How many owners reading this blog feel they can make a major new commitment to anything right now? Probably not many of you. Everybody knows the successful small company owner trying to do everything. We encountered one the other day who hired a communications company to write promotional material. He ended up rewriting everything written for him. No time savings there to free him up to work on getting new international customers. Maybe it did need rewriting. Maybe he made a bad hire. Maybe he’s a control freak. Whatever the real reason, the contention that “I can’t take on anything else—and certainly not exporting,” endures.
Another company had a sales and marketing officer who also felt there was insufficient time in the day to do international, even though he represented a product that had great potential outside his home market. Seeing that he sends and answers emails late into the night, it’s no wonder that the thought of taking on anything that would generate even more emails, was enough to drive him bonkers.
Is there something short of full commitment that will move the P&L statement more towards the P? The answer is yes, and it’s called smart commitment. It’s really about getting someone or something else to do a lot of the work, saving the leader’s job to, well, lead. Strategize. Plan. Create. Put out fires. And commit to smart commitment.
Smart commitment involves committing to exporting in manageable increments that can be scaled if sales and capabilities expand. E-commerce is a good example. Webport Global, for example, does a lot of the work for its members. It gathers buyers and sellers on a common digital platform. It displays the goods and prices. And it convenes service providers on the same platform, so members can select a specialty firm to handle payment matters.
Of course, WPG would love if you did all your prospecting and transacting on their platform but are smart enough to know that many companies use more than one marketplace because each caters to different customers in different markets and industries. This is smart commitment. Order fulfillment, payment processing and shipment can be handled by third parties almost automatically, or at least to the degree that no senior management oversight is required.
Impressive help available
Since many national governments, including the U.S., Ireland, the UK and others provide trade facilitation services to SMEs, the help available is even more impressive. The sales and marketing person referenced above who didn’t have time for international until he did—changed his tune when he found out how to claim the taxpayer benefits his company was entitled to. He learned about them through a third party who just happened to mention it: “Did you know?” He didn’t because there was no time in the day to find out.
This sales and marketing person discovered that 1) his government had deep experience in his industry; 2) they had readily accessible research for him to consume; 3) that an expert was located nearby to talk to or meet him at suitable times; 3) there were sponsored events he could attend for modest cost and at which he could meet more experts who wanted to learn about his product and evangelize about it to foreign buyers in his industry; 4) there were other events he could to meet foreign buyers interested in his products.
He did have time to do what he does best—teach others about the product and make them no-cost extensions of his new business development mandate. Now that’s smart commitment.
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