For more than 16 years I have been running an export promotion program with presence in Argentina and Spain but more than 25 years ago I am in foreign trade.
I saw all kinds of cases, companies, challenges and illusions that aim to the great achievement and challenge of internationalizing a company. Thousands were the cases with which I came across and entrepreneurs with whom I had the fortune to advise, train, guide and even accompany commercial missions abroad.
I had to meet very particular people, I would say even immune to the economic vicissitudes of our region.
And I was lucky enough to see cases, not few, of businessmen immune to any economic situation whose formula of success was shared almost by chance, or perhaps coincidence, since I always looked to see "what do those who always do well" . It was a very recurring question in my head ...
Seeing hundreds of cases called "successful" I discovered that all have factors in common for their success. Some with more emphasis in some point than in another, but all, in short, have keys to success.
The export is the result of many internal factors of the company. I allow myself to coin the term "insideout", that is, the change from within the company to have outward results.
This term caused me to think that there is a big difference between exporting and "deporting" products or services. And sometimes we end up being more deporters than exporters because we do not generate stability over time. And that's where I put the focus on this note.
Regardless of whether we are beekeepers, metallurgists, loggers, economists or graphic designers, regardless of whether we are in Uruguay, Argentina, Spain or South Africa, there is a common path made by those who managed to succeed. Stop being deporters and definitely become exporters.
That path is made up of factors in common that those companies with whom I interviewed over many years had. In the same way that by following these steps it is possible to arrive at a good port, not doing them implies the opposite result to the desired one. As I always say, to export is to sell! Simply that the client is in another country. The keys, rules and common sense in international business are quite similar to the internal market
You simply have to adapt and follow certain patterns of success that have made those who came to internationalize your company or project in a sustainable way.
These keys to success can be summarized in the following:
These keys do not imply that we should carry them all together for success. However the closer we get to these steps, the better.
The first point is decisive. There is no Management without a leadership quota. But we are also hardly leaders of our project if we do not know how to communicate. In that sense, I put it in the first place as something systemic; that is to say, the three variables are essential with each other. You can not be a leader without being a good communicator with our people or being a good manager without leadership.
Another strong point are the goals. No road will leave us well if we do not know where we are going. We can not pretend to export without knowing beforehand if we are prepared for a market or simply if that market is prepared for our product. The goals must be clear, gradually ambitious but above all achievable and measurable. There is nowhere else to include goals other than in planning. But like any plan there must be a line of action. A good plan without a good implementation is practically nothing. A good plan with a good implementation can be worth millions
At the same time, we must always focus on the most important word that any business has: "client". In international markets more than in any other field, a client requires a lot more effort to conquer it than to lose it. Almost as a rule we need more variables, such as price, quality, quantity, diversity, continuity, etc. to conquer and maintain an external client that loses it, which in the immense majority of things is due to bad service. It is estimated that 7 out of 10 clients lost is due to poor service. And this, both in international trade and internally is the key to the continuity of a business.
A key issue is the assembling of competent work teams. It is one thing to have someone in foreign trade and quite another to have a foreign trade team. Every company that has explained its keys to success have put this point as one of the most important. We must emphasize and be good communicators with our people to generate the "ITP" - total involvement of the people. That generates, as I said, the leader's hand.
When negotiating with the world we must know that regardless of what we do, we always accompany what I call "invisible presentation card" that is the country brand image (IMP, Spanish acronym). The image of where we come from is as decisive as what we do in the eyes of our clients abroad. The IMP is the pre-concept that comes immediately in the mind of the buyer from abroad with the mere mention of telling him where we come from and what we do. He can play us in favor, or against. You have to know how to play with it.
Our suppliers can not be outside our export plan either. If we manage to export them they will also indirectly do so. Therefore, it is crucial to involve them in the export process by keeping them informed of our goals, which ultimately will be their transitive property. The more I export, the more they will provide me.
And finally, but not least, there is empathy and perseverance. International trade always needs to empathize with our potential customers. It is put on the feet of the other. That exercise is of vital importance as their cultures are different to ours. On the other side there is no entity, there is a person who can have different values, different beliefs, other religions and they are as unpredictable as we will be towards them. This requires empathy at its highest level.
And finally the perseverance; it's that hard work we do after we get tired of doing the hard work we already did. Exporting is not a long race, but many short races one after the other. This will require perseverance and seriousness over time. There is no barrier to resist perseverance. Foreign trade is not exempt from this.
Pablo Furnari – Specialist in Management and International Marketing