This was an interview conducted by Today’s Chicago Woman and Laurel Delaney on running a global business in July 2012 that focuses on what it takes for a company to go global.
TCW: Has the focus of your business always been global? If yes, why did you choose that direction? If no, what prompted you to do business internationally?
LJD: Yes. In 1985, I left a comfortable export position at a small Chicago-based manufacturing company to start my own business, Global TradeSource, Ltd. (online arm: GlobeTrade.com), a global management consulting and marketing solutions company. From day one, my mindset was and continues to be, “the world is our market.” I love the challenge of taking on the world to do business! Thanks to the Internet, it’s makes it even easier to take a business global.
TCW: How helpful have free trade agreements been to your business endeavor? Give an example.
LJD: When our clients want to take the first step to expand internationally, we oftentimes look at FTAs in place first and then determine if there is a demand for our client’s products in those markets. The goal is to identify a country with the largest and fastest-growing market for our client’s product or service offering and if it happens to be a country with an existing FTA, we’re delighted.
The whole purpose of FTAs is to improve foreign market access for exporters, promote economic growth and create jobs. There are other economic opportunities to FTAs such as eliminating tariffs, reducing barriers to services and promoting transparency in our dealings, etc.
TCW: There are several aspects to consider in running a successful global business, including legal, financial/financing, marketing and customer service. Describe your greatest challenge(s) in one or more of these areas and how you overcame them?
LJD: The single greatest challenge is not necessarily finding customers--the Internet has simplified that task--but getting paid. You don’t want to sell a thing to customers thousands of miles away without a guarantee of collecting payment. After all, if the customer doesn’t pay, how would you collect the money? It’s not as simple as jumping in your car and showing up at a place of business, say, in Tokyo!
Solution: Consult with your international banker. The larger the sale in U.S. dollars (or whatever currency), the more financing options you should explore. An experienced banker can help you finance an export sale, guide you in structuring competitive payment terms or even advise you on risk factors before you transact business in a new overseas market. The bottom line is you want a guaranteed method of getting paid with no ands, ifs or buts. We find that cash advance (e.g., 1/3 down, 1/3 in process and 1/3 final payment), wire transfer or a letter of credit works well.
TCW: Language barriers and local customs could be other impediments to success. For example, accurate translations are very important. How did you prepare for this aspect of the business?
LJD: Do business first only with markets where you understand the language. For example, if you speak only English and don’t have the staff to support a translator, pick markets where the natives speak your language (e.g., Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) and where you can be certain there is a demand for your product or service offering.
As you grow and become more confident in international transactions, you can expand into other markets by hiring competent translators to assist if need be.
TCW: What impact has technology and the Internet had on the global aspect of your business?
LJD: It makes it insanely easy to conduct business on a global basis. You can find customers, communicate swiftly (via Skype, telephone or email) and deliver goods and services in days as opposed to week or months. Further, customers also have the ability to find you faster via the popular social media and networking channels such as a YouTube, a blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Google+.
TCW: Most people would assume that international travel is part and parcel of having a global business. Is that a perk or the downside of running a global enterprise?
LJD: It depends. If you love to travel, it’s a perk. If you hate it, it’s a dread. It’s like anything. The novelty can wear off after a while, but if your attitude is to enjoy the world while you generate revenue and profits for your business, then international travel will be a good fit for you. The experience can be quite amazing provided you pace yourself and are willing to share some of the stories with others who might benefit from your knowledge.
TCW: What advice do you have for others who may be considering international expansion?
LJD: Go for it! Be proactive about it. Don't wait until you feel expanding internationally is going to save your business because it won't at a late stage. Do some serious homework first. Tap available resources, both online and offline. Leave no stone unturned in terms of getting answers to the questions you might have on taking your business global. It’s not complicated. It’s just different and a change. But once you experience the thrill of the ride--exponential increase in revenues and profitability--you will wish that you had done it so much sooner!
The original interview can be found at Today's Chicago Woman.