If I’ve learned anything about Strategic Planning it’s that it requires three key skills:
Ability to listen
Patience – just because you have a strategic plan, doesn’t mean it will happen on your schedule! Though the straight path is always preferable, to get to the top of a mountain, the winding road takes longer, but will safely get you there.
Discipline – sometimes you just don’t feel like moving! Even when you are on a track, the goal seems so far away it’s hard to keep moving. What is worse is when you run into obstacles and you have to take a detour. Yet as all those who have successfully climbed Mount Everest will tell you, you can’t skip steps, no short cuts. Every day you rise and take steps towards your goal…every day!
Ability to Listen – sometimes this seems to be a lost art. When you are dealing with a potential prospect you have to listen…you have to ask what they need. I don’t “sell”, … I solve problems. A prospect may have a problem I can solve…sometimes I can’t…but I know someone who can and will refer them. The key is active listening, not listening to see what you can sell them, but truly understanding their problem, and where they feel they need the help. Why? Because they will be most receptive to you when you can help them solve a problem they know they have.
Strategic Planning Works!
Heading into month 20 of my new “business” that my husband and I lovingly call our “retirement plan”, I find myself getting more impatient, as I see the fruits of our labor getting closer and closer. I have been pursuing and juggling many opportunities over the past several months, but carving out opportunities in Brazil has been one of our long-term strategic objectives. Now that some of these objectives are finally to the point that I can see the end, I find that they are not moving fast enough for me – now I must draw on patience!
Laying the Foundation
Just as we know it takes about 9 months to have a baby, business development also has a development cycle. The fact is there are no shortcuts. It takes time to develop relationships, to meet people that “get it”, to meet people of influence to open doors to the decision makers. To find the movers and the shakers who can work through the “gate keepers” – you must have the patience to continue to work towards your goal. Similar to panning for gold, you find more gold if you keep panning – the discipline part!
One key point I have learned is that in our fast paced society is that your time is best spent dealing with people that “get it” versus trying to convince anyone of anything. It is hard to convince someone to buy a pan to pan for gold if they just don’t believe there is any gold to be had. You can try to “sell” an idea to someone, but ideally by presenting the facts, the “sale” should happen by itself. This is where listening comes into play.
Our Strategic Plan
In January 2010 we decided that there should be AEC Industry opportunities in Brazil, given that they had the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics on their horizon. That, coupled with the downturn in US economic conditions, encouraged us to look to a place that had a defined schedule…you can’t be “late” for these type of events – thus born our idea of International Brokering.
Since then, we have been working the strategic plan, various trips to Brazil, asking Brazilian companies what they need, attending US Commerce conferences, seminars, import/export symposiums, networking with US firms, regularly participating in professional networking and industry specific association meetings and talking to anyone and everyone about what we are doing. In all of this we have employed patience and discipline (18 long months since the original “idea”) and have been listening to the stated needs in Brazil as well as the varied products and services US companies can offer.
How is it going?
During my trip earlier this month, I got to meet with the Mayor of Rio, FIFA and the Olympic Planning Committee! As you can imagine it’s been a “long and winding road” but with our strategic plan in place, we knew that this would have to one of our milestones to achive our goal – bringing business to Brazil via our International Brokering. I’ll show you an example of how it all came together during one meeting in my next post this week – Sometimes it all Comes Together!
What I’ve learned by Listening – Even More Opportunities!
Every time I return to Brazil more and more opportunities are exposed. Brazil has a massive amount of projects to complete in preparation for the upcoming games and beyond and they acknowledge they can’t do it alone. My efforts to be involved very early on have put me in a position to gain insight into projects before they go public. This trip revealed the following short term opportunities:
- Several regional and national airport master planning and development projects to be released before the end of the year
- Hospitality room needs and support facilities
- Hospital (new and renovations)
- Correctional needs
- …and more
If you can fulfill any of these needs, call me! Brazil is looking for new systems and technology that will aid in meeting their scheduling and development needs for the games. If you have a unique building system or product that is cost effective, efficient and proven, call me! If you are ready to expand beyond the US, let’s work together to make it happen, you’ll have a 20 month head start on your competition!
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