Last year at an exporting event, in a room of international trade advisors, BettySue was shocked and offended by an IIS. You know the type. He was in need of showin’ off with a little TDS-Talking Down Syndrome mixed in, definitely an IIS - an International Intellectual Snob. This wasn’t my first, nor my last experience with this species of human, however it was my most memorable.
During an open group exchange, this young gentleman, obviously very skilled in international commerce, stood up and shared a short story about a recent business owner he met in his daily work.
Long story short, (because ya’ll know I can tell long stories) he shared his experience with a potential exporter who had a successful small business and wanted to expand internationally. He chuckled as he recalled that this man “didn’t even know what a Harmonized Tariff- Schedule B number was, much less how to spell it.” He said it with such an air of arrogance that my blonde BettySue hair stood on end. For those of you that don’t know me, my hair is usually about 18 inches high but rose to a full 24 inches from the bottom of my bangs to the top of my coiffed curls.
As we say in Gun Barrel City, I was “as mad as a hornet when their nest is jabbed.” I wanted to stand up and shout, “the man you are snickering about probably makes more than everyone in this room!” but one numbskull remark didn’t deserve another. And, if I had said anything, I would have stood alone. There were a number of people in the room that chuckled right along with him. I quietly sat there and realized to my horror that there are a lot of folk with IIS syndrome in the export and import world.
BettySue has experienced the chill of more than a few IIS (including some in higher education). How can we possibly hope to encourage exporting if this is the attitude of those who are supposedly trying to help?
Is Nightmare on Elm Street motivational?
And it’s not just the snobs, it’s the horror stories that are told over and over again that curl my toes...in a bad way. Anyone who has been to an export conference has heard from the podium, a chilling export horror story. It grabs everyone’s attention in the room, but it seems to do more harm than good. Save the Halloween stories for, well, Halloween.
In the government world (yes, I was there for a short time) the jargon is a little different but not by much. It’s all about NOT making a mistake. As you can guess, risk is frowned upon and not high on the agenda. (Does anyone see the disconnect here to entrepreneurs whose middle name is risk?) They often communicate more what you “can’t do” rather than “working through.” Government people who take the “can do” approach are those that have spent time in the private sector. They know that risk is part of any business so instead of a hurdle, ya might as well look at it like a speed bump and zip right through.
Of course, there are exceptions. Exporting is business expansion. And as with any expansion, caution is advisable. But this should be informed caution and not Nightmare on Elm Street fear. And it should be supported by people that stand next to, rather than look down on, those they are trying to help.
As a lifelong entrepreneur, I feel that I can speak for other small-to-medium size enterprises, so let me be clear.... export horror stories do NOT motivate potential exporters and the arrogance of International Intellectual Snobs just piss us off.
Turn exporting hurdles into speed bumps.
Since BettySue’s training, The Riddle of the Exporter, aims to make exporting an easy to understand #Exporting8StepProcess by mixing facts with fun, it’s often perceived from the outside as too simple. While great training should look simple, there is nothing simplistic about it.
The Riddle of the Exporter™ covers all the facts from the Schedule B/HTS number to the ECCN (Export Control Classification Number) to the DCS (Destination Control Statement). The facts are presented in a way that is absorbed and remembered. There is no TBU (true but useless) information and "no death by PowerPoints". Experts in finance and logistics are Included but no IIS are allowed in the room.
The goal of everyone in the room is to give potential U.S. exporters information to know about the export process. When they do take the jump, they know how to find the specific experts and the right questions to ask - without being disrespected by an IIS.
So what is the cure for IIS Syndrome?
- Don’t be like that young man...all hat and no cattle, ever!
- Know that the person who is the recipient of your advice probably keeps his success stories under his ten-gallon hat.
- Paint a scenario of turning export hurdles into small speed bumps with the right tools.
- Speak their language and encourage exporting for all the right reasons. With just a little help from you, these savvy business owners will be in tall cotton with their new exporting gig.
We love newbie exporters! In a short amount of time, using common sense adult learning techniques, we can take a novice exporter and turn them into an informed participant ready to seek the next level of expertise. If you’re newbie exporter or a banker with a newbie exporter, give us a jingle, we’ll light the way.
It’s time to get excited about exportin’!
Export Training for Entrepreneurs Written By An Entrepreneur