Corrections or additions?
This article by Gina Zechiel was prepared for the October 17, 2001 edition of
U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Going Global: It’s a Jungle Out There
After a few years of successful and growing sales in
the U.S., you may think the whole world is waiting for your widget.
Big Question, which you may not have asked: Is your widget ready for
the world? And — much more relevant — are you?
While international markets beckon with the lure of huge numbers and
corresponding profits, pitfalls abound for the uninformed and the
unwary. Globalization notwithstanding, the international business
arena is still enormously differentiated and complex, and simple
can easily lead to failure in foreign markets.
"Competition in international markets is much tougher than at
home," says Keld Hansen
Business at Mercer County Community College. "There are so many
different issues that businesses here in the U.S. are unaccustomed
to dealing with. For instance, foreign currency issues, different
requirements for products and services, legal structure, language
issues, and, most important of all, intercultural differences."
Hansen, a Danish-born MBA from Harvard, was CEO at Dansk Design before
teaching international business courses at MCCC. He became director
of the Global Business Center when the college received a grant from
the U.S. Department of Education. The center’s goal is to increase
exports from New Jersey businesses.
On Friday, October 19, at 10 a.m., the center presents a free
"Foreign Markets and Your Company’s Marketing Strategy," at
the Mercer Community College’s James Kearny Campus, Second Floor,
at North Broad and Academy streets in Trenton. Call 609-586-4800,
Hansen points out that the United States market has only about 10
to 15 percent of the world’s consumers, but over a third of world
purchasing power. "By marketing worldwide, you can potentially
triple your sales," he says. "The advantages are great —
larger sales, larger profits, and if you are a company investing in
a new product, your investment can be written off through sales to
the entire world. For example, if you develop drugs, a large part
of your cost is research and development, which can be distributed
over three times as large a base when worldwide."
That’s the good news. For while opportunities certainly abound, there
may be huge adjustment issues for companies that are used to the
smooth sailing in American waters.
Among other tools, the workshop will offer a questionnaire-style
readiness test" to help companies understand what they may be
getting into when they consider international markets.
"The most important reason why international trade fails is
of intercultural problems," says Hansen. "As a general rule,
international business is conducted on a much more personal level.
A foreign buyer may not want to do business with you if he feels you
are not on the same wavelength. For instance, if you go to Latin
you must develop a personal relationship with the other party. You
and he must become friends, and accept each other, before you can
effectively start talking business."
As adjustments to business-as-usual marketing strategy, Hansen
top man to top man. Leave your assumptions about the right way to
do business at home!
Ally yourself with a person who is familiar with both your culture,
your way of doing business, and the conditions of the country with
which you are trying to export. He can "pilot" you through
the shoals of intercultural differences. For instance, putting your
feet up on your desk may be OK here, but displaying the underside
of your shoes is considered disrespectful by many Middle Eastern
foreign currency problems and risk. When shipping to foreign
it’s a good idea to use letters of credit, guarantees from the Export
Import Bank, or a commercial credit insurer.
to adjust your product or services to foreign markets. As a glaring
example, for many years new American cars were offered to Japan with
the driving wheel on the wrong side. Needless to say, sales were
Even packaging must follow local requirements. Color choices may be
crucial. Some colors may carry specific connotations that are
in the country with which you are doing business.
businesses, small businesses should by no means feel excluded.
are big opportunities for small businesses overseas; they may just
have to think differently," says Hansen. While a large company
might have a fully-owned subsidiary in key foreign markets, a small
company would simply have a representative. They would have to adjust
their marketing and business strategy."
And while the main purpose of overseas markets is to increase sales
and profits, another great advantage is possible. "If we are
of cultural differences, we cannot take them into account," Hansen
believes. "The more interaction between different countries, the
more able we are to understand each other."
— Gina Zechiel
Every business has room for improvement, but in many
cases, the most likely place is often the most overlooked — the
skills of your workforce.
In principle it sounds simple enough. You encourage your employees
to acquire high level skills at whatever they do. But if you are
how to actually go about it, the experts at the Center for Training
and Development at Mercer County Community College will show you how
to get results, every step of the way.
"Imagine the level at which your company could compete, if every
employee was trained to optimum performance in their field," says
the military, and in law enforcement, but when we get into business,
we don’t have the same expectations."
If improving workplace standards sounds difficult or expensive, the
solution need be neither. The New Jersey Department of Labor provides
some $35 million a year in funding for workforce development programs,
part of the state’s set of tools to hold businesses in New Jersey,
and some of this money is funneled through MCCC.
"We are looking for people who have training budgets, but may
not be aware of resources," says Cernero. "Any manager can
call us at 609-586-4800, ext. 3279. If you are uncertain about your
requirements, we will do an assessment. Once we identify the need,
we will have some idea of funding availability, so it’s important
to contact us. There is almost always a way to obtain training, and
while we try and use funding as much as possible, we know the most
affordable routes if you have to pay. We work closely with the 19
community colleges in New Jersey, and in that way we get high volume
to get costs way down."
Cernero will speak about workforce development at a free event on
Friday, October 19, at 11 a.m. at MCCC’s Kearny Campus at Broad and
Academy streets in Trenton.
"We are facilitators," Cernero says. "We can put together
a team to teach just about anything. No matter how complex, we’ll
find people to do it. Whatever you do in your business, there are
people out there who can teach you to do it better. In order to be
competitive today, you need really effective employees to keep costs
down. For example, Microsoft says that most Office users only work
with 10 percent of the program, so if you can train your people to
use Access, and work with databases, you immediately gain a great
productivity tool to provide timely information so that managers know
what’s going on."
A 1963 graduate of NJIT, Cernero has an MBA from Southern Illinois
University, and worked for New Jersey Bell before starting his own
small business consulting practice. While teaching at MCCC, he started
up the Small Business Development Center (now the Center for Training
The MCCC program provides training and organization development to
businesses large and small — and small can mean just that. While
primarily aimed at manufacturing and distribution companies, smaller
companies engaged in, for instance, metal work, insulation, chemicals,
or printing, can form a consortium to apply for funds.
"We do the coordinating, and prepare the funding
says Cernero, "and this way money can be funneled down to
small businesses. For instance, with the printing business now going
from ink processes to electronic, operators may need training to take
digital input. A small manufacturer may need to be ISO certified
Service Organization) and will need supervisory and computer training,
so we put together a package for exactly what they need. It is
"For small businesses, grants can be hard to get," Cernero
says. "It’s easy to hire a consultant for $5,000 a day, but we
know how to go through networks and obtain training from vendors at
lower costs, because of volume."
"Right now there’s a huge demand for basic skills in the
he says. "Reading, math, and most especially, English as a second
language. (ESOL). This is the area of highest demand. We can find
funds for any kind of business that needs training in these skills,
and at all levels. The hospitality business is expanding dramatically,
and in many service-oriented businesses a large proportion of the
workforce is non-English speaking."
Whatever the business, the process is the same — who needs
what do you want these people to do, and in which fields?
"We have designed courses from satellite system designs, which
required orbital physics instruction, to a bus driving company, which
was just as complex in its way — and everything in between. Safety
training, OSHA training, aviation management training, you name it,
we’ve been asked to teach it. We find the resources, the instructors,
and facilitate the whole project, including contracts and costs."
The center currently advises between 75 to 100 employers a year, with
about 8,000 people in classes. "Most major employers use us for
quality training, either funded or at affordable rates," Cernero
says. "We have contracts for computer training on a monthly basis,
or we can work up schedule for a one-year contract. It’s all
There are no off-the-shelf courses. We design each training program
to fit the employer’s needs."
Add Cernero: "You need to be constantly gathering information
about your business. The Internet is a phenomenal source, so are trade
associations. And here at Mercer we are another great resource. In
order to be competitive today, you must know how to develop your
to be as effective as possible, and training skills are just as
as your computers. We spend money on machines, but not enough on
people to get the very most out of them."
"When you upgrade your employees, you upgrade your business."
— Gina Zechi
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