ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway
The latest book from The Airport Economist, Tim Harcourt, shares the lessons he has learned travelling through Asia as an adviser to governments and trade missions, but has its beginnings in lessons he learned as a student at The University of Adelaide in South Australia.
Harcourt says, many of the students he lived with were from Singapore and Malaysia. They were very smart at math and econometrics and helped him get good grades.
A prized scholar at Adelaide, then Minnesota and Harvard University, Harcourt credits those friends for enlightening his interest in Asia.
These early lessons helped him realize that doing business in China is not as scary as commonly thought.
“Don’t be put off by the horror stories of non-payment in China,” he says. “You are more likely to lose your pants in the United States than your shirt in China.”
He also warns not to overplay the cultural issues.
“Even if you don’t speak Chinese it doesn’t mean you won’t be good. You just need to have a good niche, product,” Harcourt says. “But be realistic. Just because it’s China, you’re not going to suddenly sell 1.3 billion pairs of socks.”
Harcourts advises looking to second and third tier cities, which still have populations of around 15 million people.
“They are growing fast with plenty of urbanisation. Think construction, landscape gardening, education…” he says, adding that to land big contracts in secondary cities it’s best to seek the help of your country’s trade representatives to pave the way through municipal bureaucracy.
Harcourt’s final piece of advice is that to succeed overseas you can’t rely on luck.
“There is no trick to finding opportunities,” he says. “Be well prepared, flexible and do your homework. Don’t be afraid to ask for government help too.”
Preparation is key he says but adds that being flexible is also important. “Try not to overcook your strategic plan,” he says. “Innovation often comes from random thought. Over-thinking can hinder action. Get out there, try things and do it!”
With a good story, and country specific practical tips Harcourt says that Trading Places will help businesspeople wanting to take the next step in international business get started.
“I hope people reading it will become more knowledgeable about the world and more confident about going offshore. They may even have a laugh at the same time!”
Tim Harcourt’s new book, Trading Places: The Airport Economist’s Guide to International Business hits the shelves on 1 Oct. Come back next week for part two with Tim where we get the inside track on doing business in India.