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IMPORTANT LESSONS SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS HAVE TO LEARN TO STAY IN BUSINESS

By Dirk Ebener | May 1, 2018

Our company, Global CIF, is approaching its 4th anniversary and it is a very good feeling to still be alive and kicking in this very fast and changing business world. I was super excited when I successfully passed the “365 days in business” hurdle in 2015. There are plenty of stories, and people telling entrepreneurs who pay a lot of money to hear the message, that the “365 days in business” is the first indicator of how your business life will go.

We passed the test and I quietly celebrated with a cupcake and cup of coffee on Day 366.

The next milestone was the “Magic Three-Year Milestone.” This time, comments coming my way were: “Congratulations. You made it this far without turning the lights off and locking the door like so many other small business owners.”

I have news for you! Yes, I am still in business and who cares about what the rest of the business world thinks. The last time I checked, I am the one who is driving my business and will face the consequences if I mess up. Move on people. Focus on your stuff.

I read, watch, and listen to Gary Vaynerchuk. My wife, my daughter, and business friends will tell you that I am way too focused on his messages and comments. Yes, I listen to him a lot and take his comments and advice to my entrepreneurship heart. Read about him and his story and you will understand why I like his message!

In my office there are two photo canvases with quotes from Gary. They are right there in front of me all day long. One says, “WORK — that’s how you get it.” He is 100% right! The second canvas says, “Fear Kills Growth.” Gary is right again.

We are moving towards the 4th anniversary of my company. We continue to grow. I am looking for controlled and focused growth. The entire team is working very hard to make sure that we are keeping our current clients. Our commitment to existing business clients will allow us to continue our growth. You need to take care of the business you have before going for more.

Here are some of the lessons that I have learned. I hope they will help you to stay focused on your vision and business goals:

  1. Vision and commitment. No matter what business you are in or want to start, make sure that you keep your vision and commitment strong.
  2. Know your numbers.You will go out of business if you don’t know your numbers. You hear and see it on Shark Tank all the time. No matter how busy you are, look at your financials.
  3. Team effort. There are only 24 hours in a day and realistically 5 to 6 business days a week. Involve your team! Share your vision and allow them to contribute and buy into your vision.
  4. Outsource your weaknesses. Don’t spend your time on things you don’t like and are not good at. It is a waste of your time and is way too frustrating. Focus on your strengths and move on.
  5. Build a strong network.It is not weakness to ask for help and advice. People will not be able to help you and guide you if you don’t talk about it.
  6. It will be a very lonely road out there. Find a mentor who knows the business you are in. How can a mentor guide you if he never walked the walk? Be selective and take your time to connect with a mentor. A good mentor will hold you accountable and want you to succeed.
  7. Be a Giver. Way too many people want your advice and help and are not willing to give back. Don’t worry about getting something in return. Give anyway!
  8. Stay focused. It is your business. Don’t get distracted by what others are doing or thinking. At the end of the day it is your responsibility to keep the doors open.
  9. Get a manageable CRM system. I made the mistake of choosing a CRM system that was way too complicated for my small business. I have finally found one that works for me and is fun to work with. By the way, I am working with Nutshell.
  10. Ask for feedback. Engage with customers early and often and learn as much as possible in order to ensure you are delivering a great experience that customers value.
  11. Don’t be shy and change when change is needed. Willingness to change is vital in order to save you time and money in the long run.
  12. Social Media is a very effective marketing tool. You don’t’ have to be an expert on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Take some time and study your competitors and see what they are up to. Remember; outsourcing is ok!
  13. Leadership is what your team is looking for. You are the leader and your team is expecting you to lead. Greet everybody in the morning, interact during the day, limit the time of a meeting to the very minimum, and send them off with a smile at the end of the day.
  14. Take some “Me Time.” It is important to stay healthy and focused. Turn off the switch every now and then and enjoy your life. It is your day and time. Work on your life balance.
  15. Have fun! Have fun and enjoy the opportunity of starting a business. Good luck!

These are just some of the many lessons I have learned. Share yours with other entrepreneurs and business owners. Remember, be a Giver!

Dirk Ebener

 

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INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TRAVELERS NEED TO STEP OUT OF THEIR COMFORT ZONE WHEN TRAVELING OVERSEAS

Entrepreneurs who are spending a lot of time exploring and creating a vision for domestic markets might be overlooking or shying away from important opportunities in the global marketplace. This might be due to worries about how to interact with people in unfamiliar cultures and business environments.

Successful business leaders, when they step out of their comfort zone, are learning important lessons from international travel. It teaches them how to effectively communicate and do business with entrepreneurs and executives in other countries. They learn to listen carefully and ask questions to make sure that they fully understand the message. As a result, they start to develop an important sensitivity when communicating with others, which makes it easier to dive into the local culture and customs.

Stepping into an often unknown culture, entrepreneurs begin learning some important lessons, including how to:

  • Adapt to different business hours, which are definitely not the typical 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.;
  • Cope with offices in buildings without air conditioning;
  • Get used to different time zones;
  • Overcome jet lag; and
  • Listen to and speak a different language 24/7.

All of a sudden, you have to adapt to an unknown and often uncomfortable environment. You will immediately understand that it is important to be flexible and learn to improvise to make it through the day.

Communication is king! The need to understand and present the right body language is essential when meeting and negotiating with potential and existing customers. You need to overcome the language barrier and learn very quickly that making the right first and second impressions are as important as a spoken or written word. It will be important to find creative ways to overcome these challenges.

Time management and cultural awareness are important! You have to adjust your travel habits depending on the country you travel to and its culture. In some parts of the world, it is more acceptable to be late for a meeting. So, don’t get upset when your future business partner shows up late and does not even mention it.

Expect to participate in late night dinners and social events frequently during the week. Closing business deals at 1:00 AM has happened to me more than once. In Asia, it is perfectly acceptable to meet for breakfast at 8:00 am following a late night of eating spicy foods and several hours of karaoke.

There are a lot of international business opportunities out there. You will be successful if you keep an open mind and are willing to make mistakes, correct them, and have the patience to step outside the box.

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IMPORTANT INTERCULTURAL TIPS FOR THE GLOBAL MARKETPLACE

International markets offer plenty of opportunities to expand and positioning your products and services in a global marketplace. It is very important that your company is providing your sales and marketing team with the right tools to do business in these markets. Coaching your teams will help them to be business and culturally sensitive, and often avoiding a serious faux pas that will end that hard earned business relationship right then and there.

Here are some tips you should communicate and implement when looking at new market. By the way, these intercultural tips and comments definitely apply to the domestic markets as well. 

  • Make sure that you are serious about your commitment and presenting yourself accordingly. The business world will not appreciate your lack of being serious.
  • The best way to gain and win respect is through your accomplishments and actual results. In many cultures, the title is the initial door opener, and after you are “in” you need to show what you are all about.
  • It is critical that you are on time for meetings. If you are running late, you need to call and provide timely updates about your time of arrival. About every 15 minutes is adequate.
  • Business values and procedures in your country are not necessarily the same in the country of your international business contact. Educate yourself about their country specific business values prior to meeting.
  • You are invited to a business function or dinner. Now what? How do you handle the menu and when do you order? When it gets to when to place your order, just wait until you see what your hosts has ordered. Then stay one price level below their meal. Don’t order the steak when they go for the salad.
  • Depending on the country you will do business in, it is always wise to stay away from drinking alcohol. When your host or business partner order drinks, it is ok to order one too. Stay with one drink for the night. You might be in situation where they are testing your social behaviors. Stay under the radar.
  • Business cards and correct networking skills will start a lot of valuable conversations. Have plenty of business cards with you. It will be helpful to understand the “business card” customs of the country.
  • By the way; a business card has two sides. You should use the back of the business card as well.
  • In many countries it is not acceptable for you to be on a “first name” basis with clients. You need to understand the appropriate approach. It is always wise to be very respectful and take a careful approach. Learning about the corporate hierarchy is critical.
  • In many cultures it is important to pay a lot of attention to the title of your counterparts and their management. Pay close attention to their internal interaction. This will help you to understand their corporate structure and who is who.
  • When you meet with clients from around the world, there will be different ways of learning about each other. Do not be surprised or offended when the questions seem to be rather personal.
  • Make sure that you ask about the dress code for meetings and business events. There are cultural differences you need to be aware of and take into consideration. It is always better to overdress.

There are plenty of resources available for your company to ensure that your team and management is prepared for the step in the global marketplace.

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TRADE SHOWS CONTINUE TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT MARKETING AND SALES PLATFORM


Participating in a trade show as an exhibitor or buyer is a very effective way to connect and network with a very focused and prepared audience.

The decision to become an exhibitor requires more than just filling out an application and sending a check to the organizers for the booth space. Budgeting about $5,000 for a standard 10×10 booth is not all there is. Your participation in a trade show will create expectations of buyers to see you there year after year. If you decide to skip a year or stay away for good, this might lead buyers to believe that you no longer care about the market or are out of business. So, please make sure that you keep these thoughts in mind.

There are many advantages to participate in a trade show. This is your opportunity to create high visibility for your company and products. Utilizing social media and inviting buyers to your booth for networking and product presentations, are just some of the ways to create some pre-show excitement.

Here are some statistics that we have collected at trade shows we manage:

  • 82% of buyers have purchasing authority
  • 89% of attendees are looking for new products
  • 65% or exhibitors believe that face-to-face meetings with buyers create leads and new business opportunities
  • Buyers spend 2.2 days and 9.5 hours on the show floor
  • 76% of the attendees will definitely or most likely return for the next event

At the end of the day it is critical that your entire organization is vested in the participation in a trade show. Trade shows are a fantastic way of creating new business!

 

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TRADE SHOWS OFFER UNLIMITED NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES TO CONNECT


Attendees from around the world attend trade shows to source products, placing orders, and expanding their network. It is important for you to understand the differences in domestic and international networking techniques and etiquette. Your goal is to get to know people, discuss their business interest and vision, and become the to-go-to person and industry expert. Provide industry referrals and introductions on platforms like LinkedIn. It is also important to understand who will attend this event. This allows you to determine if this trade show is the correct business platform for your company. Interested in learning more about successful trade shows concepts? Connect with us at info@globalcif.com to schedule a call.

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TRADE SHOW AND BUSINESS TIPS FOR GERMANY


More and more companies decide to participate in overseas trade shows. It is very important that you and your team understand business practices in these overseas markets. I have selected Germany for this blog. I hope you will find some new and interesting information in my blog.

  • Germany hosts many of the world’s largest and leading trade shows. These events are in cities like Frankfurt, Hannover, Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne, Nürnberg, and Düsseldorf. Some of the second-tier locations are starting to impact the trade show market. These cities include Leipzig, Hamburg, and Essen.
  • Germany is recognized as the No. 1 location for trade shows. The reason for being in the No. 1 spot is because of the state of the art facilities, innovation presented to exhibitors and buyers, and the global reach.
  • The leading trade show facilities in Germany are hosting about 150 global trade shows, welcoming close to 170,000 exhibitors and approx. 10 million international buyers. Almost 20% of the exhibitors and buyers come from countries outside Europe.
  • There are twenty-two major trade show facilities in Germany with over 29 million square feet of exhibit space. Four of the world’s leading trade show organizers are in Germany.
  • Trade shows are considered one of the most important B2B platforms in Germany. Exhibitor and buyers spend almost $13 billion every year at trade shows, and the economic impact of the trade show industry is estimated at about $25 billion per year.
  • The U.S. Commercial Service assists companies interested in participating in trade shows in Germany. You can find more information at www.export.gov.

Here are some things you should pay attention to when you are participating in a German trade show:

  • Business cards are not exchanged as frequently as in the USA. When exchanging business cards in a meeting it is almost like “giving access” to the personal network and contacts. Therefore, you need to treat business cards as confidential information.
  • Introductions are much more formal. Most German trade shows do not issue name badges. Do not rush to the person who stops at your booth. Wait until the buyer is showing interest in your company and products. Do not address the individual by his/her first name until he/she offers you this option. Germans are very formal when it comes to addressing someone by their first name.
  • Business titles are very important in many countries. It is important that you address the individual with his/her academic title, and the Herr or Frau (Mr. or Mrs.) when you are in conversation with them. Focus on good eye contact with your potential client.
  • Business etiquette at dinners is important. Here are some quick tips to make sure you are not creating a bad first impression at a dinner function. You need to wait with taking a sip or a bite until the host starts. Always use a fork and knife when eating. That also goes for fries and pizza. It is also important to have eye contact before and after raising your glass for a toast. One last, but important tip, for the coffee lovers out there. The wonderful beverage is served after the meal and way into the middle of the night.
  • Dinner etiquette is important. Germans take their time when they meet for lunch or dinner. Rushing through the meal is considered very rude. Your waiter will never, ever, bring you the bill unless you ask for it. If you like to have water with your meal, you should ask for it, and it will be either sparkling or non-sparkling. Alcoholic beverages are served at any time of the day. It is not unusual to see guests having a beer in the morning hours while eating their meal. One thing to keep in mind is that a German beer will take 7 minutes to draft. Be patient!
  • Tipping is also handled differently in Germany. A service charge is already included in the bill. When the service is outstanding, you should leave an additional 10%, and leave it at the table or hand it to your server.
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DIRK EBENER, CEO OF GLOBAL CIF, FEATURED ON VOYAGEATL AS AS ONE OF “ATLANTA’S MOST INSPIRING STORIES”

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dirk Ebener.

Dirk, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started Global CIF in May of 2014, after working in the international trade show and conference management industry since 1995. My first two career stops were with two German based trade show companies. In May of 2014 I launched Global CIF with the vision of providing future clients with four key business components, which I included in the name of my company: Global = working in global markets and with global clients, C = Connected to the international markets, I = Informed about the international trends and business solutions, and F = Focused on the successful concepts and solutions for our clients. Continue reading DIRK EBENER, CEO OF GLOBAL CIF, FEATURED ON VOYAGEATL AS AS ONE OF “ATLANTA’S MOST INSPIRING STORIES”

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BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH EFFECTIVE NETWORKING


Businesses owners, startups, and entrepreneurs are continuously looking for new prospects, positioning their brand, and reaching new customers. Most entrepreneurs, startups, and small business owners are attending industry conferences, seminars, trade shows, and networking events. Finding the right networking platform is critical for their corporate and professional growth.

Effective business networking is not at just about landing the next big sale or connecting with a business contact you have tried to connect with. Successful networking must focus on creating relationships. You need to establish strong relationships, trust, and a positive image within our existing and ever expanding network.

Here are some tips you should keep in mind when you are looking at networking opportunities.

  • Successful networking is about being genuine and authentic. You need to create relationships that are built on trust and finding out how you can help others. Don’t fake it. It will not help you one bit. It will discredit you and your company.
  • Define your goals prior to participating in networking meetings.Without a very clear vision and goals why you are attending these events, you are wasting your time and money. On top of that, you will look unprofessional to the other people in the room. The best way to prevent this from happening is to select familiar industry groups and meetings that will help you to achieve your goals.
  • Connect with industry contacts who have the same interests. Attend events where to meet people who have the same business interests and positive attitude. Prior to attending a meeting, look at the list of participants, reach out the them, and ask them about their experience. It also helps to take a closer look at the meeting organizers.
  • It is great to be the Go-To Person. Successful networkers are “Givers”. They want to support you, knowing that their support will turn into support when they need support in return. Sharing valuable information will put you and your business on the top of the list when they need your expertise.
  • Communicate a clear message about what you do. Networking is all about the less than sixty second opportunity. You need to communicate to others what you do, how you differentiate your business from your competition. Be brief and precise enough to put that message on the back of your business card.
  • Waiting days to follow up is bad for the business. Immediately follow up on meetings and referrals. When people other businesses start providing you with contacts within their network, your action, or the lack thereof, will be a reflection on them. Therefore, follow up with the business contact or referral the very same day and let your contact know that you followed up.
  • It is important to be recognized as a “Giver and not “Taker”. Many networking meetings are an excellent opportunity to share what you are looking for. It is always great to offer your expertise before asking someone to do something for you.
  • Global networking is a complete different topic. When you are attending events, conferences, and trade shows, you must be prepared to shift your attention to cross-cultural awareness. If you are traveling overseas, you should consult with an expert to receive appropriate training.
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IMPORTANT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO DETERMINE YOUR TRADE SHOW STRATEGY


There are thousands of trade shows, industry conferences, and specialty events around the globe. Trade shows are by far the leading marketplace when it comes to introducing products and services to a global business audience. Buyers from all around the world are spending their hard-earned Euros, Dollars, etc to create new business opportunities and making on-site purchasing decisions. It is your responsibility to reach out to these business leads and bring them to your trade show booth.

It is important that your trade show team and management discuss the following questions to ensure a successful trade show strategy.

  • How will you integrate the trade show with your corporate business plan and marketing activities?
  • Why would domestic and international buyers purchase your products and services?
  • How can you create traffic to your booth and what how can social media support pre-show marketing?
  • Do you understand the demographics of the trade show?
  • Have you clearly identified your buyers?
  • How can you identify and connect with various attendee groups?
  • Do you know other exhibitors who might be interested in creating sales opportunities with you?
  • Is your competition participating in trade shows and what is their approach and message?
  • Do you really know your competitors? Is your team aware of their business approach, strengths and weaknesses?
  • How will your team interact with domestic and international buyers who come to your booth? Are they prepared to communicate with them accordingly?
  • Is your team able to adjust to cross-cultural differences?
  • What are the results management is expecting from you and your team as a result of the trade show?
  • Who will be in charge of following up on leads and when will your team follow up?

There are plenty of resources for your company to ensure that your trade show is successful. You can connect with industry associations, trade show organizers, one of the departments of commerce, or trade show consulting companies like Global CIF.

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BUSINESS ACTIVITIES IN ASIA REQUIRE CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF BUSINESS CULTURE AND MARKETS


It is easy to assume that your local business practices can be transferred and implemented overseas. Stop right there and save your money for the airline ticket. To be successful in global markets requires patience, commitment, plenty of business trips, and creating strong business and personal relationships. You should always look for local partners and avoid doing everything yourself. Your Asian business partners work long hours and you should make sure that you are available in the evenings when you are back in your country. Building a large network in different business segments is tempting. To build a strong connection with a small number of contacts might be the better approach. Trust and patience are expected. It is not very likely that you will sign a deal during your first visit. It is very likely that plans change on the fly. To be willing to adapt to change and be prepared for delays in business activities will help you to avoid frustration. Interested in learning more about successful international business activities?