I recently was talking with a prospective client. The conversation was a
general one, in order to ascertained their needs and the type of business
They told me they were a manufacturer. “Great”, I said, because it is one
of the areas I can speak from direct work knowledge. I asked where the
plant was located and whether or not they were running MRP (manufacturing
requirements planning), and with what costing model.
The answer was the plant was located in China. Their Production Manager,
located in Hong Kong, handled all those issues. If we weren’t on the phone,
he would have noticed my perplexed facial expressions, because something was
I asked again, to re-clarify, maybe I heard wrong, that they were indeed a
I didn’t – which on some levels is very good, because my hearing is still
The potential client of course isn’t a manufacturer. At least they are an
importer and probably also a distributor and a retailer (they do retail
e-commerce). But they are not a manufacturer.
They probably licensed the manufacturing of their designs to the plant in
China, an again there is absolutely nothing wrong with that business model.
But when you don’t own, have no direct oversight of any aspect of the
manufacturing process, you are not a manufacturer. You are a wholesaler,
distributor, and/or retailer and in this instance since you buy it overseas,
an importer. But you are not a manufacturer.
Why is this distinction so, so important?
There was an article as my business friend Alan Berkson of the Intelligist
Group passed around. He said that we should read this “…brilliant
article that was written for Harvard Business Review in 1960. Yes, 1960.”
The article called Marketing Myopia by Theodore Levitt was re-published in
July 2004 Harvard Business Review. http://hbr.org/2004/07/marketing-myopia
It is well worth a few minutes to read, because I think you’ll find answer
to why it’s so important in knowing what your business is and isn’t.