REDI Cincinnati is always searching for new businesses and growth opportunities. As our CEO Johnna Reeder often says, to truly be competitive, we need to think about how the Cincinnati region fits into the global economy.
As part of this charge, Andrea Enders, manager of business development and projects, and I traveled to Mumbai and New Delhi to meet with Indian businesses interested in moving to the U.S.
We always learn a great deal when we travel, but these three lessons rose to the top:
1. Open minds open doors
We’re often asked why we work in India when we have a world of countries from which to choose. India is experiencing tremendous growth in domestic business activity and exports during recent years. The country also has one of the fastest growing economies in the world – due in part to a quickly expanding workforce.
The Indian businesses we met with were eager to learn about opportunities in the United States, and several of our contacts are ready to pursue North American expansion within the next 12-18 months. By the end of our trip, our contacts were lining up to tour the Cincinnati region this summer.
The more time we spent with Indian companies, the more similarities we saw with the Cincinnati region. Both areas are rich in tradition while actively pursuing innovation. Every person we met, on the street or in a meeting, was so generous with their time and willingness to collaborate – not unlike to the way that the business community is described in our region. The ability to offer these companies a place to grow while feeling at home is a unique selling point.
Lesson: Don’t discount emerging markets - exploring outside of the United States can uncover new, viable opportunities for your region.
2. Plan, plan, plan ahead
Building interest in what you’re selling takes time – and needs to begin long before you book your flight. Years of research and repeat visits helped REDI Cincinnati identify companies in our targeted industry clusters that may be ready for a U.S. expansion.
While we were anxious to spend as much time as possible with each of our prospective companies, our consultants at Maeflower Consulting advised us to allow at least 90 minutes between meetings. By only looking at a map, that travel time seemed excessive – and our first instinct was to squeeze in a few more meetings. When we arrived, we realized that extra time was vital given the extreme amount of traffic we experienced. This extra time ensured we gave each company our full attention and arrived on time for our next meeting.
Lesson: Thoughtful pre-planning will make all the difference.
3. Bring a credible convener and trusted advisor
Maeflower Consulting was invaluable as we planned for the trip. In addition, Andrea and I had the privilege of working with Joe Dehner, chairman of International Services Group at Frost Brown Todd, and Neil Hensley, economic development director for the City of Blue Ash, who have both traveled extensively in India.
Joe understands the legal requirements for Indian companies establishing a U.S. presence. As an economic developer representing one of our region’s cities, Neil brought a necessary perspective to the conversations.
Our partners’ hard work built strong relationships with industry influencers, companies and individuals. As a result, REDI Cincinnati and the Cincinnati region are credible resources. We could get straight down to doing what we do best – helping these businesses locate offices in our region.
Lesson: When exploring opportunities in an unfamiliar region, work with people and organizations with established relationships and a successful track record there.
Did we miss your best tips for working with international companies? Share them with me at JLee@REDICincinnati.com or give me a call at (513) 579-3172.