Business Leaders Discuss Ways to Venture Outside the Country

By Shawn Moon – Sun, 10/04/2009 – 21:23
BYU Universe

Managers are finding that expanding into today’s global economy is not only an opportunity, but also a necessity for survival.

This new awareness was demonstrated at a roundtable discussion on Thursday featuring Governor Gary Herbert’s chief of staff and prominent business leaders which was held to explore ways businesses can venture outside the country.

« Global commerce is a big topic right now, especially under the current economic circumstances we’re under, » said Brian Chandler of MultiLing, a Provo-based translation company that hosted the event. « Hopefully this discussion (has given) us a few ideas we can work on. »

Notwithstanding their new awareness of the need to expand, many business leaders find that venturing into a new market is more intensive than they first realized.

« It’s a challenge to export, » said Lew Cramer, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah.

« You have to do it in another language in another currency. Importing is easy. You write a check. »

Utah may be the best place from which to export and expand internationally.

« Despite how difficult (the economy) is, there is not a state in the country that wouldn’t switch places with us, » said Jason Perry, Herbert’s chief of staff. « We get calls almost every day of the week from governors of other states talking about things that have been happening in Utah that we’ve used to position ourselves. »

Perry also cited the American Legislative Exchange Council as having labeled Utah as being poised to be the first state out of the recession.

« We have used federal stimulus money for projects, » Perry said, saying that most states have been using that money to make payroll.

« We’re not eating our seed corn; we’re using it to grow the crops of the future. »

One reason Utah is well positioned to come out of the recession is that international business is already a major part of its economy.

« It’s important to realize that if companies put all their eggs in one basket, when the economy goes down, they’ll be in trouble, » said Franz Kolb, director for Europe at the governor’s office of economic development.

« Our goal in this state is to have everybody thinking globally, » Cramer said. « Last year, a third of our economy was based on international trade. »

The panel agreed that some companies are prone to serious mistakes like relying on the Internet when expanding into an international market.

« A lot of companies try to do international business on the cheap, and it’s not going to work, » Kolb said. « Sooner or later, you’ve got to go over and meet with these people face to face.

You’ve got to go over and break bread and show a commitment. »

According to Kolb, translation is another area businesses don’t take seriously enough.

« Just because you’ve learned (a language for) one year of high school or had a religious experience for two years in another country doesn’t really mean that you speak the language and you can sell a product overseas. »

Mark Madrian, managing director of Ceteris Inc., says there are lots of great opportunities for companies to go global, but they need to be careful.

« You do have to go back and think, ‘How am I going to structure this and what is it going to mean for me five years down the road?’ »