Are You Right for the Business?



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Are You Right for the Business?



Starting a business is a major step requiring nerve and a certain amount of faith. But nerve and faith need to be supplemented by sensible preparation – not just the purchase of desks, chairs, and typewriters, but a rigorous examination of the reasons for wanting to enter this particular field, an evaluation of the personal qualifications to make it a success, and development of a clear understanding of the business activities in which you will participate.

Here are some of the required attributes to become a successful businessman, e.g. an importer/exporter.

Business Skills. Any kind of business acumen, education, or experience will be helpful. Two of the major causes of business failures are inadequate planning and insufficient management ability.

Salesmanship. Import/export is fundamentally a marketing and selling business. Many people do not realize that they cannot make money importing or exporting unless they can sell their products. Even if you sell indirectly through commission agents, you will have to find the agents, sell them on carrying your lines and continually seek ways to help them to do a better job for you.

Persistence. The business is pot like a fast-food franchise for which you can pay a company a large sum of money to find the location, build the restaurant, put in equipment, train you, do the initial promotion and hand you the key, after which you may start making a profit as of lunch time on the first day. If a person starts a business without a base of suppliers and customers, it usually takes about six months to do any business at all, and about two years before the profits are great enough to support a family, and that assumes that the business in question is successful. To start this kind of business, you should commit yourself to it for the long term. It is not usually a road to immediate profits.

Interest in and Knowledge of International Economics and Politics. Importing or exporting, even on a small scale, carries with it both opportunities and risks, and the more you know about the world, the better able you will be to take advantage of the opportunities and to reduce the risks.

Language Ability. You can import/export successfully without knowing a foreign language, but language abilities would allow you to communicate more easily and increase your range of business contacts. The ability to speak the language of your business contacts can sometimes help even when your communications are in English. For example, it is not uncommon in international trade to receive a letter or telex message from overseas that uses English, but is unintelligible. If you know how sentences are structured in the language of the writer, you can sometimes rearrange the words to better understand their meaning. As a business, you should regularly read the press with world-wide coverage.

Since you will probably be dealing with people who are not fluent in English, you will need the ability to communicate in a simple, easily understandable way without using the slang.

Cultural Empathy. Sooner than you think, involvement in international trade will result in your meeting foreign buyers or sellers face to face. In these meetings, it can be very helpful if you have some feeling for the culture of these associates or at least are willing to tolerate and respect people who think and act differently from the way you do. For example, it may bother you if people speak to you without looking at you, but this is done out of respect in some countries. It may appear rude for people to belch loudly after eating, but this may be done deliberately to show that the meal was satisfying.

You may need to be careful of your own words and actions. You should not sit with the sole of your shoe facing a Korean; if you do, you are symbolically stepping on him. You should try not to turn the conversation to business too quickly when dealing with someone from Latin America or the Middle East; a person from either area would not want to do business before establishing a degree of personal rapport.

Attention to Detail. Finally, a successful international trader must be able to pay considerable attention to detail. You will be dealing with people or companies that are far away, whom you may not know, and your meeting of minds will be expressed on paper. All documents must be prepared and read with great care.

If you are outgoing and aggressive, and have no patience with detail, you will either have to force yourself to do something you are not good at, or get a partner, or hire an employee who can fill in where you are weak.

Capital Requirements and Profit Potential. The import/export industry is not one that requires a high capital investment. There are documented cases of people who have started their businesses with less than $200 and have been successful. If you have that little, however, you have to move very slowly and avoid taking any risks.

You can start your business as an agent for a very small sum of money because you do not have to pay for merchandise or international transportation. Unfortunately, you will have to compete with everyone else who is trying to start as an agent.

 

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