Business Revolution From Within

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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

ignorance

can easily lead to failure in foreign markets.

"Competition in international markets is much tougher than at

home," says Keld Hansen, director of the Center for Global

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

workshop,

"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,

ext. 3639.

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

comparatively

smooth sailing in American waters.

Among other tools, the workshop will offer a questionnaire-style

"export

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

because

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

America,

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

suggests

the following:

Make it personal. Meet early on, and face-to-face,

preferably

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

citizens.

Protect your assets. Protect yourself financially against

foreign currency problems and risk. When shipping to foreign

countries,

it’s a good idea to use letters of credit, guarantees from the Export

Import Bank, or a commercial credit insurer.

Customize your product for foreign markets. Be willing

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

disappointing.

Even packaging must follow local requirements. Color choices may be

crucial. Some colors may carry specific connotations that are

inappropriate

in the country with which you are doing business.

While successful large companies have more resources for

overseas

businesses, small businesses should by no means feel excluded.

"There

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

unaware

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

Top Of Page
Business Revolution From Within

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

unsure

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

Nunzio Cernero, the center’s director. "We expect it in

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

and Development).

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

applications,"

says Cernero, "and this way money can be funneled down to

comparatively

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

(International

Service Organization) and will need supervisory and computer training,

so we put together a package for exactly what they need. It is

definitely

customized training."

"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

workplace,"

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

training,

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

customized.

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

employees

to be as effective as possible, and training skills are just as

important

as your computers. We spend money on machines, but not enough on

training

people to get the very most out of them."

"When you upgrade your employees, you upgrade your business."

— Gina Zechi


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