Want To Be Successful In International Business…Commit!
When it comes to succeeding at anything in life, it should be understood that a higher level of commitment is required. In my last blog, “Cultures May Be Different, But Planning Is The Same”, I described our US-German Alliance that diversifies our perspectives, cultural knowledge and helps provide an elite level of service to our respective domestic and international clients. Our most recent meeting was held in Tuscaloosa Alabama and really reminded me that regardless of the location, our relationships only get stronger when we commit to meet in person and share time not only to talk business but to socialize. When the relationships are strong, trust is built and business succeeds.
For those of us who live in the southern part of the US, when you mention Tuscaloosa, the obvious correlation is the University of Alabama and college football. But unless you’re a member of the international business community you may not realize it is home to Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) as well as countless other international companies and suppliers. We were treated to a tour of the facility and amazed at the technology and innovation as well as the impact on the Alabama economy and the people who live there. In 1993, Mercedes-Benz decided they needed to move closer to a large number of its customers so they committed in a big way by investing $300 million in the US plant. That commitment to cross the Atlantic and establish a presence in the US has paid dividends for the company.
Within our group we are all busy in our respective markets. But one of the spaces we all work in is international business. When forming this group we knew that it would be a challenge to establish the type of relationships that we have in our local area. This was going to take time but also take a large commitment.
A commitment to stay in touch and meet regularly in order to build the relationships and develop the trust necessary so that we would feel comfortable referring business or reaching out for help. Everyone in the group is part of an association with resources and contacts around the globe, but looking in a directory is more like a cold calling which is not ideal. We have conference calls every other month where we can sit and hear each other’s voices, but that only goes so far even if video conferencing is available. Although it is an expense, you have to go meet regularly to build these relationships. If possible, bring your spouse and/or children so that your colleagues get to know you on a personal level, not just the “work you”.
For our group we make it a point to socialize a lot; nothing opens people up more than good food and a steady flow of drinks. Our friends in Alabama showed us a good time at one of their local breweries. They also treated us an authentic low country boil with live music in the background. It’s during these events that you are able to show your personality and click with colleagues that open the door later when professional problems arise.
Higher levels of commitment also put you ahead of your competitors. I’m a big sports fan and reminded of the great NBA legend Larry Bird who said he would practice for hours and hours, shooting hundreds of times after practices because he was afraid there was someone out there who was shooting and practicing more.
I think that should be our mindset when it comes to committing to our initiatives. When you do something halfway, you never get the results you were hoping for within the desired time frame. Most of our colleagues in attendance traveled great distances from overseas for three day meetings, which can be costly and may or may not result in increased revenue. I can assure you that our business has seen measurable dividends by committing to this group, but to be honest it took time.
A valuable result of these relationships is showing prospects your commitment. These meetings are fun and we are treated to incredible experiences in Germany and the United States, but at the end of the day business has to be conducted. In preparation for these events we schedule meetings with prospects in the market we are visiting so that as a group we can “double team” and set ourselves apart from the competition.
We were in Stuttgart Germany recently and set up a meeting with the President of the parent company whose subsidiary is in our Gainesville Georgia market. With one of our good friends and colleagues from Stuttgart with us, we separated ourselves from the competition by not only meeting in person, but showing that we have a local presence and could handle the parent and subsidiary smoothly.
This type of success does not have to come just through partners in the same profession. Your local and state departments of economic development are also great resources to partner with and highlight your commitment. Many have regularly scheduled trips overseas and are open to working with those who are willing to travel and showcase their local area. If you are interested in a particular country, there is a good chance that a local international chamber of commerce membership for that country is available. They hold meetings often for you to meet those who conduct business in that country, businesses who have come out of that country and those who are from that country.
If you want to broaden your business internationally, I encourage you to reach out and commit to going overseas and experience other countries, their culture, their people and their business practices so that you can come home with a different perspective that will not only set you apart with international prospects, but strengthen your service to existing domestic customers.
Nicholas Bruner is the corporate audit and consulting partner with Rushton & Co, LLC. He holds the designations of Certified Public Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner and Certified Valuation Analyst. He specializes in international accounting and auditing and has spent the last 12 years working with companies who are either established in the United States and expanding overseas or companies based overseas looking to establish a physical presence in the US.