Always worried that my hybrid, professional, international, manufacturer’s representative company could some how, in some way, be lumped together with some other, mostly unprofessional rep firm who had established no operational protocols in explaining the arcane nature of what they purport to do for sometimes perplexed principals, I knew I had to not only write my white paper; I also knew that in order to bring light to various moving and dormant parts of the US SME’s commercial operations, I also had to create an Export Ready, Rep Ready Questionnaire (ERRRQ); and, yes, to provide context, I knew I then needed to create a preamble to explain the necessity of the ERRRQ to the prospective US SME.
The reason for this is because without the pattern feedback from the ERRRQ, the pioneering rep would essentially be compounding his risk by working on blind faith that the small US principal’s self-attestation is all that is needed to assure my company that they have the needed bandwidth, competencies and ethicality to work with a professional rep, foreign principals, professional procurement folks, bankers, forwarders, KOL’s, foreign Custom’s challenges, etc. The reason for the context build-up by my hybrid, pioneering rep firm with any new, potential, US SME making really unusual products/services is purposeful:To let the US SME know that since the pioneering rep is seriously considering reversing the normal process – with SPAP subsidizing the US SME – there is such an enormous time and monetary risk to the pioneering rep that the US SME must be willing to go through special processes of mitigation. Since no professional rep wants any potential, US SME client to possibly go rogue like some character in a picaresque novel, I cannot possibly consider pioneering a product unless my company knows what it is getting into.
For any skeletally staffed, US SME who realizes that it will take years for them to, by themselves, come up with a system to find, attract and engage foreign distribution networks beyond the foreign customers they might already possess on a spot basis; for any US SME company that wants to coherently and systematically go after foreign markets with a professional rep firm, I hope that you can seriously consider what my company can offer your company. I know that, given your incredibly busy schedule, it is tough to sit down and think about and through the questions that the ERRRQ has posed. Please believe me when I tell you that I am not doing it to make any particular principal’s life more difficult. The ERRRQ, in medical terms, is an invaluable diagnostic tool that highlights points about the US SME that might have otherwise been overlooked – things that could really screw up and even undo a professional rep’s business and the relationships with my foreign customer networks that has taken years to build out.
The ERRRQ is also a kind of Adaptive Optics in that it helps compensate for, or correct for, the entrepreneurial Kool-Aid ingested by many US SMEs that at times partially distorts the information feedback regarding public domain information. If the US SME can be candid and truthfully answer the questions, this can lead to a more subjective-free image of the company’s actual, versus imagined, export readiness and rep readiness. The ERRRQ embodies the tautology that I face with virtually all US SME’s:no matter how many ways I say it, the US SME doesn’t know what they don’t know about efficiently and systematically accessing international markets and how to competently engage with hybrid, professional, international reps. After the company goes through the ERRRQ, they start to realize, sometimes grudgingly, how much else they need to consider weaving into their proposals and/or what they will need to do to keep their products from piling up and collecting dust in the warehouses of my foreign importer/distributors. Although the rep has to perform first (in bringing the foreign customers into formal, triangulated, business talks with its US SME principal), absent the feedback from the ERRRQ there is no assurance at all that the small US principal is actually ready and able to efficiently perform all of the moving parts necessary in working with the rep in the lead up to, actual fulfillment of purchase orders and the backside support of the product when it is in the foreign country. The ERRRQ, whether the US SME and SPAP end up working with each other or not, amounts to invaluable consulting work that focuses in on a principal’s present export-infrastructure and level of savviness in working with professional, independent, manufacturer’s representatives.
Since you have now read my white paper on pioneering products into foreign countries, you are now starting to get an understanding of how staff-deprived, US SME’s can formally work with professional, independent, manufacturer’s representatives. The ERRRQ is the next step in the process. In total, this consultative questionnaire averages about 6 hours of work before I can more accurately sum up your Export Readiness and Rep Readiness and whether or not I can take on your unique product or service on a pioneering, LOP/LOP, basis or under one of the other International Service Options. The ERRRQ is designed to do the following:
- Allow both the principal and the rep to get an accurate sense of a principal’s export-infrastructure and overall export-readiness
- To act as a primer to the US principal on points that must be addressed prior to working with an independent, professional rep firm that is considering pioneering the principal’s unique products/services around the world under the LOP/LOP agreement
- Since the LOP/LOP contract is predicated on the US principal being both export-ready and rep-ready, the feedback in the ERRRQ will help point out operational gaps the principal currently has and will determine if it is realistic for the principal and rep to work under a pioneering (LOP/LOP) contract. And, if so, under what commission rate.
- Although it is sometimes difficult to quantify a principal’s sense of urgency in prepping for, and diving into, the export process, or for being able to smoothly engage with a professional rep firm, the feedback from the principal in the ERRRQ can give both the rep and the principal some indication on how much new expertise needs be made manifest by a principal to really work peer to peer with the rep, and the rep’s foreign customers, in this process. Most US SME’s can usually hack their way through spot international business, but the gaping holes in their ERRR would become abundantly clear when SPAP’s multiple foreign customer networks are coming at the US SME simultaneously.
- An inferred intent from the principal to become a pro in systematically going after foreign markets, and acting as a mature, level headed partner in profit with SPAP and with SPAP’s customers, is a vitally important part of this assessment. Going through the ERRRQ can also help highlight any tendencies by the US SME and thus help SPAP make a decision on whether or not to take on a new line while forgoing the usual market development fees that larger US principals with better resources would have to pay.
- It helps re-conceptualize the export-readiness and the rep/principal dynamic for the US SME and allows the US SME to ask themselves how many hybrid, professional, international manufacturer’s rep firms are there in the world that have serious interest in my product line for customers in more than 6 dozen countries without immediately and reflexively asking for market development fees?
- Sensitizes a potential principal to the fact that while they are drawing a salary, the pioneering rep, working out on the point under the commission-only LOP/LOP, needs to be extremely judicious in how it uses its time to assess a potential new US client. A US principal that is not export ready, and/or not rep ready, would essentially be crowding out precious time that SPAP would have been spending on existing US clients and foreign customers.
- Helps pinpoint how the long lead-time for foreign registration of their health, medical and aesthetic products would require a different type of remuneration package for the professional rep’s services.
- Helps point out how a proliferation of recently stood-up trade barriers since the 2008 economic collapse, the worst worldwide recession in 80 years, must also be factored in. The Global Trade Alert (GTA), a worldwide, multi-institutional initiative created by the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), helps provide up to date data on individual country’s laws restricting trade made amid the current global downturn that continue to affect US SME’s wanting to export their health, medical, fitness, wellness, aesthetic products and/or medical services. As the rep’s foreign customers have to take extended amounts of time to try to figure out how they might be able to maneuver the rep’s US client’s unique products past the their own country’s ofttimes ossified regulatory and Custom’s gauntlet, if they cannot find a way to do so until months, or even years, later the international rep must assess how these delays would further risk and affect the rep’s profitability.
- The feedback from the ERRRQ will give the US principal the advantage of knowing what needs to be done to become ERRR even if it takes several months or longer for them to accomplish. If this turns out to be the case, as the US principal regroups and strives again to actualize their own vision of being a legitimate, responsible, international company unwilling to cede any foreign markets to supposed competitors with inferior products, this is my hope:Since SPAP already has foreign customers that the principal could one day be exporting to, if they do become ERRR I would like for the US principal to remember how worthwhile the systematic, educational and professional approach was that SPAP brought them through the ERRRQ and that they could both expect the same professionalism from SPAP COMPANY LLC as we formally engage with SPAP’s foreign importer/distributor networks.
The purpose is to not only to clarify for both the principal and the rep how export-ready and rep-ready the principal is. It is also to provide necessary context to the principal about what they need to do to partner with SPAP and SPAP’s networks of foreign buyers while also, in advance, gain added awareness and understanding of how extraordinary it is for a rep to take on a line without market develop fees to reach out to 94% of our planet’s population that resides outside of US borders. The very real monetary and time risks that a hybrid, international, manufacturer’s rep company like SPAP would have to incur in working with a staff-deprived principal under a pure commission, LOP/LOP agreement means there is no room for the principal to call for a time-out and do midcourse remediation to their operations in order to be able to promptly and professionally engage with SPAP’s foreign customers. To be realistic about this possibility, and so there is no attempt, or confusion, by the principal in asking the rep to offer back office assistance for non-rep tasks that are NOT a part of the LOP/LOP contract, a “Fee for Service” addendum will also be a part of this overall agreement if it is a straight LOP/LOP agreement.
What is meant by the term “Export Readiness”? What is meant by the term “Rep Readiness”. I have pieced together the following for your review and consideration.
What do seasoned international business people mean when we ask if a particular firm is “export ready”? How do various reps recognize “export readiness” in a manufacturing company that they are in discussions with? And what conclusions might we draw from the various methodologies and approaches aimed at determining export readiness? First, we need a simple, working definition that will give us an understanding of exactly what it is we are seeking to measure when we determine that a firm is “export ready.” Depending on where a particular manufacturing company is in the life cycle of their particular business of trying to make exporting a fundamental part of their overall revenue stream, many firms must first have a strong desire and knowledge about the benefits of exporting for the company and the overall US economy. But this desire to export does not necessarily translate into a readiness to export. In other words, a desire to export does not, in and of itself, equate with an actual, repeatable ability, or capacity, to do what is required to successfully export their products on anything more than a spot basis.
In order to help determine a given manufacturing company’s chances for success in a particular export market, a professional, independent, manufacturer’s representative must look at certain factors, both quantitative and qualitative, of a US manufacturing company. This analysis must necessarily go beyond the company’s willingness or perceived preparedness to export. So being “export ready” assumes that key aspects of the company’s business have met a certain threshold – that the company has the resources to initiate and capacity to sustain an export activity with multiple professional procurement people on the far ends of the earth. A company might very well have the drive and the wherewithal to export, but it must also have an advantage vis-à-vis other manufacturers of other products in the various target markets. That is, there must be at least a perceived demand for the US company’s products (or a gap in SPAP’s foreign importer’s product portfolios that they desire to fill) in a foreign market and that the company’s products have some level of competitive or comparative advantage. Looking at the product’s competitiveness and market share in the US domestic market often can be a key indicator as to whether that product will find success across borders (in fact, many foreign customers make import decisions based on how deeply penetrated brand A or brand B is in the US). On the other hand, many times there are US SME companies with mind-blowing products in brand new categories that essentially have negligible international competition. But although the product line is obviously dynamic and clearly separates itself from what came before, some foreign procurement people think it is so far ahead of the curve that its consumers will not understand it, accept it or buy it. So a US SME that can offer coop advertising and/or sophisticated tools for guerrilla marketing (i.e. Facebook, Twitter feeds, key words to foreign customers for their own website optimization in selling the US manufacturer’s products/services) let’s the foreign importer know that the US company has already thought through not only market entry but ways for the importer to achieve greater levels of market acceptance.
Some level of export experience by the principal is also optimal as the knowledge gained heuristically, however small, can be foundational and built upon. The value of the principal having some real life experience in the exportation of its products or services, of not coming into the exporting process as a blank slate, is that exporting, like anything else, requires new steps and new procedures that must be learned -– steps and procedures that are clearly beyond what is required in the domestic marketplace. Likewise for a small US principal having real life experiences in working with professional, not amateur, manufacturer’s rep firms. Being able to know what to do, and what not to do, with a professional rep firm, having that situational awareness, is vitally important for a rep firm considering risking his time and money on pioneering a products around the world to his invaluable foreign customer networks. If this somehow relates to what your company has already been doing internationally on a spot basis, or with professional reps in the USA on a spot basis, this also gets factored into the overall evaluation process.
Here is a simple, working definition of what it means to be export ready:A firm that has, at a minimum, the drive, experience, ethics, financial resources, staff and capacity to be able to keep up with the informational request flow coming in from the rep’s foreign customers. With that perfect-world goal in mind, SPAP is always asking potential US clients to consider and reflect upon their own export readiness and their awareness and knowledge about how they can professionally partner with professional rep firms and import/distribution partners. Since I could find no singular questionnaire that would combine various points that the professional, pioneering rep needed to pose to the prospective US principal to determine export readiness and rep-readiness in its ability to smoothly work with a professional rep, I had to create what you are now considering going through. If you proceed, what you will soon be reading and responding to is not meant to be an all-inclusive or perfect list. Rather, it is a snapshot of some of the more important elements a professional, independent, international, manufacturer’s representative looks at in the early phases of assessing the uniqueness of a principal’s products, the principal’s current capacities and the principal’s capabilities to learn and stay focused on what is needed to fully engage in the systematic exportation of their products to the rep’s foreign customer’s networks. Hunger and desire to export are difficult to quantify so the ERRRQ will be more focused on how a principal’s current state of operations will enable or disable their ability to fulfill and support their branded products or services that SPAP COMPANY LLC’s foreign customers issue Purchase Orders for SPAP’s US clients. Just as importantly, it is the hope that the ERRRQ, combined with the white paper that your company’s management have read and the MANA (manaonline.org) media kit that I would like to have sent to you by e-mail, can facilitate contextual understanding in the principal about how teaming with a hybrid, professional, manufacturer’s agent can put the US SME in a position where its products could become passengers in one or more of the 18,000 containers piled 20 high,10 above deck,10 below deck, on one of the state of the art Triple-E’s cargo ships.
SPAP COMPANY LLC has spent years building out health, medical, life science, aesthetic, wellness and fitness importer/distributors, brick & mortar chain stores, KOL’s, MLM’s, doctor’s offices, aesthetic practioners, pharma companies and online foreign customer networks that are always looking for innovative, Made in USA products. However, without the US SME’s being able to adeptly interact and fulfill orders with SPAP’s foreign customers in a timely manner, SPAP, as noted in our phone call with each other, is and will be on the receiving end of blame by my foreign customers. Not wanting in any way to undo any of the foreign relationships that it has taken my company years to buildout, the ERRRQ is indispensable in helping SPAP and the US SME get a window into what the SME would need to correct or improve upon to be in a position to smoothly work with a professional, independent, manufacturer’s representative and with SPAP’s foreign procurement people around the globe. The overarching goal of the ERRRQ is to make sure that a principal will become more aware of what needs to be done and that being satisfied with mere flashes of international competency will not suffice when a hybrid rep is considering working purely on commission basis under the LOP/LOP. The inference to take away is this:A hybrid rep firm being paid monthly market development fees by a US SME not export-ready, nor rep-ready, is acceptable to the rep if the rep is being monthly remunerated to assist in getting the paying principal up to speed. A hybrid rep firm NOT being paid monthly market development fees by a US SME who is export ready but not rep ready, or vice-versa, or neither, is essentially a blueprint for a time-sink as tutorials by the rep to the principal will have to be put into place. Since the LOP/LOP enables a US SME to escape upfront market development fees, the US SME cannot seriously expect to also receive free consulting work. The ERRRQ will diagnose these points in advance thus diminishing the chances for any otherwise unforeseen surprises.
You obviously have a unique product line. Such credentialed products, so unique and transformational, the scope of the commercial and health-giving possibilities so stimulating, should, in and of itself, via remote electronic presentation, help lift up desk-bound buyers who know all too well from interacting with slick vendors that something does not have to be true to be persuasive. While it is not necessarily true that all people who sit 8 hours a day and think for a living are dopamine-deprived, I humorously work on the premise that without real novelty, without bringing in something truly innovative for my company’;s foreign procurement people to consider, I will not be contributing to that procurement person’s mental or physical well-being. Likewise, if the procurement people are reading the health/medical literature on neuroscience that the neurotransmitter dopamine gets quickly summoned and released in the consumer’s brains when novelty is beheld, this shared, empirical satisfaction should theoretically have a ripple effect on their procurement person’s decisions on what products to issue PO’s for. It can be a real boost to the souls of those in the international supply chain that products, or services, do not have to have dark clouds hanging over them from the manipulative, false or misleading marketing and can instead be replaced with coop ads that help focus consumer’s minds on the underlying science, IP, differentiating functionality and verifiable effectiveness. All of these things have to be considered. To be practical, the idealistic pioneering rep, conscious of limited landfill space that commercial junk might quickly find residence in, has to take keen notice if a US SME’s product line can positively alter both the world and worldwide consumer’s lives; to be brutally practical, the pioneering rep also knows that no matter how good and novel the product is, allowing a US principal to simply try to self-regulate, to try to simply verbally attest to their collective integrity, to their collective international competency, to their real knowledge of how to work with professional reps, is quite simply not going to cut it. Although it is not a direct analogy, that kind of sop chewed up large portions of the US financial industry in the late 20th century; it also almost did in the world economy in 2008. All of these important points factor into whether SPAP can take the extraordinary, disproportional risk of repping any US SME under LOP/LOP, or under one of the other shared-risk, International Service Options you can read about on SPAP’s website.
The cost-recovery fee to go through the ERRRQ is $1,000.00. Once the check is received, deposited and clears the bank, the ERRRQ will be e-mailed to you.