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How to Get Business Overseas

Six years ago, I bought a vacation home in Panama City, Panama. Within a year of buying that home, I was fortunate enough to land a part-time position as a country manager for the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business' Global Consulting Practicum. At GCP, we partner with top-tier foreign universities in Chile, China, Colombia, Israel, Peru and Spain to assist companies who want to enter or expand their presence in the U.S. market.

Finding companies that are interested in marketing and selling products in the world's biggest market isn't that difficult. We have a strong, vibrant economy, and the world admires our business ethics. The U.S. is the easiest place on the planet to do business.

Culturally, Americans only have to meet someone once or twice to determine if their skills and personality are a fit for us. I have gotten business from U.S. clients after one meeting if there is a need and a fit.

Doing business abroad is a totally different matter. Most Americans don't have the patience, because the process I am about to describe is very arduous and time-consuming. There are two phases for obtaining business abroad.

Developing Contacts

I suggest six ways to develop contacts that can lead to potential opportunities:

1. American Chamber of Congress: Every major city in the world has an American Chamber of Commerce. The fees are usually less than $300, and the contacts are great. I belong to the American Chamber in Panama, which has more than 300 members. Members of the staff go out of their way to make introductions, and attending events is a good way to meet people.

I offer to do a one-hour seminar on marketing, raising capital or other subjects I am familiar with. American Chambers like to have foreign speakers because they are an attraction and bring a different point of view than local providers of similar services. The Chambers also offer similar benefits to U.S. Chambers in terms of listing members online and various benefit programs.

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