Episode 173: International Deal Lessons with Wendy Pease
For almost 20 years, Wendy Pease has worked with hundreds of companies to help them communicate across more than 200 languages and cultures. As a young child, she lived in Mexico, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Through these experiences, she fell in love with the languages and cultures of the world. She came to understand that people around the world are similar. Although how they communicate can be quite different and miscommunication can lead to trouble.
She bought a small translation company in 2004. The previous founder focused on high quality written translation and spoken interpretation services. Through that acquisition, Wendy became an expert in multilingual communications. Since then, Rapport International has grown substantially.If you’re looking for a way to get better international deals and don’t know where to start, Wendy Pease is the right person to help.
Acquiring VS Starting A New Company
If you’re new to an industry, finding a buyable company can be a huge win. Acquiring an existing company means you already have an active base of existing customers. It costs up to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.
A good way to think of acquisitions vs starting a new company is to look at it as just buying your ideal customer. Wendy already had a love for translations and a deep understanding of why cross-cultural communication requires delicacy in business. What Wendy was really buying was their book of business and an avenue to pursue her passion.
Often, people assume buying a business means using all of what comes with it but that’s rarely the case. You might not need their accounting team, because you already have one. Or, you might not need their offices because you want to work remotely. So it's not so much that you're buying the whole business framework, as much as you are buying their customers.
Wendy made a great point about what went into her decision to buy a business that the success rate of new businesses is low. In contrast, the rate of success of a business continuing after two years is high. She’s right! The business failure rate in the U.S. within the first year is nearly 20% — 18.4%, to be exact — according to a LendingTree analysis of BLS data.
Wendy also explained that she was tired of not being able to control her work schedule. Becoming a CEO means creating or adapting the structure of a business to suit your needs including your own schedule. Major changes like shifts in timezones, location dependence, or expected timelines are something you want to be sure you’re on the same page as your team about before acquiring a small business with intentions to change their expectations.
Wendy gave us multiple great reasons to go the acquisition route. Some of these may be worth considering if you’ve been thinking of founding a new start-up or growing your existing ventures.
There’s a lot of potential for companies to do international business. But it’s still a small portion that does - less than 1% of US companies export. To internationalize your business, it only takes small modifications on your website. The most important thing is to translate to other languages to bring in additional visitors. Wendy pointed out that 90% of buyers are more likely to spend time on a website if it’s in their language.
The state and federal governments offer free support to companies that want to do international business. Such as grants to help you do an international trade show, help to translate your website, and also free stretch strategic advice.
There are resources to help when you’re getting into a deal situation, such as the Department of Commerce. In this department, it is possible to find people at your state trade offices who have been to other countries to share their business tips.
Lessons From Report International
It is very important when cutting a deal with somebody in another country to dedicate yourself to translating the content into their mother tongue. Even though English is the global language, people feel more comfortable with a better deal if you’re doing things in their language. The globe is getting more used to people’s function differently. By spending that time learning from others and making these minor efforts, companies have achieved more success and deals.
Wendy explains that working with translations specifically means anything written. Interpretation means anything spoken. In Report International, they start with the company’s strategy, define what they want to accomplish, and go all the way through providing an in-person interpreter, telephone interpreting, or video interpreting.
Lessons From Wendy
When many companies internationalize, they don’t have a trusted local relationship. Companies think that they either have to open up an international office or they’ve got to go right out and get a distributor. But there are lots of ways that you can enter the country without having that trusted relationship.
No need to hire the distributor directly. The Department of Commerce has offices all over the world. Every company can reach out to people in the country and they’ll help make introductions. Do a trial basis and build that relationship. And once you do deals, you get to know more about what’s there.
Closing an International Deal The Right Way
When closing an international deal, it’s not enough just to speak the language in which you’re closing a deal. You need to understand the culture. Just because someone is bilingual does not mean they can help, as they may not understand the misunderstandings that can happen. Wendy recommended hiring professional translators and professional interpreters. They have been trained on how to navigate the two cultures.
As an example in Report International, they work in over 200 different languages. The translators or interpreters have to be fully bilingual, as well as understanding the culture and business practices to close a deal.
In whichever contract, even if the person you close the deal with speaks some English, the best thing is to have an interpreter because they work as the real cultural conduit with explaining what’s going on.
To hear more about Wendy’s thoughts on international deals, listen to the full episode!
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