Tag Archives: Challenges

How Do You Satisfy a Difficult Foreign Customer? Three Factors

Situation: A company has a long-term relationship with a Japanese distributor that is also an investor in the company. Due to time zone differences and language difficulties, communications are very difficult. This leads to significant cost overruns for the company. How do you satisfy a difficult foreign customer?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • In working with a difficult partner, it is critical to set expectations, establish ground rules and repeat these at the beginning of each conversation or teleconference until it is clear that both sides understand each other. Even at this point, these should be repeated and reinforced any time a new individual is participating in the conversation.
    • Do you want us to give you (a) our honest answer, or (b) do you want us to tell you what we think you want to hear? – They would be foolish to choose (b).
    • Preface each critical response with this choice to reinforce the agreement at the beginning of the meeting.
  • In a situation where you are losing money under a fixed price contract, you may have to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting. During this conversation, you want to understand and establish:
    • Whether this relationship is profitable for both of us, and
    • Whether this project is doable by each of us.
    • Usually this will result in a radical shift in the model.
    • If it does not they it is better for both if you part ways. You are unlikely to reconcile the situation.
  • The bottom line is to establish, mutually, whether you can satisfy your partner through your efforts. This is critical to your future with this customer.
    • If you cannot find an acceptable solution you must abandon the effort.
    • It makes no sense to take on business that is not profitable to you, even if the revenue is important to plan achievement.
    • At the current rate, you will not make up the loss in profitability through additional volume.

What is Your Experience Outsourcing to Eastern Europe? Five Factors

Situation: A company is in contact with an Eastern European company that seeks outsourced business from the US. The CEO seeks guidance on challenges managing as well as formalizing this relationship. What is your experience outsourcing to Eastern Europe?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Location in Eastern Europe is important. There have been concerns with both corruption and IP protection in Russia. Some other Eastern European are more aligned with US/European values and farther up the ramp as outsource partners.
  • Experience of other US companies suggests that your spec must be written much more tightly than if you were doing the work here. If you can’t write a tight spec on the work, don’t outsource it!
  • Contract outsourced work on a fixed fee basis with the bulk of payment due on completion. This helps to assure that you receive timely delivery and the quality of work required.
  • Set up thresholds for the circumstances to engage an outsource partner.
    • Say one US worker is economically worth 5 foreign workers in your domain. Do you have enough work to support this?
    • Determine who will manage the outsourced work. A European is fine, as long as they have experience managing outsourced work.
    • Someone on your team will become their Project Manager. This can be VERY time consuming.
  • Consider setting up an offshore company to shelter some of the revenue from the outsourced work.
    • You want to locate the offshore company in a tax-free country, and to have them handle the funds connected with the outsourced work.
    • The contact in the tax-free country will likely be an accountant, lawyer or both. There are many reputable individuals who do this in tax-free countries, but be sure to check references and background carefully.

Key Words: Outsource, Eastern Europe, Challenges, Manage, Relationship, Experience, Concerns, Alignment, IP, Corruption, Contract, Protect, Spec, Fee Basis, Delivery, Quality, Parameters, Tax Shelter