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Making Babies vs. Babysitting

By: Greg Seminara, Export Solutions

I learned a lot in 2016 through projects completed in 24 countries on five continents. One of the important issues revealed is human resource allocation in the world of export. Our function appears anchored to the title of regional export manager. This export manager is expected to achieve their assigned objectives through a combination of managing existing businesses and expansion into new countries. In many cases, there is one export manager assigned to handle a huge geography like Asia or Latin America. My observation is that most export managers  dedicate the majority of their time "babysitting" existing businesses that deliver their annual sales quota. This shortchanges time available to "making babies", the process of new market development .

Our feature article "The World in 2025 " unveils a snapshot of the world in
8 years. However, the same fundamental ,under staffed new market development structure exists today in most companies. Most exporters jam their annual plans with futuristic projections for dynamic business potential of China,Brazil, or the USA ( European Brands). How can we ever expect to take these businesses to the next level with one person allocated per region, perhaps even located in corporate headquarters, thousands of miles away from the "action" ?
Listed below are Export Solutions ideas for "Making more Babies" in 2017

1. Shift Team from Mature Markets to Developing Markets
Most companies feature sizable sales teams managing , large, mature businesses growing at
5 percent or less. Then, they'll have one person managing Asia's
4 million people and 1 person allocated to Latin America's almost 600 people.
The result is usually tiny niche businesses growing by high percentages, but miniscule in terms of scale. There is  a delicate balance, but in general the shifting of some head count from the base business to international can pay out plus supply a meaningful new career opportunity for your team members.

2. Create New Country Development Role
This business incubation position could focus on  business start-up in a small number of priority countries. The person should have access to corporate functional resources and work closely with the area export managers. I know several companies that use this model with exceptional results.

3. Redefine Export Manager Work Allocation
Split workload to provide more time for Making Babies versus Babysitting.Don't worry, markets  like Puerto Rico,Belgium, UAE,and Singapore will be fine if you spend more time in Colombia,Poland,Saudi Arabia , and Indonesia.

4. David against Goliath won't work in Top 5 Countries
A one person team working with a distributor will not allow you to optimize your business in enormous , complex countries like China, Mexico, or the USA
( Europeans). Gamechanging results can be obtained through a three -five year plan including local production, multi functional teams, regional activities, and serious investments in trade activities and marketing support. Consider acquisition of a local brand in your core category.

5. Boots on the Ground
Brands with regional employees based in foreign countries are gaining more than their fair share of distributor time and focus.  These managers are closer to market conditions and distributor sales teams than export managers based in distant USA or European headquarters. Consider offices in Shanghai,Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Jakarta and Jeddah to make a difference. Other choices include Singapore, Panama, and Dubai. USA managers are typically centrally located in Chicago,Atlanta or Dallas, close to major customers and airports.

We are the "Brand Parents". Making Babies and creating new businesses will provide a solid home base for the future. Time is always required for babysitting and brand development in existing markets. However, need to spend more time on activities to "expand the family".