Guest post by Celeste Clancy, Vice President, RBS Citizens
Our thanks go out to Heather Chandler, President of Sealstrip Corp. She spoke at the Family Business Forum on “Taking your International Business to the Next Level” last week. Of all of the lessons that Heather shared with us about her journey in building Sealstrip’s international business, the one that stuck out for me was to take the time to build relationships.
Heather’s observation is that American business tends to be more transactional in nature, while business in other parts of the world is much more relational. This can be especially true in select countries. For instance, I have heard from other customers that doing business in Brazil is all about relationships. In Brazil, business may not even be discussed for several meetings, as Brazilians want to get to know the people they are dealing with before they decide to start a business relationship. Introductions are very important. Heather’s advice, and good advice indeed, was to “not be a road warrior”. Take the time to get to know the culture, social, and business differences in the countries that you will be doing business.
My view is that is it always a good practice, no matter where you are doing business, to take the time to build relationships, whether it is gaining an understanding of your business partners’ customs and culture, or about them personally. The process of building such relationships enriches your own journey, and allows you to better serve your customers and/or be better served by your overseas suppliers.
Network, Network, Network
To further this point, build relationships with organizations that can help you. Your domestic customers may have an international presence and can make introductions overseas and can share information and experience. Network with other U.S. businesses and learn from their experience as we learned from Heather. If your bank has an international presence, ask for their help.
Additionally, there are many government and private resources out there to assist. Heather mentioned The World Trade Center of Philadelphia. They can assist in applying for a $5,000 grant for overseas Trade Shows. WTC can help in other ways as well and is a good networking resource. The Philadelphia Department of Commerce can assist with this as well and has a network of overseas offices that can assist with identifying potential leads. The U.S. Department of Commerce has an International trade office in Philadelphia to assist exporters (215-683-2040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). The resources are bountiful. There are many professionals out there willing to help you build your international network.
As Bill Folker, my colleague, mentioned, over 95% of the world’s consumption power is outside of the U.S. Taking a look at the international arena to build your business makes sense. Building relationships to get there is very good advice.