An SME that seeks to project to the world its ability to produce goods
and provide services that aspire to be competitive with those of other
sources needs a good specialist in foreign trade operations. This is a
person who, either within the company or as a service provider, facilitates
the management of all the stages of the trading chain that involves, among
other things, leaving and entering different customs territories. This
includes among other relevant aspects, customs procedures, adjusting to
different regulatory frameworks, transportation and logistics services,
financing and, of course, the corresponding charges.
But increasingly a company, either small or medium, that aims to have
a sustained presence in other markets, for example with products that
are recognized for their quality and, given the case, for their design
(processed foods, clothing, furniture, toys, among others) or valuable
services (for agricultural production, health or entertainment, among
others) will need three kinds of services which, moreover, can be complementary.
These services can be provided by specialists from within the company
or hired externally.
The first service we are referring to is the 'decoding' of the conditions
to successfully operate in other markets, especially those belonging to
different regions and cultures. This 'decoder' is someone that can help
understand the complexity, for example, of the conditions of economic
competition in a market different from the company's own. As a protagonist
of 'competitive intelligence' he is able to grasp the deep forces that
operate in certain markets, especially those more recently incorporated
-or, particularly, reincorporated- to global economic competition and
with a greater density of potential urban consumers of middle class income.
These are deep forces that transcend the economic, seeping into the political,
social and cultural dimensions of a country or region. This involves much
more than the typical -and necessary - market research.
On the other hand, there is the role of what would be the functional
equivalent of a 'general practitioner' in the area of human health. It
is someone who can understand the set of factors that influence the relative
competitiveness of a company and its products or services in a particular
country or region of the world and, if necessary, refer the client -the
corresponding SME- to specialists in specific issues that impact the chances
of competing successfully, such as consumer tastes and preferences and
any other factors that determine the fate of a business, especially if
it aims to be sustainable in time.
And finally there is the role of 'Sherpa'. This is someone who is knowledgeable
and trusted and can guide a company to successfully reach the sought objective,
for example the supermarket aisles of the cities of the major emerging
economies and, in particular, the re-emerging ones, or the places for
the entertainment of the young, eager for new and original things. It
is someone who knows how to get there, because he knows the culture and
the preferences and idiosyncrasies of those who are valuable targets for
an SME that sets out to conquer the world markets with its goods or services.
These may be people who have worked, studied or lived in other countries,
or members of the multiple Argentine diasporas living abroad, or backpackers
who have developed their perception and perhaps, even more, such as English
travelers of centuries ago, the instinct or the art of observing and identifying
opportunities that are often not seen by the untrained eye.
A 'Sherpa' in foreign trade can play an essential role, very much like
a Nepalese guide for anyone who seeks to climb the Himalayas. An SME needs
it, though it may not be aware of it. And perhaps in a country such as
Argentina with multiple diasporas, with thousands of travelers, students
and backpackers who travel the world, the 'Sherpa' are at our fingertips.
If you know how to look for them, you will find them.