n January 2009, at the peak of the financial crisis, I was doing a talk in the Midwestern U.S. and had occasion to have lunch with an old friend of mine, a consultant. He told me that his business was terrible, and due to the financial crisis it had completely dried up on him. I asked him “where do you do business?” He said “domestically within the U.S.A.” And I said “that’s your problem. You need to go global.” He said “how do I do that?”
That is the question I would like to address in this blog.
I am often asked “how do you get so much business outside the U.S.?” I wish I had a better answer to that question than the truth. If my firm were a large one, I could establish branch offices in foreign countries, hire local talent, and market myself locally. But as it stands I do not want the headaches that come with maintaining physical facilities and managing a staff offshore. I prefer to travel to foreign locations, conduct training or engage in consulting, and then go home. As a result, I must establish relationships with local partners. They market my courses, arrange the meeting rooms, and handle logistics such as hotels and equipment. I show up and deliver the training. They pay me a speaking fee plus cover my travel expenses.
The real challenge is finding reliable partners. That is not easy.
Usually the partners find me. They have read one of my 79 books, attended one of my seminars, heard of me through others who have attended my seminars, watched one of my YouTube videos, or found me by looking on the web for a speaker who can talk on a topic for which they believe a seminar market exists in their home nation or region. Normally they reach out to be my email, ask for a daily rate and a resume, and then try to negotiate.
Partners are not always trustworthy. I can tell you many horror stories of working with partners who promised me huge groups and then delivered nobody, wasting my time (and leading me to turn down other business) by failing to market properly. Some try to escape paying or delay payment excessively. Checking references for offshore partners is not always easy—or particularly effective since they will usually cite those whom they know will give them a good reference.
In the future there is probably room for more effective international speakers’ bureaus than presently exist to play matchmakers between trainers and consultants and local partners. Right now they do not much exist.
William J. Rothwell, Ph.D., SPHR is President of Rothwell & Associates, Inc. (www.rothwellandassociates.com) and also a Professor on the University Park campus of The Pennsylvania State University, where he heads up a graduate emphasis in Workplace Learning and Performance. Author of over 79 books, he regularly presents globally. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.