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Could 3d Printing be better overseas? Part 1
As the whole world is talking about 3-D printing, at the 3-D printing authority I’m starting to believe that the United States will not dominate this reinvented industry.
There are two reasons for this. The first is the litigious nature of the United States market and the second is that ultimately 3-D printing (as far as the designs and drawings) will be a traded product. The initial thought on legal matters is that the United States seems to have more lawyers and lawsuits than the rest of the world combined. This isn’t a good or a bad thing, just a thought that when looking at the USA, the high probability of litigation can offset the notion that this the USA is the “world’s largest market.”
There’s an old lawyers joke: if you buy a can of dog food and your dog eating it gets sick, who do you sue?
The answer? Everybody.
In the case of the dog food the retailer will be sued the distributor will be sued, the manufacturer’s representative, the manufacturer, and possibly even the ad agency that made claims could be sued by the person with a sick dog.
Then of course you’ve got United States government which would regulate the dog food industry in many ways; quality of food, what is said on the label, how is it packaged and are expiration dates really being adhered to?
So let’s take this scenario in the case of 3-D printing.
Imagine if somebody were to print out a washer for a vacuum cleaner (perhaps 3-D printers will not be so affordable and in everybody’s home) at the local hardware store.
The store prints it out and may put this washer in your vacuum cleaner and the vacuum cleaner blows up and hurts somebody.
I know this is ridiculous scenario but it could happen- or the vacuum cleaner simply burns your rug or perhaps catches fire.
Well the customer is not a licensed installer so clearly doesn’t necessarily know what he is doing, so goes the presumption. Should he have had that special washer in the first place?
However, the hardware store may not have printed this correctly then you have to examine where the hardware store got the washer design. Did they print it correctly? Did they use the correct materials? Were the drawings in any way compromised? Was the technician who printed this washer properly trained? Take it a step further and start to look at the source of where the CAD drawing was. Was it purchased or royalties paid? What website was it? Was it the equipment manufacturer’s or was it a third-party selling those? Did the manufacturer put the drawings up correctly? Were there glitches or unforeseen circumstances that they simply did not address? So if there were an accident with this vacuum cleaner it would be a whole slew of people that could be sued. This is nothing new in the USA. People buy insurance for this and large companies retain lawyers. However small business people may not know about this insurance they may not be able to afford it. They may have purchased the wrong policy and if they have to retain legal staff they may choose not to get into the business at all!
The idea of the United States’ legal system is to protect the citizens. But we all know of the many times that system has been abused. Naturally we don’t want defective parts in our electronics. We clearly do not want auto parts and aircraft parts that aren’t genuine. This isn’t a value judgement. It’s really just a business decision for a lot of entrepreneurs and other firms.
At the 3d Printing Authority, we are investigating other countries that want to take advantage of the new technology. And what we are hearing may be frightening to US industry.
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There’s plenty of hype about how you can use social media to build your company.
In the United States, we’re told that if a business has a low marketing budget, it still can put up a Facebook page, for example, and profit from it. That remains to be seen.
But social media has been less effective for U.S. companies trying to sell goods and services overseas. In International Markets, it just may not work
Many U.S. businesses struggle to achieve an acceptable ROI for their domestic social-media efforts. So can they possibly calculate what their posts and blogs are worth overseas? And can all the sites that follow social-media traffic, and report both the positive and negative posts back to their clients, prove to be effective in foreign markets?
Much in social media is about building and maintaining reputations. With no direct sale attached, we can’t calculate the real return in our social-media business plan.
Business overseas is relationship-based. Social-media experts claim that firms can “Facebook” their way into a market. Is this true?
Experience shows that people in many countries use social media — not for creating new relationships, but more for maintaining existing ones.
A Denver salesperson said she has to have a huge presence on LinkedIn. She mentioned that firms will go to LinkedIn to evaluate products and companies extensively. After that research, a firm might contact a salesperson to buy goods or services.
This kind of thing simply doesn’t happen very often in, say, Asia or Europe. The idea that a stranger will find me, hire me and pay me might never occur.
People don’t google “accounting firms” in Ukraine, find one and then start paying them. They may do a Google search for a reputation check, and they may go on to Twitter or Facebook to see who you’re connected with. But the idea of making a new online “friend” and cutting a check doesn’t happen.
Also, in many foreign cultures, CEOs don’t make themselves public figures, as do many U.S. CEOs The cultures are more private. And these executives worry about being embarrassed more so than their U.S. counterparts.
The five main myths in social media abroad are:
Customers turn to peers for help.
Overseas, especially in service-oriented countries in Asia, customers expect that help from the firm itself, not a user group.
Corporate transparency is key.
Most countries don’t have the rights to free speech and the ability (or the desire) to hold their companies and figureheads accountable. And when accountability is essential, it’s often dealt with privately.
Social media is an international language.
For example, if you want Ukrainians to use a social-media platform, it had better look and feel Ukrainian. And it’s important to understand how Ukrainians interact with social media, as they may approach it differently than Americans.
People want to reveal lots of personal information.
Many cultures have stigmas about putting things in writing at all. Fake names, fake email addresses or an anonymous system will do better than one that demands cellphone numbers and birth dates.
A Spanish social-media site will handle the Latino population.
Spaniards from Spain are different than Puerto Ricans from Puerto Rico (even Puerto Ricans from the Bronx), who differ from Mexicans, Argentinians, etc. To take on these populations, a firm needs social-media sites that are geared specifically towards them.
Famed magician Harry Houdini once said, “You’ve got to get your name in the paper every day, whether it’s good or bad. Just make sure they spell your name right.” In other words, bad press is better than no press.
But most foreigners would disagree with this. Remember that when launching your social-media initiative outside the United States.
Businesses study countries and their markets as they ponder which international markets to enter.
They often ask such questions as:
• How big is the market?
• What is our market niche?
• How do we reach our target market?
• What will our brand look like?
• How will we manage our partners and channels?
But also, firms rarely ask the uncomfortable questions that follow.
(1) Security — What problems will we face regarding security of our personnel, belongings, safety of ideas and documents, in addition to the much-sought-after intellectual property security. If we’re negotiating distribution in Bulgaria and we have to worry about street bandits in downtown Sofia, will we be comfortable going there repeatedly?
(2) Money flow — Can we get control our money freely? Can we take our money out of this country?
Are there currency controls that will stop us? Will it be too costly to get your money out of the country or, alternatively, is this country a safe place to leave our money? If we leave our money here, is it insured? Does the interest rate rival that of other markets? If we leave it in the bank, how do we know the bank is sound?
(3) Foreign corrupt practices act — This governs company and executive behavior overseas, specifically related to bribing and facilitation payments.
Does our country find this a high- or low-risk country for bribery?
Once we go overseas, we awaken the U.S. government and they’re watching what we do. How closely will we be scrutinized and how much will it cost to make sure we are in compliance? Is it being assumed that we are in business with corrupt people? In our example, we need to find out the U.S. government’s perception of Bulgaria.
(4) Will they work with our staff? — In Bulgaria, they don’t run into a lot of women in high-powered positions, or people of color or ethnicity. Will the Bulgarians work with our staff if we have these types of people? Will they work with different cultures freely? How do they look at our culture? Are they really interested in talking to us or they just interested in talking to anyone? How will our staff get along with them?
(5) Do we want to even go there? — This is an obvious question but one often overlooked. Do we really want to go to Bulgaria? Is this a place we’re going to find interesting? Are we going to want to spend time in this country over and over again (which is what it will take to succeed)? Do we want to learn from these people and are we interested in what they have to say? Will we find foods we like, entertainment we enjoy, as well as access to things executives often need, such as communication tools, transportation ease, health care and leisure activities? Is visiting an exciting adventure or a tiresome chore?
(6) Are we interested in these people? — This follows from what was previously said: Are we interested in Bulgaria? Do we care about their culture and history? Are we willing to learn any of their language? Do we have anyone internally that is Bulgarian or knows about Bulgaria? Are we going to spend the necessary time visiting the museums, gathering the literature and tasting the culture?
(7) Are we going to relegate our marketing to the locals? — Are we going to hand over our Bulgarian marketing to the Bulgarians or are we going to work together? This is a great litmus test because the more we abdicate our position, the more we show a complete lack of interest and investment. If we don’t make the effort to work well with a Bulgarian marketer, it’s a great sign that we really just don’t care. In that case, we should think about another country to enter. International Markets are available in other countries!
(8) Are there any laws that seem strange to us that we will have trouble obeying? — Some of these laws are more business-oriented, such as those regarding trade requirements.
But U.S. companies may not give much thought to some other laws, such as a particular nation’s traffic rules, workplace regulations or event free speech. Can you write memos and notices in such a way that doesn’t break any laws in Bulgaria, whose culture frowns upon putting everything in writing. Can you live with that?
Remember, firms must invest money and executive time when entering a market. Investments must continue as the market grows and presents unique challenges. Plan to visit a target market many times a year and learn the market nuances, the people involved and the geography. Pick a market that not only offers opportunities, but also enables you to function well as an executive.