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USGNN Original StoryCrystal Window & Door Uses Bi-Cultural Background to Meet Increasing Product Demand in China

Crystal Window & Door Systems, which was founded by Thomas Chen, who immigrated to the United States from Taiwan, is using its bi-cultural American-Chinese background to meet the growing needs of the Chinese construction industry. The company recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its pilot production and sales operation in Suzhou, China. The 60,000-square-foot plant, located in the Xiangcheng Industrial District of Suzhou City, is producing and distributing vinyl extrusion systems to the Chinese market. Through the location, Crystal is able to control all aspects of production and sales to the Chinese market.

According to Bob Nyman, a spokesperson for the company, Chen saw creating a pilot facility in China as a good opportunity because of the amount of construction taking place there.

"There was gap in construction and the building products industry; there wasn't enough product," said Bob Nyman, a spokesperson for Crystal Window and Door Systems, who explained that by starting a pilot facility the company can familiarize itself with how to do business in China.

In order to get the business underway, there a number of obstacles that first had to be overcome.

"A lot of the challenges are the same as starting up a business anywhere," said Nyman, "but what's unique to starting a business in China are all of the bureaucracies and the amount of government approval that is required. It takes a lot of time and it goes quicker if the government officials and the other companies you're working with [such as builders] and contractors meet you in advance. It also helped that Chen speaks fluent Mandarin."

Hiring and retaining employees has also been a challenge.

"China is transitioning from a [highly agricultural] society to an industrial and manufacturing culture," Nyman said, explaining that the people who are great farmers are not necessarily going to be great industrial workers.

Other start-up issues included material sourcing and learning how to sell in China compared to here.

"In China you have to get out, find where the next project is being constructed and by whom and really get in front of them with your product so they are aware of it," said Nyman. "That's partly why Crystal has the two sales offices in China-one in Shanghai and one in Shenyang."

Another challenge the company had to face in getting started was the Beijing Olympics.

"We had a slow start because at that time everything was directed toward the Olympics," said Nyman. "But the last six months have been good."

And as far as future growth plans?

"Crystal wants to grow sales and expand the business, as well as production capabilities to go from a pilot operation to a more robust sales/production operation and possibly move into producing the finished product as Crystal does already in the United States," said Nyman. The company is also exploring further expansion in Mainland China and other parts of Asia.

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