As the adage goes, “If you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door.” An update could read, “If you offer better value in your mix of product, service and total cost - and beat a path to the world’s opportunities - you’ll earn a decent or better long-run return.”Let’s take the perspective of that second version and prepare to do business in the global economy.
Pursuing global opportunities Recognize that pursuing global opportunities often entails some cross-functional effort and coordination, whether the immediate opportunity is large or small, or if it lies in sales, purchasing, production or collaboration.Business development has been hampered when key people – maybe just one or two on a team – were not ready or able to travel internationally or were simply ineffective due to a lack of support resources, inadequate internal coordination or their own ignorance about doing business with a particular foreign country. Doing business internationally requires multifaceted learning and adaptation. People who have difficulty with this process can quickly succumb to disorientation and culture shock, but it’s possible to help them learn by taking one step at a time.
Traveling Outside The U.S. – What You Need To Know A U.S. company’s sales rep and a member of its technical support staff were asked by a customer in England to attend the formal acceptance of the company’s bid and finalize specifications and schedules. The meeting was scheduled in three weeks in London, where the customer was based. The worst-case scenario for this U.S. company was born of neglect: It had never asked who among its technical support personnel had a valid passport.A “seasoned international traveler” from the human resources department said passports were unnecessary when traveling to English-speaking nations, referencing a vacation drive from the U.S. to Canada years earlier as proof. Critical time elapsed before the appropriate people learned the actual requirements. The company assumed it didn’t have time for typical passport processing and was unaware of nongovernmental passport expedite services that can process same-day requests for a $180 fee. The company told its foreign customer it could not have technical support onsite in just three weeks time. The customer suspected a possible chronic deficiency and gave a sizable, ongoing piece of the implementation project to one of the company’s competitors. This company could have easily assigned someone to research, coordinate and inform other personnel about foreign business efforts and could have posted the procedures for getting or renewing passports. Take a moment to browse the U.S. Department of State’s web site (www.travel.state.gov). Learn which countries require a passport and a visa for entry and how to obtain them. Information about other requirements includes proof of sufficient funds and health insurance, yellow-fever immunization, HIV testing and certificates of religious affiliation. Check into the requirements of every country that could potentially be part of your itinerary. For example, some countries require visas of everyone onboard, even when aircraft simply land on their soil, no matter how briefly. The same requirement can hold true for those who remain seated when passengers or crew disembark or join a flight. Effective December 31, 2006, you’ll need a U.S. passport or specific equivalent documentation (not just a driver’s license and copy of a birth certificate) for all air and sea travel to and from Mexico and Canada; in 2007; land border crossings also will apply. The State Department updates its site two or three times a year and has current contact information for U.S. consulates.
Finances, Regulations And Local Customs
What additional areas would an executive preparing a team for international business development want people to know and share?
• Know credit, treasury functions – Analyze the range of options and specify the mechanics for letters of credit and other bank instruments that have solid international experience. Develop processes for adapting credit policies to reflect long-term relationships or work with foreign subsidiaries of U.S. countries.
• Tax concerns – Before initiating foreign business plans, discuss tax concerns with an advisor experienced in international tax and arrange regular follow-up meetings to keep abreast of developments.
• Cost accounting – Determine how to capture and attribute costs of developing and distributing products sold internationally to the country or geographic region buying them.
• Marketing, branding, market channel management and customer service – Discuss and document goals, marketing plans, market intelligence gathering, data and assumptions, as well as intended and achieved results. An advisor can help identify strengths and weaknesses in your plans and activities.
• Regulatory concerns – Know and adhere to the foreign country’s regulatory requirements and to U.S. laws that apply to American companies doing international business. Just as the U.S. has federal and state regulations, similar situations may exist in other countries. One U.S. company had a product load returned from Canada because the destination province required English and French translations for all significant text on labels.
• Product design and service – Know how the product will perform when used in different environments, at different temperatures and with varying operator skills and maintenance practices. Will it be exposed to different or varying inputs of raw materials, lubricants, electricity, pneumatic pressure, water, etc.? Will it need additional or different services?
• Specifications of purchased products or components – Be prepared to invest time discussing and clarifying specifications for bought-and-sold products and containerization. Even if you bought industrial equipment or large metal parts, you may still run afoul of agricultural or environmental concerns.
If wood pallets are used to ship products, they must either be treated and certified to ward against insect infestation, or the treatment must be done at the port of entry by an approved service provider if one is available, and they’re very expensive. Be sure to clarify shipment mode and duration.
• Adopt negotiating style – Understand the general cultural context and typical style for negotiation in a foreign country’s organization, as well as within your team.
• Respect cultural customs – You may find typical local customs unusual but don’t stare if you see them publicly exercised and don’t attract attention to yourself.
• Dress the part – In general, it’s best to dress in a manner that helps you to blend in with the crowd. It’s unwise to be identified on city streets as a foreigner or tourist.
• Be a good host – If your group or facility hosts an event, consider using signage with international symbols for entrances, exits, hazards, bathrooms, etc. Awareness of holidays and significant events in the countries you do business with also has a positive effect.Getting Ready To Go Global
The bulletin board, intranet and brown-bag lunch discussions are helpful tools in preparing your organization to go global. If your strategic marketing plan includes establishing or exp