China Sourcing: Hiring Teams vs. Individuals


You hire people to get results.  But hiring is a big investment of time and resources.  To get a good return on that investment, you need to find people that have both proven expertise and a clear understanding of what you are trying to do.  That is difficult to do and it always involves training.  And if any person leaves, or for any reasons does not work out, all that investment is wasted – and you are back to square one.   That is one reason why, in China sourcing, you should consider hiring proven teams instead of individuals.

The advantage of hiring a professional China sourcing team is that they do not need training about how to source in China, they just need to learn about you, your methods, your needs and your objectives.  When you hire a team you get quick results and you also get repeatability, scalability and reliability.

There are individuals out there that deliver a similar package, but they are rare and that makes them more risky.  Think: how do you replace a rare individual?  Finding a genius to replace a genius is not a reliable or predictable process.

There are lots of other reasons why hiring a time-tested team makes sense and this concept was well explained in an interesting article by Sydney Finkelstein in the Wall Street Journal: “Why Companies Should Hire Teams, Not Individuals.”

The article states that teams of talented operators are better because they have already demonstrated excellence in a specialized task or function. Moreover it points out that it likely is easier, cheaper, faster and less risky to tap into those teams than to create new teams of your own.

Traditional hiring practices typically are focused on employing individuals because an organization’s long-term success is predicated on the ability to build a strong team in its home base.  And this continues to make sense with the following two exceptions: (1) when you are hiring for non-core activities and (2) when you are hiring outside of your home base.

This practice often applies to legal and accounting services.  Many companies need these competencies but not full time, so it often makes more sense to hire a law firm or an accounting team to get things done than to hire a full-time lawyer or accountant.   And if your objective is to manage your China supply chain the concept of hiring a team is especially relevant. In this field, expertise, quality, speed and cost-effectiveness are the most important factors to consider.

Such teams offer an array of benefits that should include the following:

  • Team units are accountable, mutually supportive and responsible
  • They bring proven, reliable onsite expertise to clients across the cultural and language divide
  • They are easier to investigate and hire
  • The cost of hiring a team is more competitive because of economies of scale
  • They are more consistent and productive
  • They are credible when offering new ideas and approaches that they have already tested
  • They understand the fundamentals of the client’s culture and they can speak the same language, making it easier to quickly react to a client’s needs
  • They are more reliable, and do not get distracted, absent or sick
  • They are scalable and can react quicker to opportunities or to unexpected crises that require more resources
  • A team pools more knowledge than an individual can access
  • They are easier to fire if they don’t work out

According to Finkelstein’s article, hiring a team can “shake things up” constructively and offer original thinking instead of conforming.  Team-based hiring also can make the workplace more attractive to women and can help break through entrenched conflict in the workplace, thus increasing the overall work quality of a company.

We at CPG found this an excellent article, and very relevant to our industry, even though it was obviously not written with China Sourcing in mind.   We particularly liked Finkelstein’s comments on Elite Operation, how team members tend to support one another, and push one another to grow and perform which is a process that leads to extremely high performance, high engagement and rapid development.

We leave you with one final quote which taps into our belief that good China sourcing is about adventure and wealth-building disruption:  “winning in our age of disruption requires that leaders change the game on competitors, operating in bold, unexpected ways that are simply better. It requires that they rethink their processes from top to bottom, taking on sacred cows and best practices. From that perspective, hiring teams might be exactly what leaders should start working on—not least because their less adventurous competitors aren’t.”

Do you agree?  We would love to hear your comments and views on this.


By Jocelyn Trigueros

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