Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 7th 2016 Contents JANUARY 7 • 2016 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
I live in South Korea, a country with a
highly developed consumer market
that has in recent decades experienced
a rapid growth in exports.
I'd like to start an international export-
ing business, but I have neither a busi-
ness education nor any experience in
international trade (though I do have
some experience in retail trade). I have
a few partners in Korea who have busi-
ness knowledge and are willing to help.
How should I start my business? How
do I look for partners abroad? And how
do I get them to trust me?
Alex Hunt, South Korea
I m always pleased to hear from people
who have big business ambitions. I m
personally a huge fan of exporting. In
fact, I ve teamed up with the British
government on its "Exporting Is
GREAT" initiative, which encourages
startups in the UK to look beyond their own
borders and consider expanding their reach
around the world.
As an entrepreneur with global ambitions,
it s important to have a vision for the future,
no matter what stage your enterprise is in.
When I started out in business, my first mar-
kets were my immediate surroundings: Sham-
ley Green, then London. But I always had my
eye on expanding to other areas.
When I started Student magazine as a teen,
I had my sights set on national distribution
in the UK. When my team launched Virgin
Records, we had international goals. We d get
there first by selling records by bands from
other countries, and then by signing interna-
tional artists. We slowly built our business
until we were ready to take the next step and
expand beyond the UK. Back then, it took a
decade for Virgin Records to become a fully
But, Alex, this doesn t at all mean that it
will take you a decade to transform your own
enterprise into a global business. You have
access to an amazingly powerful tool that we
did not: the Internet.
These days, you can sell almost anything
to anyone anywhere in the world with the
click of a mouse. And once you ve launched
your business and the time comes to trade on
a larger scale, you can easily make contacts
with people on the Web who can help you
grow in other countries.
Let s focus first on the basics of your busi-
ness. I d advise you to think long and hard
about your product and why you want to
export. Korean exports are growing rapidly,
as you noted, but I take it that you ll be focusing
on a particular industry. How are exports in
that sector doing?
Additionally, it s important to be honest
with yourself about the impacts---both negative
and positive---that exporting can have on your
business. For example, if your business really
takes off in another country, will you be pre-
pared to cope with the extra demand?
Market research is crucial. You ve likely done
some research as part of your experiments in
retail trade, so consider what that experience
is telling you. When you launch your new
business, you ll need to know where to focus
your efforts. Ask yourself: where are the most
profitable orders coming from? What volume
of goods are customers buying, and why are
they buying from you?
Virgin didn t become an international player
by simply throwing our products and services
into new countries and seeing what happens
next. Well, admittedly, there was a bit of that,
but while enthusiasm is important, you ve got
to have a strategy.
Keep in mind that when it comes to logistics,
each country has its own specific rules and
regulations regarding exports, and they can
be very complex.
Pick one country where your research has
indicated that there is a demand for your prod-
ucts. Then learn about what sorts of fees you ll
have to pay and the rules you ll have to adhere
to. Use that country as a starting point for
Now, as far as gaining the trust of your
international partners, the best thing you can
do is demonstrate to them that you have a
sound strategy, that you re running a successful
business and that you re ready to expand into
their territories. It s also worth looking at the
possibly of partnering with export agents.
Agents work on a commission, but they ll
make your job easier and protect you from
getting ripped off.
Finally, don t underestimate the impact of
face-to-face meetings. When you re trying to
seal an export deal over the phone, consider
traveling to meet your potential partners in
person. The connections you make could justify
the cost of travel, and a visit could produce
even more deals. What s more, you ll have a
blast traveling, and you may just find the
inspiration for your next big idea.
Global markets are incredibly diverse, and
not everyone in every country is going to love
what you do. Sometimes that s beyond your
control. But they re still worth a shot. Take
Virgin Cola, for example, we just couldn t
compete with existing global cola brands,
though you might be surprised to know that
Virgin Cola is still sold in countries like the
Philippines, Malta and Japan.
You ll never know whether you have a suc-
cessful global brand on your hands unless you
take those first few steps!
(Richard Branson is the founder of the
Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin
Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and
Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at
can follow him on Twitter at
twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more
about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)
(Questions from readers will be answered
in future columns. Please send them to
RichardBranson@nytimes.com. Please include
your name, country, email address and the
name of the Web site or publication where
you read the column.)
When it's time to go global
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