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A conversation with SVI CEO Scott Fraistat

QHow did SVI Global get started?

AWe actually started as a seasonal products company called Seasonal Visions International. Our company was set up to sell both Halloween and Christmas items, mostly in the décor categories, to the major mass market accounts in North America. We were fortunate to have immediate success in product placement, and had to quickly ramp up our supply chain for some relatively complicated items. Within the first few years we found that we needed to have “boots on the ground” to train, manage and oversee the vendor base to ensure our shipments matched our samples and went out on time.
Within a few years we had built up a small staff in each of the categories of development and manufacturing. At that time, we started to get inquiries from other companies on whether we could either help source or oversee factory issues and from that we started our OEM model. A few years later, Seasonal Visions became SVI Global Ltd to represent a broader array of product and services.

QWhy was Dongguan picked for operations center location?

A

Back in the early 2000’s, Dongguan was in the center of the “world‘s factory”. Conveniently located halfway between Shenzhen and Guangzhou and only 2 hours from the center of Hongkong, it was a great place to put our operations center. While the factory base in the last 15 years has moved north and west in China, the center of Guangdong province is still the right place to recruit management, engineers, designers, and other professionals from the great universities, corporate offices, and factories located all around us. We are 20 minutes from the Shenzhen airport, 1 hour from the Guangzhou Airport, and 90 minutes from Hongkong’s airport.

QHow did the current business model evolve?

A

I would love to say that it was all thought out back in 2004, but that would not be true. The ability to recruit talent, add space, and locate factories nearby, allowed us to almost never say no to an opportunity. With each new client, mostly acquired through word of mouth, we developed the expertise needed to support their business. What started as mostly sourcing jobs, turned into a model to cover the consistent needs for faster development, accuracy of samples, factory audits and QC, product testing, and even logistics.

QWhat product categories does SVI specialize in?

A

Typical trading companies will specialize in certain product categories, where they may even have relationships with or invest in factories. We do not invest in factories as that might bias us to using the most appropriate resources for clients. We have grown fast due to our flexibility to ramp up staff and expertise on a very broad range of product categories. For us, it is not about the product (we can always hire experienced people and find the experienced production resource), it is about the process. We have discovered that across almost all consumer products, while each category has different challenges, the process of work that needs to be done is basically the same. From development to shipment, these consistencies have allowed us to build an expertise on execution and we simply layer this into our client organization more than other trading companies.

QWhat differentiates SVI from other companies?

A

SVI operates more holistically than other companies in this space.  We provide the foundation of resources needed to all our clients to grow both vertically in their current space and expand horizontally to new spaces while running all of this through your virtual team in China.  Our full stable of services will cover all your needs from start to ship. The goal is always a quality product at the correct price with the correct factory selection and oversight. With all of these operations working in concert with each other we support all of our overseas needs.

Key attributes that are core to our beliefs are:

A) Ethics — First and foremost is our emphasis on ethics. Not only is it something we train for, it is something we strongly preach on a regular basis. If we are asking our clients to rely on us to be their eyes, ears, and mouth on the ground in Asia, they must be 100% comfortable that every decision we make on their behalf is the same one we would make for ourselves. Full transparency, prompt communications, and tireless focus on the “the right thing to do” is something that our clients rely on every day.

B) Customer Only Model— We work for the customer and no one else. We do not invest in factories. We do not make side deals with factories. Every decision and every negotiation is on behalf of our client.

C) Flexibility — Our goal is to be the office in Asia that our clients would want to have themselves. This means dedicating an exclusive team with the staff members needed specially for that business and offering the full menu of service in any combination exactly for that client. We have found that a customer may not need everything we offer, but it is nice to know it is here and available when needed.

D) Breadth of Support — while sourcing is certainly key to getting things started, SVI has all of the support areas of operations to help our clients grow quicker that they ordinarily could. Our years of consumer product experience, coupled with a virtual army of technicians, help with new development, on boarding of qualified suppliers, and the oversight of production that allows customers to expand their customer base and product diversity with confidence and speed.

QWhat do you attribute the accelerating rate of volume growth?

A

We grow in four ways: our customer’s internal sales growth, retaining current accounts, acquiring new accounts, and aggressively accepting new opportunities. We have been very fortunate to have great clients who are growing their business. As they grow, so do we. We rarely lose an existing customer so that provides a stable base in starting each year. We rely mostly on word of mouth for connecting with and on boarding new clients. The key to this is service and customer satisfaction. Finally, we bring a “rarely say no” mentality to our business growth. We have the confidence to take on new challenges and are driven to make them successful.

The drive for growth is in SVI’s DNA.

QWhat does the future look like for SVI?

A

I have never been more excited than I am now for our potential for growth. We have the infrastructure and processes in place for rapid and substantial volume growth. New product categories, new geographical territories, and continued expansions in our service model are all in our plans. But, one thing we will never do is sacrifice our levels and consistency of service for our existing clients in the hopes of getting new ones. As I always tell our staff, SVI’s biggest growth is still in front of us.

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