Be The Zen – Listening & Learning
Growing your business in new international markets requires you ‘Be The Zen’. That is, to adapt while maintaining your sense of authenticity. This involves a lot of listening, and a willingness to engage in the face of criticism.
Below are insights from Eurolink Managing Director, Joe Mannion:
I was recently reminded of the relevance of Zen to international business after I recalled an entertaining discussion with a French business colleague, Jean-Marc. He and I had built an excellent working and personal relationship, and we both had very similar philosophies on how to succeed in business. As anyone who has succeeded in business in France will know, a philosophical approach is critical to winning a share of both mind and wallet there…
Having started in sales at the early age of fourteen (I was a precocious little guy), and after later learning several languages and attaining a business degree, I could not wait to get out into the international business world. However, whether it has involved developing business globally for consumer products (from food & drink to leisure products) or for industrial offerings (such as electronics, chemicals, engineered metals, plastics and composites, healthcare and more), I have always believed that a strong sense of integrity is the key to success.
To develop long-lasting and profitable business beyond your home or domestic market, you must build up trust. This trust starts with you, as an individual, and as a businessperson. This means putting in the hard yards and establishing new business contacts and relationships. You will need to get outside of your comfort zone and to learn and master new business skills centred around communication.
The first question that I ask any business owner or manager that I work with is “tell me how you became successful in your domestic market?” I then ask what it took to win and retain business with them up til now, and how they had to adapt and add to their offering in order to grow and compete. Ultimately, I try to understand how they have established trust in their business among its existing customer base.
Now, after answering these questions, all we need to do is figure out how to replicate this as quickly as possible in markets and on an international basis!
There can be a lot of ‘noise’ when you try to break into new markets abroad, and so you must consider the responses you get when you first present to potential customers in new countries. In Germany, for example, the feedback you receive can be direct and harsh, but usually very insightful and truthful. In France, there can be lengthy discussions, or even serious disagreement and criticism, but this is a good sign as it means the prospect is engaging with your business and is interested.
Stand up to the initial challenges. Listen and learn. Adapt your message, and even your offering, and you will maximise your international success.
In conclusion, in growing your business in new international markets and new sectors, we must listen carefully, absorbing criticism and using this information to do better business. Or as my good friend Jean-Marc says, you must Be The Zen.