I recently concluded a consultation with a company that began moving its first steps in the export market this past year. It is a business in the retail food industry that has developed its own high quality product, it created a beautiful brand, it has a great image and it set up a well-designed website that has also been translated into English. So far, so good. But they have handed the development of their foreign market – read: the whole world – to a young man who knows English and is full of good will and good intentions, but who is at his first work experience. I partnered with him for 8 days with the aim of researching which markets would be the most important to focus on, to improve his sales techniques, and look for some business partners abroad.

The company’s owner, however, is impatient … we have sales of €10 million in Italy and we can’t sell at least €1 million in the rest of the world?!?

Allow me to make two observations:

  1. Often we forget how difficult it was to build our market presence in Italy when we moved our first steps. How many mistakes we made, how many failures and how much time it took. The company in question has been around for 40 years. We must also note that in the 1970s the market was less competitive than it is today. In other words: it was easier to sell.
  1. It is admirable that they have entrusted the development of their foreign market to a young man. It is a great challenge, very stimulating and it will surely help this young man grow professionally. On the other hand, however, you cannot expect him to obtain important results in such a short period of time. We did not enlist an experienced industry professional with an existing customer portfolio already in hand.

When we move our first steps abroad we must do so with a good dose of humility. The good reputation we have built in the domestic market over so many years of activity (the company is often started by the father or the grandfather) is worth very little abroad. Often we are just a nobody when we travel to the doors of our potential customers. And the quality of our product is not enough! This is often the mistake that leads us to have expectations that are too high. Also because, in some cases, the product, as it is, is not right for all markets.