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International Supply Chain Disputes & Supplier Validation – Pt1

By Roy McFarlane

What do business owners do when they receive defective parts and materials from international suppliers? Very quickly, supplier issues can affect the overall business and can become an unrecoverable and expensive problem.

International supply is a tried and tested way of creating commercial advantage. However, even the best-laid plans can become problematic when long distances are involved.  The difference between supplier choices are how they respond when they make mistakes. Ultimately it is the business, and business owners, that feel the wrath of dissatisfied customers and experience the impact of an issue in every part of the business.   

For a Salisbury (UK) company, a supplier dispute was sucking up resources and affecting the business’s reputation and cash flow.

What do we mean by resources?

Time – taking time that should be used for driving positive business

Capacity – ability to provide services, training courses and products

Money – refunds, handling hours, shipping, duties and compensation

Reputation – word-of-mouth is the lifeblood of a personal service business

Emotion and well-being – In owner-managed businesses personal resilience is critical to business success. When the owner loses faith, the rest quickly follow

International supply chain experience

When suppliers are in a different country, complexity gets multiplied. Time zones, language, legal frameworks and distance, all compound the problem.

However, when a dispute has persisted for a while, it’s very easy for the supplier to simply not take the calls, not answer emails and ignore the problem altogether.

In this case the UK business also had international sales to accommodate – customers in the USA and Canada who are between 5 and 8 hours behind the UK, whilst the supplier is in Europe, an hour ahead of the UK.

Getting the right help

This UK business thought that they had an import duty problem. With each return of faulty goods from repair, they were incurring import duties in addition to the shipping charges. Their EU supplier wasn’t filling in the forms correctly, and the courier company systems automatically put the recipient (UK) into their credit control measures.

With each return of inadequately repaired items, the UK business was incurring hundreds of pounds in import duties.

With one phone call, the situation shifted from an Import Duty Problem to a Commercial Dispute Solution

Helping the business owner understand the problem and providing a roadmap towards closure, was an immediate relief. They now knew what they were dealing with, felt supported and included, and most importantly – could get on with running their business.

Business owners want solutions – they have enough ideas of their own

Roy McFarlane | UK Business Advisors (

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