I attended Your Future in Global Markets – 2017 International Business Conference in October at the beautiful Hilton Lac-Leamy, in Canada’s National Capital Region. When it came to preparing for the future of international business, this event definitely delivered!
The conference covered current and future challenges for trade, the complexities of global business, industry trends, and future impacts of international business on operational functions within organizations.
The lineup of speakers included a mix of world-renowned subject matter experts, small and large business leaders, and certified international trade professionals. The topics discussed assisted with my professional development goals to learn about new tools, emerging trends and best practices. The panel format of several sessions allowed for opposing views to be expressed and a rich conversation to develop, which was also dynamic – just like the field of international trade.
For me, the biggest take-away was the advice and sharing from those who had been there, done that, and shared their international trade experiences. The highlight was the keynote address by OMX Founder and Dragon on Next Gen Den, Nicole Verkindt, who talked about her first foray into the world of international trade and some of the complexities she had to overcome.
I thoroughly enjoyed the anecdotes and candid recounting of knowledge gaps and lessons learned. After all, there are always lessons to be learned.
My favourite anecdote was that of a young Ms. Verkindt arriving in the Dominican Republic, with little knowledge of local business practices and wondering why the goods that her company had frantically produced in the country were not leaving the dock. It was only after a private meeting with the Minister of Customs for the Dominican Republic that the shipment left the dock. On an interesting side note, I understand that this anecdote became material for the keynote presentation the following day “A View from both sides: Why corruption happens and real strategies to protect your people and business”.
The conference reassured me that the advice I share in both private industry and as a FITTskills instructor is on point. One central conviction that particularly stood out for me is that international trade research, including a thorough understanding of the risks involved and the preparation of a plan to mitigate those risks, is a fundamental component of a successful international business strategy.
Preparing for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow
In addition to the key messaging, here are the top three resounding themes that recurred throughout the conference:
1. We must embrace the digital economy
If we don’t embrace the digital economy, we will be left behind. We must learn about disruptive innovations in international trade and adopt new ideas or trends early.
When we talk about digital marketing, for example, we are not simply referring to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We are referring to fully leveraging the power of the IoT and big data to provide an exceptional customer experience and enhance inbound marketing efforts.
We’re talking using machine learning algorithms to make sense of overwhelming amounts of data and deliver customized content in order to create a better customer experience, whether your customer is in your local market or around the globe.
Assembling your A-team of talented professionals in a wide variety of areas may make this early adoption easier.
2. A focused approach is paramount for SMEs
I had a colleague that liked to use this analogy: small business tackling global market expansion is akin to boiling an ocean in contrast to boiling a few pots.
Rather than trying to take on every possibility at once, you need to do your research, learn what you need to know, narrow down your markets and focus on one or two target markets at a time.
3. The future looks bright in Canada and elsewhere
Nicole Verkindt mentioned “It’s Canada’s time!”
Peter Hall, EDC Vice President and Chief Economist, backed up that sentiment with his concise analysis of global issues for Canadian exporters. In many economic circles, experts believe that the ideal time to expand internationally is now. Throw your lifejacket on (prepare) and jump on that ship before it sails without you.
I was truly proud and inspired to be among such a fine network of international trade professionals. The breadth and wealth of knowledge that was shared both formally and informally was very impressive.
And one more thing was made abundantly clear – in international trade, the future is bright!