Sinn & Company connects the right people and strategies for successful China trade.

Communicating business strategy is key to bridging international trade cultures and business practices, says international trade consultant William Sinn

Shaker Heights, Ohio—Sinn & Co. helps small to mid-sized companies implement successful strategies and capitalize on China as a purchasing resource, manufacturing base and marketing destination. Their focus may be in automotive, electronics, industrial and hardware manufacturing, but their common goal is gaining access to China's massive labor pool and expanding markets. Fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, William Sinn saves companies a great deal of time and effort.

“It’s often the little things companies cannot execute that cause frustration, loss of time and money and even an untimely end to an offshore business plan. I’m an equalizer,” Sinn says.

Sinn takes U.S. businesses safely through obstacles most non-Chinese consultants might not see. As a China native, he has operated Chinese/US joint ventures across the Asian rim. But, he also excels beyond the average Chinese consultant. U.S.-educated, he can communicate American standards to offshore workers. As an engineer, he recognizes the industrial issues that can impact both design and manufacturing. An experienced marketing professional, he understands U.S. business structure and strategies. In a global marketplace, the Shaker Heights, Ohio resident is a sort of “international business matchmaker” who literally knows both “families” intimately and can communicate what each side wants and needs.

Sinn’s Youth in Hong Kong Develops an Aptitude for Resourcefulness and Analysis

Born in Hong Kong in 1954, William learned very early to use the right resources in a teamwork setting. His father was a government health inspector and his mother an elementary school teacher. The oldest of four children, William was the only son, and followed the Chinese tradition of assuming leadership and nurturing for family members. Sinn’s schoolteacher mother was a strict taskmaster. Education and intellect was the golden fleece that would elevate them to a better life. Living together with five family members in a cramped, one-bedroom apartment encouraged William to get along with others and manage with limited resources, traits he would bring to his clients later on. By age 16 Sinn was a private tutor, disciplined in research and intuitive thinking. Strong in science and math, he was a prime candidate for the engineering field and the technical, manufacturing and industrial skills he uses today.

He was fascinated by U.S. culture. In 1972, William entered the University of Wisconsin in Madison and quickly assimilated the carefree, spontaneous American lifestyle he so admired. He joined a fraternity and pursued sports. Popular and happy, he fit in well. America’s fertile business climate and need for quick, agile marketing direction could give him the challenge he craved to help a company rise to the top. “In American business, long term is important, but short-term is king. You got to make the bucks,” he said.

Sinn graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1976 and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Michigan in 1977. Driven by a head for business strategy and management, while working at General Motors he pursued an MBA at Eastern Michigan University, graduating in 1981. That same year he married his sweetheart, Judith.

Sinn proved his acumen for engineering technology quickly. In his first job as project engineer at General Motors he developed the torque converter, later used in Saturn vehicles. But it did not take long for his China roots to direct his path. Having mastered project management, he left GM and in 1983 hired in at Campbell Hausfeld Company, a division of Scott Fetzer Company in Cleveland, to try his hand at business management. At a time when China was just opening its doors to the world, he saw opportunities for sourcing around the Pacific Rim. Few American companies had gained a foothold in China, but during his 13 years, Sinn went from engineering manager to director of Asia/Pacific operations and developed distribution networks in 20 countries spanning from Japan to New Zealand and all the way to Thailand. Campbell Hausfeld advanced from $80 million in sales to half a billion today.

China had been closed for so long that the ancient country was still taking baby steps in international trade. Multiple languages, its enormous size, and complex rules and regulations made it a difficult country for trade.

“Doing business in China is not something you can learn from a book,” Sinn said. “It’s something you just have to know,” said Sinn. “The Chinese come to the U.S. and need an American to guide them. It’s the same going to China. If an American goes to China, their preconceptions can hurt them.”

To better understand the “new” China, Sinn took a job as general manager at Sullair Corp., a subsidiary of Sundstrand Corp. He moved his family to South China from 1995 to 1998 to begin coordinating a joint venture between Sullair and two Asian companies. The firm opened a headquarters and factory in Shenzhen, with sales offices located in Shanghai and Beijing. Revenues increased from $3 million to $8 million in three years, and today the company earns $60 million in sales thanks in large part to Sinn’s foundational work in human resource, distribution development and local China sourcing.

In 1998, anxious to get their daughter Michelle (See-Mae) back to America for junior high school, William and Judith returned to Cleveland. By now, Sinn knew both countries intimately, and was anxious to use his unique China strategies. That same year hired in as Vice President of International Operations & Marketing at Actron Manufacturing Company, a Cleveland-based leading manufacturer and marketer of automotive diagnostic equipment and performance instruments.

Sinn introduced lean manufacturing short cuts to Actron’s China factory. They improved their cost, quality, delivery, inventory turns and cash flow. Sinn also established a joint venture with a South China company to engineer and manufacture new products, adding another $1 million in gross profits. Actron’s gross margins moved from the high teens to mid- to high-40s in five years.

As Actron begins full penetration into the retail market, Sinn was assigned the added responsibility of US marketing. Under his leadership the company had transformed from being engineering driven to market driven through new brand identities, new packaging, market research, advertising campaign and new web site.

Sinn & Company Forms in 2004 as the premier U.S.-China strategist

Actron’s growth and the tremendous outsourcing boom were Sinn’s signal to become a consultant. In the spring of 2004, Sinn & Company took on its first clients searching for new growth initiatives overseas. Clients bring their products to him for analysis, and he answers the key question, “Can my products be produced or marketed through China trade?”

Sinn puts the research into place first, conducting cost and margin analysis, looking at product portfolios and studying the company’s structure to determine what needs to be outsourced, marketed or manufactured in China, where it should happen and who should make it happen. The goal is to shift some production to China, but only if it makes sense.

A successful manufacturer needs three things, Sinn said: innovative products, a close relationship with its customers and efficient operations that will allow the company to compete on price if necessary. The pricing issue is where China comes in.

“If you don't have that ability to produce goods at the lowest cost possible, you’re not serving your customers well. Every company has a unique product-to-market need. There is no oneChina plan for everyone. My approach is to analyze and customize a program to make my clients successful,” Sinn said.

Nick Jammal knows all about the difficulties in “getting there.” Determined to avoid mistakes and beat his competitors in cost and speed to market, he hired Sinn to help his firm, Ashtabula Rubber Company (ARC), to source and manufacture parts in China. For years he had hedged, unsure of how to communicate technical issues to foreign workers. Then there was the cost of implementation, logistics and lead time to consider. How long would it take to get it going, and where would they start?

Sinn resolved Jammal’s issues in early 2004, starting with one of the cornerstones of Sinn's process – a trip to China.. For two and a half weeks the pair toured 16 rubber factories and four supporting factories, and met with dozens of manufacturing and economic development contacts. After interviewing three potential partners as liaisons for scheduling and quality issues, Sinn and Jammal selected a partner to act as intermediary and selected six factories as optimal for sourcing.

Jammal said Sinn’s knowledge of China gave ARC confidence to move forward into the international arena — no small task for a small manufacturer. “Right out the gate William Sinn was running. He was able to put us in touch with opportunities faster and better than we could ever have done ourselves. He knew our engineering and technical subjects related to manufacturing and was able to communicate that very well to our new contacts.”

Sinn said his “China Trip” gives clients the advantage of truly understanding their foreignpartners, which results in smoother operations. “Competition is very keen. Our China trip is the foundation for making good decisions,” he said.

Jammal agreed that the trip was invaluable in establishing relationships and communication. “By eliminating the middle man and learning to communicate directly with our China plant, we were able to trim cost. William is training us to do the management and communications work ourselves.” ARC’s China factory is making the first parts there only six months after Sinn’s involvement, and Jammal is already planning a second trip to establish closer relationships and improved operations with the factories.

When competitors are already trimming costs and boosting sales offshore, there is no time to lose. “It’s a race to get products or parts faster and cheaper than your competitor or your customer. Speed to market is everything,” Sinn said. “It could take a company five years to do what I can accomplish in two years.”

Sinn & Company is located at 23 Lyman Circle, Shaker Heights, Ohio 44122. For more information contact William Sinn at 216-292-4880.