As Prime Minister Harper leaves for his third trip to China, this is an opportunity to consider taking your BC small business international. This delegation is making a special point to note that small business is important to the global economy, and “wants to help not just large companies, but also small and medium-sized businesses, benefit from the Chinese economy.”
But where do you start? One option is to jump on a plane to Asia and call it market research, however, before booking your ticket, let’s take a few steps back. In this three part series, we’ll look at the three key stages of an international business trip – planning to go, what to do when you’re there, and the importance of following up.
Should Your Business Go Global?
Whether your business should go global is a big question to answer, so take a breath and start with the basic five W’s:
WHY do you need to go abroad? Are you looking at sourcing internationally? Do you want to sell beyond your current geographical area? Is your business growing or are you considering opening another branch? Make sure you know why you’re going before you start spending money, this will also help define your goals for the trip to evaluate it once you’re back home.
WHERE should you go? Industry Canada provides trade data for over 200 countries through their Trade Data Online service, but let’s not throw a dart at the map just yet. First, you need to investigate duty rates, trade deals, currencies, legal systems, and the list goes on. The good news is that an International Trade Advisor at Small Business BC can help you research all of these topics.
WHO should attend? Prime Minister Harper is going with five federal ministers; this is an important gesture to show that the Canadian government is serious about continuing a long-term relationship with the Chinese government. In China, it is almost imperative that business and government leaders need to meet with peers of similar rank. If you think your proposal should be presented to the CEO, your CEO needs to be at the meeting, preferably with the COO or another senior manager in tow. And don’t forget to bring a translator.
WHEN should you go? Ideal times are when you can schedule meetings around a tradeshow, government mission, or you can display your product in their best conditions. Avoid showcasing your wool sweaters in the plus 50 degree temperatures of summer in the United Arab Emirates. And check holiday calendars – would you like a supplier to schedule a December 24 meeting at 4pm?
WHAT to take? Less is more, except when it comes to business cards. Expect that you’ll be carting your luggage around airports, in and out of cars, hotel rooms and maybe trains and trucks. You’ll need samples, brochures and always some small gifts, but no need to take the showroom with you – that’s what follow-up is for. Pre-load your tablet or small laptop with a presentation, fact sheets, lots of photos and a video; it’s ok to rely on technology, but never rely on the internet.
Congratulations, you’re going global! Now let’s start planning. An international trip is not the time to do your usual “fly by the seat of your pants” routine. It may be possible if your trip is to San Francisco, but Shanghai is not the place to show up unprepared amongst its 24 million residents.
The Two Most Important Things to Remember
- Communication: Presuming this trip is not a top-secret mission – tell everyone! Your first contact should be with your federal and provincial trade offices dealing in your industry. There are 174 Canadian Trade Commissioner Service offices around the world, and your first step should be to contact the regional office to introduce your company and its international plans. There are also 13 British Columbia Trade and Investment offices specifically designed to work with BC businesses. They can be an incredible source of knowledge, guidance and contacts. Next, email any and all contacts you want to meet, or that could introduce you to people you want to meet. This is no time to be shy.
- Your Binder: Create a trip binder to prepare you for all aspects of your travels. It should have paper copies of everything and anything relating to your travel schedule, your meetings, your contacts and your life while away from home. Include country and city maps, copies of important passport pages, credit cards, etc. Include all contacts with telephone numbers, addresses and emails. All of these pages should also be saved on your device, burned on a CD kept separately and available online for you and your staff at home in case of the dreaded lost passport scenario. While you’re creating the binder, why not include art files for your basic promo materials and business cards in case you need to print more. Last but not least, don’t forget your style or to have fun – your trip binder is not a telephone book, so use an attractive case, and include each cities’ top restaurants and attractions – you’re going global – Enjoy it!
Want to find out more about taking your business global? Make an appointment with one of our Trade Advisors today by calling 604.775.5525.
To find out what to do when you get to your destination, read part two: International Business Travel: 6 Steps to Stay Ahead of Your Competition.