In all of the years that I have been laboring to establish business relationships that will result in a true flow of commercial activity between the United States and its trading partners, I have yet to see any mention of the lack of trust in business between the parties as a persistent problem plaguing cross-border business and transactions.
In fact, the inability of those who manage enterprises that are trying to determine if the sum of the parts can be greater than the whole to discuss the smallest details concerning what they do and why they do it – information that would be the topic of conversation on the 7:40 train out of Syosset – assures from the start that any effort of one to learn about the culture and the business of the other is destined to fail.
This is especially so in the case of successful family businesses and small companies that have recently been noticed favorably by the economic press and are starting to make a buzz in the industry. Yet it is the very fact of their success that has driven them to explore foreign markets, most especially the U.S.
To acquire market share overseas is a way for such companies to foster lasting growth while involving only minimal interaction with the domestic competitors that are the source of much distraction in their home markets.
For those businesses that seriously consider the possibility of entering the American market, it is a given that to do so without the help and support of a local partner is sheer folly. Nevertheless, the foreign enterprise seeking to sell into the American market treats the color of their uniforms as a secret of the same level of importance as a detailed drawing of the atomic bomb, sharing nothing with their partner, who is expected to be an authority on the products that are being tested for their appeal in U.S. sales outlets.
As for the U.S. companies, they play the game as well, acting as though it would kill them to let their customers know that they are the distributors for an additional range of foreign products.
The result of such behavior is that the foreign companies fold their tents and go home, recounting how the Americans tried to steal their business and have no intention of allowing foreign entry into their domestic markets even though everyone knows that the (European) product is far superior. No one in this story has a clue about the opportunities lost for both sides of the counter. Yet a little bit of trust is the one thing that adds no cost to the process of entry into the U.S. market, and it yields the greatest return on investment of all.