whether you do this via skype of f2f is up to you. Obviously both have their advantages, and if you can afford to go to China, this could give you several insights that are impossible to gauge over the phone or internet. However, if your order is on the smaller side, it may be sufficient to ask for references from banks and customers and perform a background check yourself.