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This is part 3 in a series of 12 step-by-step guide to help you succeed in today's global export market.

EXPORT SKILLS

A Key Ingredient for Success

Increasing your knowledge of the various aspects of exporting will become a key ingredient to your success. In particular, having individuals with exporting experience on your management team, is a real asset. Familiarity with foreign cultures and business practices, the ability to speak foreign languages, knowing how to contract and get paid for services performed and key contacts in the export community are all essential ingredients to success.

You may choose to acquire the skills yourself or decide to hire the expertise required either on a full-time or contract basis. If you have completed the export readiness assessment in Part 2, you may have identified specific skill gaps and will be in a better position to determine what areas require the acquisition of new skills.



Export Skills Inventory

The following chart may assist you to take inventory of your organization's current skill levels and determine the best method to fill skill gaps.

       1.     Print the following chart

       2.     Indicate your assessment of the skills already existing in your
               organization.

                1 = Excellent    2 = Satisfactory   3 = Requires Improvement

      3.      Determine the best method to fill each gap by either improving the
               skills of your current staff, or contracting out for the service.


Skills Required
Existing Staff Skills
   1        2        3   
Improve
Staff Skill
Contract
for Service
Export Management **       **      ** ** **
Project Management **       **      ** ** **
International Marketing **       **      ** ** **
Market Research **       **      ** ** **
Trade Financing **       **      ** ** **
Partnering **       **      ** ** **
Language **       **      ** ** **
Culture **       **      ** ** **
International Trade Law **       **      ** ** **



Options for Acquiring Export Skills


Export Management

If you don't already have an experienced export management team, you may choose to hire experienced people, or partner with an experienced exporter for the first couple of export sales. Partnering with another, export-experienced, small firm might also serve to increase your combined size to the point where you can more easily take on export contracts.

For smaller companies, you may want to bring in a part-time, seasoned, export manager to guide your initial export market development. Although the costs of additional staff can be relatively high for smaller exporters, the payoff of making good initial decisions, and acquiring good export knowledge can make the venture a success.


Project Management

The management of an international project requires dedicated, experienced staff who have the time and capability of managing a project that will fulfill the customer's requirements. Good project management will result in a project being completed within targeted deadlines and within budget. It is not unusual for an international project to take twice as long to complete as a domestic project, therefore it is important that this function be properly staffed.


International Marketing

It is important to understand the three basic market types as the international marketer needs to design and implement a marketing strategy that will suit each, namely: fast-paced markets, relationship-based markets and markets where only international financial institution funding is an option. Consider whether your firm can acquire the necessary skills, or if you need to hire a marketing consultant.


Market Research

In a rapidly changing world, carefully researched market information and intelligence can give your organization that competitive edge. Many organizations are now obtaining their initial market information electronically via the Internet. If your organization does not have the required experience, you may wish to consider hiring a firm which offers competitive intelligence services, or a recent graduate who has the technology skills to conduct your research and train other staff members.


Trade Financing

The greatest challenge for many exporters is in the identification and securing of financing for an export project or a transaction. In later of this series Financing and Insurance, you will find information on financing and insurance, however in many cases, working with an export financing consultant may be the best way to acquire new contacts and understand the intricacies of financing export sales.


Export Pricing

A number of factors need to be taken into consideration when pricing your services for foreign markets. Additional costs such as marketing, communications, travel, currency fluctuations and collecting foreign receivables all need to be factored in. While it is important to cover incremental costs, your services will need to be priced according to what the market will bear in order to maintain competitiveness.


Partnering

Finding the right partners, establishing mutually-beneficial agreements and maintaining long-standing relationships can be instrumental if partnering is your chosen method of market entry. Many service firms are unaccustomed to this new phenomena, and may require the assistance of experienced individuals.


Foreign Language Capability

The ability to speak the language of the target export market, can give you a substantial competitive edge. Speaking the language will enable you to better understand the nuances of a particular culture and to better capture the needs of the foreign buyer. It can also go a long way in avoiding contractual disputes.

On the other hand, the lack of foreign language capability need not keep you out of the exporting business. English is the language of world business, and most foreign buyers are willing to conduct business in it. In those markets where knowledge of the local language is more important, the services of a translator or interpreter can usually be obtained, both in the local market and here at home. It is, however, important to ensure that the translation services used are of sufficiently high quality to avoid language-based misunderstandings.


Foreign Culture and Business Practice Savvy

Knowing the culture and business practices of the target export market is an important element of export success. Being sensitive to foreign cultures, way of life and business practices, and respecting religious and social differences, may prove to be the most important aspect of doing business internationally.

It is particularly important for you to be familiar with the cultural context of business relations. In Canadian culture, we tend to be direct in our communications, even if someone's personal feelings are likely to be hurt. In some cultures such behavior would have disastrous consequences. For instance, Korean customers are loathe to present disappointing news, even to the point of suggesting that all is going well when, in fact, there is little likelihood that a successful business relationship will ensue. They simply place more concern on the feelings (or 'face') of the individual and so try to avoid any chance of personal embarrassment.

Familiarity with local business practices is also important. In some markets, high emphasis is placed on contractual relationships and the use of the legal system to resolve disputes. In other societies, much more emphasis is placed on personal trust between individuals, where this bond of friendship will be used to resolve problems.

You should take the time to become well versed in the culture of the targeted export market. This can be accomplished by speaking with the country or regional trade representative or directly to the Trade Representative resident of your embassy located in the target market. Making the effort to understand cultural and, in particular, business practice differences will make a positive contribution toward developing a lasting business relationship.


International Trade Law

Service firms who export their business and professional services need to be aware of the complexities of selling services abroad. Contracts are normally drawn up in the target market and as such, the law of the land usually prevails. By involving your legal advisors early on in the export process, your firm will be in a good position to address issues of service contract law, intellectual property rights and other legal considerations.

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