Uncle Sam Really Is Here to Help!
Recently I was given the opportunity to travel overseas with a delegation of US Commerce agents. The purpose of the trip was to promote international business between companies like mine, LiDAR USA, and businesses in South East Asia. In Korea the trip was brilliantly arranged to coincide with the Trade Winds-Asia Business Development Conference and Trade Mission. This gave each business exposure to about a dozen Senior Commercial Officers and pre-arranged B2B meetings.
At this point you are probably wondering how this applies to anything you might read in LiDAR News. As you know, there is no escape from the fact that we live in a global economy. You can order just about anything via the Internet and receive it in a few days, sometimes even overnight. It can come from any country, on any continent. Not only can you order goods, but services as well. Both of these can and do play a big part in your business.
As a LiDAR participant, you are either in business to sell systems or offer services. While you might think your business is too small to play a role in international business, you would be wrong in thinking so. You dont really have a choice. Your business is ultimately intertwined with international campaigns whether you like it or not.
Most vendors know the market is global. I think most service providers would like to (incorrectly) think they are isolated from the international economy. If you offer a service scanning and consequently delivering a CAD product, classified data, GIS or other database, the office part of your project can be performed overseas and generally at a much more competitive price. For this reason you must be aware of the international market and understand that you are already involved.
Now that we have turned your attention to the international workplace, whats next? Assuming you want to stay profitable you have to take this information and turn it to your advantage. You could spend a lot of resources to determine how to do this and in the process you would learn a lot, but it would be slow and expensive. So heres the good news. The US Department of Commerce, and particularly the US Foreign & Commercial Service, has programs to help businesses grow in this area.
In an earlier article I referenced this organization while discussing the necessity of obtaining a CARNET for travel with expensive equipment. Since that time I have learned much more about the organization and its services. I highly recommend visiting its website at export.gov.
My own experience in this area started by researching the CARNET. This led me to a Senior International Trade Specialist working for the US Dept of Commerce U.S. Foreign Commercial Service. In turn that led to a very knowledgeable group of people working for the U.S. and Alabama Departments of Commerce along with an International Trade Specialist working for the University of Alabama. This in turn has led to a lot of very good advice. What I had learned on my own over the course of many weeks about the CARNET process was explained to me in 30 minutes by one specialist! I knew at that point that I had struck gold.
It doesnt end there. These same people will help and guide you to the appropriate legal firms if necessary. Again, this can save you an untold amount of time and money. Just knowing whether you do or do not need legal help is a plus. In addition, they know nuances about each country that you may not find out about before its too late and you are already committed in a bad way (copyrights, trademarks, patents, etc.).
Generally, conferences seem to be considered one of the best ways to meet prospective business partners and clients. However, the aforementioned organizations offer special programs to assist you in each country you target for business.
One such program that is potentially much better than a conference is The Gold Key Matching Service. I was privileged to use this service, and it was amazing. The US Commercial Service agency will research the local businesses and economy to see if your business is a good fit in the area. If there is sufficient interest this generally leads to B2B meetings. Basically, its like being an exhibitor at a conference just for you with clients who are interested in talking with you in depth. What more could you ask for? To top it off, you get all of this for much less than a conference fee. Its great to see our tax dollars working towards something positive.
These organizations are purposed to help you and me. I have just touched on a few things they can do. There is much more. I would like to leave you with two things. First, contact these agencies and see if they can help you in any way. I had no idea these programs existed and consider them a well kept secret. Second, they are truly servants of the people in the right way. They need our support. Call your congressman and give them a positive plug. Let your tax dollars work towards something positive.