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International Business Advice – Top 3 Mistakes in International Negotiations

Filed under: Global Business,Strategic Planning — April 5, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

This one minute international business video discusses the top three mistakes companies make when they do global business.

Other faulty assumptions include:

Imported goods are often better.

Evidence of this is that Americans drink French water, drive European cars, wear Italian suits and buy Swiss watches. However, Japanese consumers may be concerned with how Japanese a product is. European firms may wonder about the factories that foreigners will cause to shut down. China makes its own computers and DVD players to stimulate the Chinese industry.

Money is the ultimate reward.

Many foreign business people are motivated by status, power and social responsibility. In Poland, it’s more prestigious to be a large employer than to be wealthy. The factory boss won’t fire his neighbors to make a few extra dollars.

The No. 1 assumption: “It worked in our market. It should work in theirs.”

It would be easy to write an entire column on this assumption.

We sell products in colors that are taboo.

We don’t recognize that there may be seven- or even 15-step distribution chains in some markets.

We have firms building to the wrong specifications. For example, we try to sell big refrigerators in countries that use small ones, or attempt to sell autos with steering wheels on the incorrect side. We market milkshakes with no milk in them, labor-saving devices where countries want to keep employment high and sports drinks in countries where there isn’t enough food to eat.

So, does your business model make sense for doing business overseas?

3D Printing News and 3D Printing Websites

Filed under: 3d printing — March 18, 2014 @ 9:43 pm

The latest 3D Printing Podcast features Brad Feld at Foundry Group speaking about his thoughts in 3D Printing.

The latest 3D Printing Videos can be found at the 3D Printing Channel, the top source for 3D Printing News and Videos.

The latest on 3D Printing Financing can be found at 3D Printing Ventures, which is the top site for matching funding partners with 3D Printing Firms

The latest news on the 3D Printing Industry can be found at the Association of 3D Printing, which is the 3D Printing Industry’s trade organization.

International Business Articles – How to You Crowdsource Overseas in Global Business?

Filed under: Global Business — March 4, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

So many of of the articles about off-shoring involve call centers and software development and are really only relevant to large firms with travel budgets, staff and money to spend so that they can investigate and vet out their partners.

But what about small businesses who need a logo, a PowerPoint presentation, a video, a website or a spreadsheet prepared? Can the company with fewer than 30 employees really afford to get on a plane and develop a relationship with a Philippine web designer? Can we fly in a Ukrainian graphic designer to meet us when the whole purpose of off-shoring was to save money in the first place?

For many firms, there will be greater and greater needs for one-off projects. This is much different than a large outsourced relationship with software developers, for example, that can last years and have dedicated personnel involved. And the busy CEO is trying to save time as well as money.

This where crowdsourcing comes in. Crowdsourcing is offering a job or project to a large group of people and companies — thereby getting several vendors, several bids and several options for prices and features. Crowdsourcing usually occurs via the internet, often at crowdsourcing websites. As overseas crowdsourcing sites arise, more and more American company owners will be dealing with labor they haven’t met and vendors who may not ever speak to them on the telephone.

Crowdsourcing can be done in an off-shore manner; that is to say that one can list a project on a crowdsourcing website and get bids from people overseas a well as locally. Sometimes dozens of foreign nationals can bid on a project.

If a firm wanted to crowdsource a project to set up a blog, for example, they might want to go to the myriad of websites that facilitate this practice. Rather than recommend a specific site, I’ll just direct readers to Google what they want.

Our local CEO may be crowdsourcing a design of her blog because she lacks the time to do it herself, or the the in-house knowledge to build a blog. She may feel crowdsourcing will save her money. She also may be looking to crowdsourcing to get free ideas about what her blog should look like, how it should function, or features it should have.
One myth of crowdsourcing is that it saves time. There is truth to this: a firm puts up one job requirement and many vendors come forward. But the actual management of the vendors may be more time consuming. The man who built one of my websites ( spent an hour interviewing me to understand my business and my biases. Afterwards he required no management at all. Because of our frank conversation (the kind that is direct and really, only two Americans can have with one another) he needed no guidance, no “push” no motivators and no threats. We had no language barriers and no cross-cultural difficulties. His electricity never lost power (a common problem in the third world). I paid him with check drawn on a U.S. bank. There were no exchange rates or currency issues to deal with. When the website needed tweaking we were able to fix it with a simple, local phone call.
When crowdsourcing takes place, the lowest bidders are usually from abroad. This creates difficulties in the areas mentioned above. When a Malaysian built one of my other websites, I re-entered the world of global business.

One thing I learned from the Malaysian experience is that I could not ask direct questions and expect direct answers. The indirectness is something Americans have to prepare for.
The language barrier was only daunting in the case of oral communication. The Malaysian could read and write English. He learned English by reading and writing, not speaking. Contrast that with things like language tapes in the United States, which focus on hearing and speaking as a way to learn a foreign language.

Asking this designer to create concepts with no direction from me was confusing as well. In the United States, we expect designers to create a concept from nothing. The man I was dealing with preferred to augment existing designs that were on the web and then modify them to my liking. At the time, international payment procedures were already perfected. Beyond using services like PayPal, many of the crowdsourcing sites would actually hold my money in escrow, only to be released upon my satisfaction. I could use a credit card to enter my deposit. No issue there.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the crowdsourcing experience was the need to explain my wishes, explain those requirements again and then explain what I had already explained. This was all in writing. It was tiring because of the need to keep writing long, detailed paragraphs which an American designer would find superfluous.
As with any skill, the ability to draw on crowdsourced labor takes practice, patience and insight.

International Business Advice – 5 Ways to Evaluate an International Trading Company

Filed under: Global Business — February 21, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

Businesses worldwide often hire intermediaries called “trading
companies” to import or export products for them.
Trading companies are paid with a success fee (usually a
commission, sometimes a flat fee). Businesses hire them mainly
because they have customer access in other countries.

In our example, let’s refer to a Malaysian trading company, which
helps American firms purchase toys from factories in Malaysia. Why
would you hire this company? Because a trading company can simplify
the process, saving the buyer time and money.

So beyond making the usual obvious reference and legal background
checks, how else should you evaluate a trading company? These 10
tips will help buyers decide if they’re choosing the right trading

- Are you being educated about the process involved?

Importing products across borders can present many difficulties,
including quality control of products ordered, timing of
deliveries, insurance, product specifications and claims. When
importers tell you to simply “leave it to them,” then your
organization isn’t learning. And if it keeps you in the dark, you
have less freedom to change or negotiate with suppliers.

- How can you lodge a complaint against your trading company (and
collect if awarded damages)?

Does it have a legal presence in the United States? Does this firm
work strictly out of Malaysia (you probably won’t win a judgment in
Malaysia, and if you did, wouldn’t collect). Are you able to
withhold their success fee until you’re satisfied with your

- Are you able to meet and develop a relationship with your

The trading company should be facilitating that for you, instead of
the American model of ensuring that the buyer and seller never
meet. You need to be able to understand your ultimate supplier’s
business, and the supplier needs to understand its customer (you).

- Are you getting a full and open disclosure of the toy maker’s

When your trading company guarantees that “everything is possible,”
then usually nothing is. All businesses have constraints, and your
intermediary needs to be brutally honest with you about its
Malaysian factories.

- Who does the trading company work for? You may know who’s paying
it (you), but you may not be aware of the alliances. How many
factories do they represent? When you hear the “the seller pays my
commission” line, remember you’re the one putting all the money
into the deal. You may not be cutting the check to the trader, but
you’re paying them.

- Exactly how does the trading company get compensated?

You have a right to know the amounts, the conditions and timetables
involved in its remuneration. Does it get paid for an introduction,
and then a deal? Do they make more if you buy more? For example,
selling 5,000 stuffed bears requires the same amount of a broker’s
work as 50,000 stuffed bears, yet you’re paying 10 times the
commission if it’s the same percentage. Is there a “customer
satisfaction” payment to be made after several months?

International Business – Can Piracy Be An Effective Market Strategy?

Filed under: Global Business — December 19, 2013 @ 9:50 am

Piracy as a Business Model in International Business

Piracy is an enormous industry. We can’t even really get an accurate picture of how big the counterfeit industry is. Estimates range from the billions of dollars to the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

For example, the US Congressional International Anti Piracy Caucus estimates that Piracy costs the US economy $25 billion annually, and that 375,000 jobs are lost each year in the USA because of piracy. The Internet is blamed for roughly half of it.

On that note, the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) estimates that music piracy alone costs the US economy $12.5 billion annually and $2 billion in lost wages to the American workers. These figures are just in the USA. Overseas they become more and more staggering.

Pirating (stealing for one’s own use) shouldn’t be confused with counterfeiting, which is basically manufacturing something for resale without paying any royalties or recognizing the true owner of the brand or patent.

The trends are simple. Piracy and counterfeit manufacturing is growing, popular and unstoppable.

For years many American companies have blamed Asian factories for product knock-offs. There is some truth to this. We can look at laws which don’t punish product counterfeiters and we can look at low cost labor and illegal (and unsafe) as factories as factors. Once you start to add come cultural norms, it’s easy to see that many Asian cultures aren’t even ashamed of piracy. In China, for example, counterfeits and IP protection are some of the problems companies face in doing business with Chinese.

International Business Videos –

Filed under: Global Business — December 10, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

Here are mistakes to avoid in international Business

3D Printing Trends – 7 Trends in Additive Manufacturing

Filed under: 3d printing — December 7, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

There will be less “big manufactured” goods. Specialty manufacturing will take some of that industry away.

There will be less manufacturing jobs. If audiologists can print on site and on demand, what happens to the people in the hearing aid factory?

Less shipping. Instead of placing the washer in the envelope and sending it, I (or my local hardware store) can print it when I need it.

Companies will keep lower inventory levels. The big, big, big, big MBA term is “supply chain disruption.” OK. That’s a fancy-schmancy way of saying “I don’t have to stock the washers for a 1956 Porsche.”

Rapid prototyping. This term was used before. However, with the technology being more affordable, it means rapid sample orders as well. Firms can still place the order for 1 million washers to be produced in China. But I can get 1,000 washers to my biggest customer right away.

We will have parts available for older products. Now that car buff with the 1956 Porsche can scan the washer he already has and print whatever he needs.

Governments will collect less tax revenue. If we take that washer and import it from, say, Germany, it has to clear US customs and may have a tax placed on it. If I can get the blueprint online and print it in Ohio, are there any taxes?

With the 3D Printing industry getting more and more prevalent, the trends will continue…

3D Printing Legal Wars – How Does 3D Printing Technology Effect the Law

Filed under: 3d printing — November 25, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

The 3-D printing “will do for physical objects what MP3 files did for music,” wrote Deven R. Desai, associate professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and Gerard N. Magliocca, professor at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law at Indiana University.

But just as people copy music files, it seems probable that they will do the same with objects — a tool, say, or a piece of furniture that may be covered by a patent. All patents are available to the public, and it would be possible for a knowledgeable person to pore over a patent file and create software that can reproduce the invention described, Professor Desai said. Also, 3-D scanners can scan some objects and translate them into computer models, to be modified or printed.

So what is a patent owner seeking to stop an infringement to do, given that tracking down people in their homes would be extremely difficult?

One option would be to go after the makers of the printing hardware, but that would be a misguided approach centered on a general-purpose technology with many legal uses, Professor Desai said. Patent holders could also sue the websites that host the software that enables the printers to manufacture the objects, but this, too, could stymie perfectly legal inventions and end up putting a stranglehold on innovation, he said.

Just as record companies were unable to stop music file-sharing, manufacturers will not be able to prevent the proliferation of 3-D printing, he said. While violation of patents is a concern, and there may be ways to sue some individual lawbreakers, the best way to handle this threat, he said, may well be to embrace the new technology and the new markets it opens.

People who use unauthorized music-sharing sites know that the files they download may be poor in quality or corrupt, or even contain viruses; that’s why they are willing to pay for their music on sites like iTunes. Similarly, manufacturers can set themselves up as authorized dealers for 3-D software and material, Professor Desai said, so that “consumers would know they were getting a trusted product.” But we don’t know exactly what the laws will bring and what new 3D Printing Lobbying Efforts will arise

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