International trade market thrives on relationships

We’ve all heard this before. “It’s not what you know but who you know that really matters.” As we experience different events throughout our lives, this can certainly be helpful. Knowing the right people can make the difference between attending a great school or a good school, getting that dream job or even getting published.

As a small business owner, knowing the right people can be critical to the success of your company. There are so many articles, blogs and books written about this topic, just ask Google! But, for those businesses wanting to expand internationally, it is sometimes the only way to be successful.

Networking is about building long-lasting relationships; it is not about pitching your products and services every chance you get. People need to know you, like you, and trust you before they will do business with you, and this takes time. This is especially true in foreign markets. Cultures and customs differ greatly around the globe but the one constant is that in order to do business with you, people need to know, like, and trust you first and foremost.

According to U.S. Commercial Service’s, Doing Business in Mexicoguide, “Participation in business lunches is very important to succeed in Mexico. Before beginning a business discussion, it is common to discuss family, recent events or other social themes.”. The Doing Business in Chile guide states, “Chileans expect a personal relationship with suppliers.”; and Doing Business in the Netherlands guidestates that, “Friendship and mutual trust are highly valued, and once an American has earned this trust, a productive working relationship can usually be counted upon.”

Although, social platforms have made communicating around the world easier than ever before, there is no substitute for face-to-face networking and building rapport before conducting business internationally.

To be effective, you need to meet the right people. Choose networking events that are relevant to your business or industry. Recently, the Tampa Bay Export Alliance presented the Doing Business in Chile workshop featuring two commercial specialists in the Chile market. There were more than 60 attendees including exporters, industry professionals and international trade assistance providers.

In July, Port Tampa Bay presented the Doing Business in Panama seminar featuring speakers from Enterprise Florida, Tampa International Airport and Copa Airlines with more than 80 industry professionals in attendance.

If you are growing your business internationally, these are the types of events you should be attending. Not only do you hear from in-country experts, but you have the opportunity to meet and network with others that can help you enter new markets, increasing your chances for success.

Here are just two of the upcoming international events you can be networking at:

Tampa Bay Organization of Women in International Trade (TBOWIT) will be hosting a luncheon on Aug 28 at Ocean Prime featuring Monica Varela of IKEA Tampa speaking on IKEA’s international expansion.

Enterprise Florida (EFI) will be hosting a briefing on Doing Business in Israel on Sep 8 at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce featuring Nurit Gazit and Elysa Rappaport of EFI’s Israel Office.

  • Selma Canas

    NASBITE Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP), Florida SBDC at USF, Tampa

    Specialties: International Trade, Export Marketing Plans, Market Research

    Selma Canas is responsible for guiding small businesses through the complexities of developing export marketing and international expansion plans and teaching seminars on basic international trade. She has developed more than 30 Export Marketing Plans during the past six years for local businesses, and participated in trade missions to Brazil, Chile, Canada, and the Dominican Republic. Canas has more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing and customer service in a variety of industries, including freight forwarding, real estate and advertising. As a co-owner of Restaurant Guide USA, she increased sales and distribution points and tripled the size of the distributed product.

    As a real estate broker-owner, Canas carved a niche in the Latin American community and had a career sales volume of more than $37 million. Canas earned her bachelor degree in economics from the University of South Florida. She is a NASBITE Certified Global Business Professional and holds an Export and Trade Counseling Certification from the U.S. Small Business Association. Selma earned Florida SBDC at USF Employee of the Year honors in 2016. She is a member of Toastmasters international and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

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