Business Abroad - It's Nothing New
Featured in the August Issue of Oilfield PULSE
Doing business abroad is nothing new. Since the beginning of time merchants have crossed borders to trade their wares. The last century has brought unprecedented growth in international trade, which results in an increasingly smaller commercial world. Providing products and services around the world is no longer an option for most businesses.
In this 21st century global marketplace, it’s easy to say you’re going to take on new territories and conquer the world, but in order to take your business over land, sea and international date lines, a well-defined strategy needs to be developed. Who, what, when, where, why and how? These may seem to be pretty straightforward questions with straightforward answers but in reality they lead to a rabbit’s hole of more and more complex inquiries and decisions.
When Oilfield Pulse posed this topic, Damarys Zampini immediately came to mind as she is no stranger to international business and strategy. Fluent in three languages, the majority of Zampini's career has been with multinational service and logistic companies. Following a passion for connecting people and businesses worldwide, Zampini's formal education includes a Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) Certificate and a Certificate in Strategic Management from the U of C. She is currently Director of Business Development at Micotan Energy Software Solutions.
When we asked Damarys about how to successfully take your business across borders, she said that the Where, Who, When and How of your strategy are key considerations. The following points, in Damarys’ opinion, are just some of many to be considered and included in a new market growth plan and strategy:
Are the decisions made?
Is a local presence required? If at all.
Will the product or service physically be located? What logistical issues will we face there?
If it is not a physical product, do we risk our IP? (intellectual property)
Are there jurisdiction restrictions? Both from a physical and other perspectives, such as legal?
Do we initially focus on markets in which there are free trade agreements in place? Or do we risk and obtain our own legal counsel to cover our agreements?
Is our target? And why?
Can provide us leverage including internal and external individuals, groups and organization?
Can assist us internally? For instance, in addition to business development and executives, is there someone in who can speak the language? Or someone in HR who speaks Spanish? And know local “know how” to conduct business in the target region?
Can assist us externally? What governmental organizations, trade commissioners, regulators, other organizations do we need to harbor a relationship with? Who in our network has connections in our target location and can make an introduction, and give us market intelligence?
Is the right time to go after which market segment and why?
Is it politically safe? And when does it make the most sense timewise?
Are we ready? How much planning is required?
And how do you know you are really ready to execute your strategy?
Are we going to initiate contact and get an introductory meeting?
Are we going to pitch? What is appropriate given the local political, legal, cultural and various other limitations?
Are we going to ensure that our value proposition is as great, or greater than it is in our own back yard?
Are we going to execute once we get the contract? and how do we plan for continued, sustainable growth?
But, the biggest part of preparing to do business in another geography, whether it be province, state or country, is researching in depth the business, social, political, and cultural differences that exist. As Canadians, we’ve all witnessed foreign management assuming that their way is the only way to do business (“What do you mean you don’t take bribes?”), or that work is done the same way as it is back home (“Don’t give me this ‘Break Up’ excuse for a slowdown”), or has no idea what is acceptable business wear (i.e. wearing Nine West pumps to a service rig). We are immediately turned off by this lack of knowledge if not completely offended. Further, as Canadians, we know very well that even within national or provincial borders there are cultural subtleties. What is acceptable in one area may not be acceptable a few miles down the road. For instance, it’s not a good idea to wear an Edmonton Eskimos’ hat in Kindersley. The nuances may seem minor from the outside, but we know firsthand that they are major from the inside. After working in North and South America and having exposure to business in Europe, Zampini knows the importance of valuing local customs and manners, including dress and gender roles, is even greater outside of Canada. Failing to do so will lead to a colossal corporate flop, and an ultimate waste of invested time and resources.
International business can be an exciting opportunity. There are pros and cons; hence, international market growth is not for everybody. In addition to expanding your professional acumen and network, it can be a rewarding personal and professional experience and a wonderful way to see the world, But, the rules are: have a plan, do your homework, respect the cultural differences, know your limitations, be safe, and enjoy the ride!”