School of Global Hard Knocks

tags: global, all
Posted by: Global Chamber on Thursday, September 1, 2016

A UPS / Global Chamber CEO seminar featured Mike Flanary of Universal Laser Systems and a full-house of senior executives in a regional event. Thanks to our members and the UPS community for attending!

We're summarizing some of the key points in a series of blog posts, and today we're covering topic #2 of 3.


Yesterday: Get Ready to Go Global

Today: School of Global Hard Knocks

Tomorrow: Tips on Global Strategy


School of Global Hard Knocks (Oops!)

Like every executive who has ever spoken at any seminar we've ever held, Mike Flanary told the audience "we could have done it better". Over and over and all along the way, Universal Laser Systems (ULS) has had surprise after surprise, and then subsequently learned from the experience. ULS has been able to overcome the challenges to have over 60% of sales as exports.

Mike presented 11 challenges that they've faced in hopes that others might learn from their experiences.

1) Know that Distance REALLY Matters. Nearly all the paradigms you hold for your local/regional business don't apply across the globe. Different time zones make up part of the challenge. Religion and culture can also get in the way... like how and what days you operate, or how you describe your offering. That "Made in the USA" sticker works some places and doesn't in others. And some markets may be growing but may not be ready for your offering yet. Be thoughtful in choosing and entering any market.

2) Protecting Intellectual Property. Sometimes you end up teaching someone how you do what you do, and they become a competitor. Mike shared a couple examples of that and how they've been able to avoid that more recently. Doing due diligence is a key step. There are many resources that experienced globalists use to avoid many problems from the beginning.

3) The Trap of "Good Enough". Too often our teams may settle for what seems like 'good enough' - with packaging, customs prep, market evaluation, distributor selection, marketing, and on and on. And yet the bar with international is higher... 'good enough' is often NOT good enough. To borrow a title from Mr. Collins, going global requires you to go from good to GREAT!

4) Distance, Part 2 (Logistics). One early surprise by Universal Laser was a customer in India who claimed that their industrial laser didn't work and returned it... in a burlap bag. Upon receipt back in the U.S., the product was quite damaged from the shipment. Who would have thought that someone would send an expensive, precision instrument back in a bag? In the words of Dr. Seuss... oh the places you'll go!! Wonders never cease when you're doing business with other countries. Prepare for surprises!

5) More on Logistics: Do the Math. Logistics are a huge part of any product business. Invest the time and energy with an expert like UPS to check all the options, understand the impact on customers of each... and the impact on the organization. Evaluate Foreign Trade Zones, partners and the full spectrum of resources. Sounds easy... but too many organizataions take shortcuts here.

6) Have a Clear Strategy. Most companies $10 - 500 million per year of revenue have large holes in their organization and strategy. The strategy is only partially baked because the team isn't always fully experienced globally. One key step here is at least to TRY with your strategy. Build your global team expertise and spend time on strategy. It helps in the long run!

7) Number Don't Lie. There's a tendency when things don't work out to imagine that with just a few tweaks the results will be massively different (better). Mike suggested MAYBE NOT. Numbers don't like, and sometimes a duck is really a duck.

8) Follow Your Customers. Understand who your best customers are and follow them... across segments (when appropriate) and to the countries and metros of highest concentration. Then sometimes doubling down in a given market or metro makes more sense than opening a new market or metro... because that's where the customers are.

9) Don't Underestimate the Local Impact. People all over the world like to buy locally, and so having someone local who really understands customers is a huge asset. Universal Laser has found ways both directly and through partners to have a local presence, and that important for every business.

10) Look for Opportunities to Scale. Countries and markets are different, but the key to success is finding ways to scale, duplicate processes and products, while maintaining a connection with every market and customer. This is a delicate balance... to have each customer feel that they've got something special, but have some uniformity of production to make it cost efficient.

11) Create a 'Heat Map' of Opportunity. Finally, before deciding on which markets to enter, create a heat map to determine where the opportunity is, and make sure your selection and allocation of resources match the opportunity. Mike shared their heat map and they use it to stay centered on where their activities need to be.

From burlap bags to the new global math... every business needs to consider these areas and do the right thing!

Watch for part 3 tomorrow.




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