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  Félix Peña

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  Foreign Trade Supplement of 'La Nación' newspaper | June 2013
The Role of 'Sherpa' in an SME Projected to the World

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.

Félix Peña es Director del Instituto de Comercio Internacional de la Fundación ICBC; Director de la Maestría en Relaciones Comerciales Internacionales de la Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero (UNTREF); Miembro del Comité Ejecutivo del Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI). Miembro del Brains Trust del Evian Group. Ampliar trayectoria. |

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