CEO knows how to get around10/30/2012
You may have seen a 19th-century adage, bemoaning wasted time, that begins, “Lost: One golden hour, set with 60 diamond minutes.” That’s the mindset to have if you’re planning a trade mission, according to LED Roadway Lighting CEO Charles Cartmill.
Cartmill is a trade mission veteran, and he regards these trips as enormous opportunities. “We try to participate in as many as possible,” he says. To make the most of them, he adds, you want to make every minute count.
“I think the preparation makes or breaks the trip,” he says. While the officials who are organizing the trip, and the overseas contact on the ground (called the matchmaker), will be lining up meetings on your behalf, you have a major role to play, as well.
In Cartmill’s industry, for instance, he finds it helpful to meet with mayors of large cities or other decision-makers in regional government.
On a recent trade mission to Brazil, he was able to meet with the mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city.
To make appointments like that happen, Cartmill says, it’s important to communicate with the trade mission matchmaker about whom you hope to meet. You should also do as much as possible on your own, before you leave Canada, toward lining up such meetings.
Another tip Cartmill has is to pack your days full of meetings, from morning till evening. You don’t want any down time in your schedule. Remember that this is a quick trip with multiple opportunities, but only if you jump on them.
There will be receptions scattered throughout the days — coffee hours, evening social events with an ambassador — and you want to be fully present and ready to make your case at all of them. “I always bring my (LED light) fixture and set it up at every function, every reception.”
Mike McMurray, director of trade development for Nova Scotia Business Inc., says, “LED Roadway Lighting is a great example of a company who gets out there in the world, meets people, makes tangible connections — and their business is flourishing as a result.”
McMurray has a number of helpful pointers for business people interested in going on a trade mission for the first time. “For companies who are newer to international trade, there are courses through the Forum for International Trade Training that cover many of the aspects of doing business internationally. They offer two-day intensive courses, and online courses that usually span 10 weeks of self-study,” he said.
Additionally, McMurray added, NSBI offers “Doing Business In sessions that help give an overview of a particular market and the potential opportunities to be found there.
Dough Phelan, manager of trade, tourism and investment for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, says it’s not too early to look at opportunities coming up a year from now. All the missions ACOA is leading through March are full and have wait lists, he said.
“This is part of a positive trend, whereby business has realized that they are obtaining better quality meetings by registering early and are able to obtain significant savings in travel by being able to plan well in advance. The most important thing is for a company to do their research on any target market that they are considering.”
Phelan noted that trade mission locations for the rest of 2013 will be announced in a month or so. Put the date on your calendar and begin planning.
Thriving in Tough Times is a series developed by the business development centrea at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.
(The Chronicle Herald)