The First Trip Abroad

Practical advice on going global the first time

David Iwinski Jr.

Managing Director



David Iwinski Jr.

Managing Director

Blue Water Growth

US Mobile: +1 412 352 7997

China Mobile: +86 183 2128 4064

Skype ID: david.iwinski.bluewatergrowth

The First Trip Abroad

Practical advice on going global the first time

By David Iwinski

The most important point about your first business trip abroad is to take it! No matter how good your in-country advisers are and how much you trust them, you can’t really get started with worldwide trade until you take the plunge and experience the setting for yourself.  Here are a few suggestions garnered from my 28 years and 2 million air miles to make your entry into the global marketplace a little easier:


Set reasonable expectations for the first trip. Don’t expect to come home with a contract in hand. This highly unlikely in most nations. Think of the first trip as more of a reconnaissance mission, learning the lay of the land and getting familiar with local culture and custom.


Keep your schedule flexible and don’t be rushed.   Schedule at least 10 days in country to allow for jet lag and time to really indulge in your international education. Don’t book yourself solid so that you can’t adjust to local opportunities. The very best business trips always have room for some last minute schedule adjustments to take advantage of a serendipitous meeting.


Go to a trade show. Do your best to schedule your trip during a major trade show in your industry in the country you’ll be visiting. There is no better way to get the pulse of the business climate and meet a lot of people interested in doing business with you. Better yet, many of the people you meet in major cities may have local operations and may be eager to host you for a tour of their facilities. 


Get business cards in the local language. For a small fee, most printers will print the back of your card with your contact information in the local language. Not only is this a courtesy to the people you meet, it makes it much more likely that they’ll remember you and stay in touch.


Do your homework in advance.  I do not suggest reading those “How To Do Business In” books. While they offer a brief overview of country, they are also rife with outdated information and lists of confusing rules to remember.  I suggest you read a book by one of the great authors of the country you are going to visit. You could also try a book about the history of the last 100 years, which will give some needed perspective, or a biography of great leader who has shaped the country.


Follow up relentlessly. You’ll meet plenty of people on your travels and perhaps make a few new friends. However, you’ll lose the value of these relationships if you fail to follow up and maintain connection. Start the same day as your first meeting: that evening, write a friendly thank-you email that includes some personal details. These details demonstrate your interest in your new contact but also will help you remember them. If you wait until you return home, that 4 inch stack of business cards will be a pleasant blur, not a list of helpful associates.


There has never been a better time to make the plunge and explore international markets. But to be a global player you need to start by taking that first trip and making the most of it.

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