A past Study Mission participant explains how experiencing a location's culture helped his organization expand globally.
Associations Now asked Abe Eshkenazi, CAE, CEO of APICS: The Association for Operations Management, to share his experience from the 2010 Study Mission to Brazil and Argentina. Eshkenazi says that APICS saw business benefits from experiencing the Latin American culture before its planned expansion.
The 2011 Study Mission, from May 14 through May 22, is to China. The trip includes in-depth visits to Beijing, the seat of the central government, and Shanghai, the capital for international business, with an optional extension to Hong Kong. Eshkenazi says he plans to travel to China in 2011 and offers some advice to those considering next year's trip. For more information on the study mission, visit www.asaecenter.org/studymission.
Associations Now: Why did you decide to go on the 2010 Study Mission to Brazil and Argentina?
Abe Eshkenazi, CAE: Latin America was on our strategic priority expansion in the international market in 2009, and unfortunately because of the economy we had to pull back our investment … When the study mission came out for 2010, it fit our need relative to that particular market. It aligned with our growth strategy in the international market very well.
It provided us not only an opportunity to participate in the study mission, but we also set up a number of individual meetings that we had with potential partners down there as well, so it was a dual purpose for us.
Are there any takeaways from the trip that you've applied to your work?
This was an extremely positive trip for us. It validated one of the thoughts that we had that each region is unique. You just can't take the same products and same services and assume that they are going to be effective or desired in a particular region. While you can read as many books as you can, and you can get as many conference calls on a particular region, you're only getting a very thin slice on that region's culture and what the business opportunities are. To truly understand [the market] you need to see it firsthand. It allowed us an opportunity to develop primary contacts and face-to-face meetings. Face-to-face meetings are extremely important ... That's how you develop trust, and that's how you develop the personal, one-to-one relationships that we require to expand our business in the international marketplace.
I would say that one of the great takeaways was the value that an organization such as ASAE can bring to a trip like this, because they can bring professionals and access to individuals in either government or industry that traditionally you may not be able to get individually. So that was a very pleasant experience coming out of the meeting, the ability to meet with government officials or industry professionals who provided information on the culture, the business, and the pros and cons about how to work within a particular region, and it was extremely valuable for us.
What would you say to someone considering the 2011 Study Mission to China?
First, I think an individual or any organization needs to assess whether that region holds significant or strategic importance for them. There has to be a reason why you're going for this, and it has to be a business reason. As much as I'd like to think it's a great trip to go to China—I'm speaking from an association exec's perspective—that region has to have a strategic importance. You need to identify what it is about that region that is important to you. Is it new members? Is it education? Is it research? What is it about that specific market that is attractive to your association? Then you need to plan accordingly. You need to identify what you want to get out of the study mission before you go on it and then communicate that to ASAE. Then the trip can be customized for your particular needs; it's not a one size fits all. But it's extremely important that the association do some prework before they go on or before they consider it and work with ASAE to identify why and what you want to get out of it.
Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, FACHE, CPA, CAE, is CEO of APICS: The Association for Operations Management. Email: email@example.com
Summer Faust is project editor for ASAE. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org