What is more important in global trade, attitude or skills?


Skills or atttitude?

Skills or atttitude?

I recently asked three of our international business veterans, what they thought was more important for success in international trade. Was it attitude or skills?

While they had overlapping opinions on the subject, I have extracted three qualities that were emphasized by our experts.

1. Cross cultural adaptability

With over 30 years of experience in international trade, Doug Taylor has seen a lot of beginners in global trade overestimating the importance of technical skills.

   If you are thinking of pursuing a career in international business it won’t matter much what your technical or business skills are if you cannot work comfortably and professionally in other cultures. ~ Doug Taylor

“I think there are five major themes that separate those who are successful from those who aren’t;

  • First is the ability to think widely and understand that your approach to solving issues is not the only one.
  • Secondly all business is about win-win, and you need to understand that the pie must be shared.
  • Third you must be able to adapt and listen to the cultural nuances in foreign markets.
  • Fourth, you must understand that business is not about contracts but about trust and developing worthwhile business relationships.
  • Finally, good businesses last over time. It is never about quarterly results, but developing a business relationship over the long term.”
Doug TaylorDoug Taylor is a results driven, creative and lateral thinker with a wealth of international business experience.  He is the Managing Director of Pacific Business Intelligence Ltd. (PBI). www.pacificintel.com.
PBI provides professional consulting services in the core areas of international business development, strategic market planning, market research, international marketing and corporate guidance. PBI has undertaken assignments in over thirty countries in Europe, Asia, North America, the Middle East and the Caribbean for private industry, governments and international organizations. Connect with Doug on twitter: [followbutton username=’globethoughts’ count=’true’ lang=’en’ theme=’light’]


2. Willingness to work long hours

It should come as no surprise that international trade is conducted over different time zones. This usually means long hours, even if you have over 25 years of international business success like Diane Girard. I caught up with Diane last month and she drove home the same pertinent point.

“In June, I conducted three webinars from 11p.m. to 1a.m. for my clients in Indonesia who are eleven hours ahead of me. Tonight, I am booking six flights for a trip in two weeks – Toronto-Barbados-St.Lucia-Grenada-St.Vincent-Barbados-Toronto.  That’s the easy part. The prep and follow-up for each of these country visits is mind-boggling.
In addition to this trade mission I will be on, I am also working on two proposals and trying to manage a bit of vacation time with my family. My formula for international business success is quite simple: know what you need to do and get it done!”

Whether you are an international business student or a veteran, FITT has a free online tool that can be quite helpful in assessing your aptitude and/or attitude. Integrative Trade Competency Diagnostic Tool ~ Diane Girard

Diane Girard, CITPDiane Girard (CITP), has been involved in projects in over 50 countries.  Her areas of specialty include trade in business and professional services, trade-related capacity-building of trade promotion organizations, sector associations, business support organizations and SMEs.
Services include strategic planning, market research and development, business development, sector strategies, curriculum development, training and coaching, project management, outsourcing, marketing and communications, all with a focus on results.


3. Relationships

While already mentioned, this is one point that bears repeating. One should not underestimate the importance of developing enduring relationships.

   When I ask my students what they think (about what is important in global trade), they of course come up with the usual: language skills, patience, fat wallet, knowledge of export laws, etc. ~ Bill Kosar 

Bill has three rules of doing business internationally. It sums up what, he believes, is the most important thing about doing business internationally: relationships.

  1. Do business with friends
  2. If you can’t do business with friends; do business with other friends.
  3. And if you can’t do business with these friends; do business with still other friends.
William Kosar, CITPProf. William Kosar, CITP, is a senior legal advisor, trainer, project manager and institutional development professional.
He has worked throughout the world assisting governments and private sector entities with legal reform, legislative drafting and capacity building and is currently with the USAID-funded Iraqi Financial Development Project as Legal & Regulatory Advisor.

There is a now popular mindset that companies should hire for the attitude and then train for skills. If you consider what our experts have mentioned above, they seem to be agreeing with the attitude ethos in the points they make.

This is not to imply that technical skills aren’t important. Our tips for international trade rookies are clear on that aspect. Practical global trade training like FITTskills is well-suited to address the challenges faced by international trade professionals.

However, like our experts have pointed out, long-term success also requires cultivating qualities that can augment any technical knowledge.

Do you agree? As a beginner or a global trade veteran, what are your thoughts on attitude vs. skills when it comes to success in international trade? Can you provide an example to support your viewpoint?

About the author

Author: Jacob Varghese

Jacob is the VP of Marketing and Technology at the Forum for International Trade Training. Focused on improving the customer experience. A Content chef; words, images, some code and a healthy serving of web analytics.

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