We live in exciting times – a global economy with technology that can connect us so easily. It’s the great global equalizer. The biggest secret to success in international trade is contacts, contacts, contacts. Network to build those contacts that can lead to business down the road.
One of the best ways to network is through your membership in OWIT, which provides you access to other members around the world. Search the international member directory and participate in OWIT virtual events like HappyHer Hour, webinars and board meetings to meet quality contacts…not to mention attending in-person events offered by your chapter. I have built an international network of impressive, like-minded women by participating in all of these.
Other good networking opportunities can be found at industry conferences, government-organized trade events and trade organization-hosted events (eg. Boards of Trade, Chambers of Commerce and bilateral Chambers of Commerce) typically attended by many business people interested in global trade. I have found all of these to be good channels for expanding my global network. If you are traveling, check if there is an OWIT chapter and event where you are going and maybe even set up meetings with members while visiting their city. Other women’s business organizations in foreign markets are also great connection points. You’ll be amazed where they exist and how helpful the contacts can be. I have sought out and attended events organized by these networks when I travel and have met new contacts in cities like Istanbul, London, Brussels and Berlin.
Once you have established new contacts through networking with those you would like to do business with, the next step is building the relationship. Be a good listener and be patient. It can take time to do business together, particularly in cultures where relationship building must come first. Share information that is interesting and valuable to build trust and rapport. Since language and cultural differences can increase the chance of misunderstandings, always put agreements and deliverables in writing when you reach that stage.
Remember, it all starts with effective networking. Hone your relationship-building skills and be bold !
Author: Susan Baka is one of the founders of the first Canadian chapter of OWIT – in Toronto. She currently serves as VP-International for the chapter and is also Co-VP, Chapter Development for OWIT International. Susan’s company, Bay Communications & Marketing Inc., provides trade facilitation services for businesses seeking to access the Canadian market.