Greg Seminara, Export Solutions

Time for a Change ?

Time is our most precious resource. Export managers fill our days with a regular routine: email, market visits, and planning meetings. Naturally, our attention is diverted by urgent issues or tasks that are easy to complete. The reality is that this approach works and we manage to get the job done. However, we all seek to be heroes, the center of step change growth and the next great idea. This requires us to evaluate how we spend our time. Listed below are a few ideas to accelerate growth.

1. Shift Resources to High Potential Countries
Too many teams spend too much time on mature or small markets, executing repetitive business plans. Middle East teams must focus on Saudi Arabia (28 million people) and avoid camping in Dubai.
Latin American teams should concentrate on Mexico and then Brazil. Don’t worry, Puerto Rico and Panama will be fine. Southeast Asia emphasis should be on Indonesia and the Philippines and leave Singapore for Saturday.

2. Adopt a Major Market
Each executive should select one high potential country as his personal market. The company representative should visit frequently, get engaged in the issues, talk to customers, and spend time in stores. You can still have an area manager handling day to day affairs. Senior management visibility pays dividends.

3. Appoint a Distributor Doctor
Identify one experienced person on your global team to serve as a dedicated extra resource for problem markets or countries where your brand is not reaching potential. This specialist adds focus and signals commitment.

4. Replace One Distributor
Each company has at least one under-performing distributor. We make excuses for status quo based upon past performance. The truth is that consistent under performers impact your ability to achieve your own sales quota.

5. Call each Distributor CEO
Our lives appear as one endless stream of email communication. I am old fashioned. Pick up the phone and call a Distributor CEO or managing director to check in.Ask questions such as:  How is business, overall ? What are organizational priorities ? Here is my business status. This is where we need help.Shall we meet for lunch ?

6. Invite Home Office Staff on A Trip
Life on the road is not easy. Customers are difficult, distributors are not perfect, and export managers are punished by other functions for poor results. Invite the Marketing, Finance, or Manufacturing people on a trip for a dose of reality. Sure, it will be a pain to “drag them along”, but at least they’ll maintain a better appreciation of your challenges.

7. Time for New Ideas
Pick a day, leave the office , your computer and yes even your cell phone behind. Brainstorm new ideas. What would it take to win in Brazil or India ? What would happen if we executed a high spend ( or low spend) test ? What if we sponsored a distributor or consumer contest for best new product idea or sales promotion ?