Go Global With Sister Cities

Every year the US exports 2.2 Trillion dollars in goods and services.  According to the Small Business Administration, only 1 percent of US small businesses export.  That means the majority of exporters in the US are large enterprises.

Announcement for Sister City Agreement

Frankly, international trade in goods or even services can be scary for a small business.  There are tons of regulations, rules and red tape; many entrepreneurs are unsure of how or if they can sell internationally.

However, the decision not to go global could cost you.  Just this past October, US trade reached 192 Billion dollars for that month alone and of that number, export of services reached 57.4 Billion—the highest total for services ever.  Imagine that!  Imagine if you could be a part of this nearly 60 billion dollar payoff in services alone!  Sister City Agreements can help you get there.

Just this past December 11, 2013 Washington, DC signed a sister-city agreement with the city of Addis Ababa.  The event was forged by community members who saw a possibility for not only friendly but economic relations with Ethiopia.  The African nation has become one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Former DC Mayor Vincent Gray signs Sister City Agreement with Addis Ababa Mayor Diriba Kuma on December 11, 2013 at the Mayors Building in Washington, DC (USA).

Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray hosted Addis Ababa Mayor Diriba Kuma for a signing at the city municipal building.  The event was attended by dignitaries from the District, prominent members of DC’s Ethiopian community and local business leaders.  The formal ceremony and signing was followed by a reception including live music and ethnic cuisine.  The mayor also reaffirmed its Sister City Agreement on December 12, 2013 with Rome in a meeting with Mayor Ignazio Marino.  The meeting underscored a renewed commitment to commercial objectives, culture and tourism.

Beyond the festivities, Sister-City Agreements offer much more to the business community than at first glance.  Sister City agreements offer businesses an opportunity to connect with individuals, leaders and businessmen from an international community.  Forging partnerships with individuals with active ties to a community within a country where you wish to do business is an invaluable asset.  Any businessperson who seeks or has sought to do business overseas will tell you the most difficult aspect of the journey is finding reliable partners in the country where you wish to trade.  Sister City agreements offer you that opportunity.

You can get started by contacting Sister Cities International (SCI), which was created by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 at his conference on citizen diplomacy.  The idea encapsulates the notion that citizens can be active participants in national diplomacy by forging relationships between cities around the world.  Now headed by Mary D. Kane, President and CEO, Sister Cities International forges connections in culture, information, education and trade.  President Barack Obama now sits as honorary chairman of the board of SCI like other presidents before him since the Kennedy Administration.

Mary D. Kane, President and CEO of Sister Cities International speaks at signing.

A single US city may have more than one sister city and it is worthwhile to find out what connections already exist to smooth transition. Cultural exchanges like Sister Cities International will also help you to learn more about the culture and people with whom you wish to do business.  Knowing the culture, a little of the language and understanding some traditions can help to facilitate your trade negotiations.  The absence of a working knowledge of cultural norms and traditions can be the biggest hurdle for companies selling abroad.  In fact, it is more than just understanding the market.  It understands the unsaid rules of culture.  Don’t be the bull in the china shop.

Big and small businesses go into markets and fail on a grandiose level after investing millions into products, people and technology.  I once heard the story of a company that moved a department into a particular country and consequently its production suddenly went flat  The detriment was that the manager was using Western management techniques to manage a non-western employee base.  Likewise Best Buy moved into China hoping to sell appliances and electronics only to meet poor results.

Sister City programs allow you to explore cultures and examine them from an economic commercial perspective.  You may find that an international venture you once thought viable, really doesn’t fit with your company goals.  Or you may conclude that the way business is done in one part of the world doesn’t fit your value system.  Regardless, Sister City programs can help you make critical choices by bring you in contact with people from the country to which you wish to market.  They and other programs like cultural associations will help you better understand your market.

In the end, we are marketing to people.  There are many different ways that people conduct business around the world.  And these modes of trade are often influenced by culture.  It may be difficult to see, but, even the way that you do business is influenced by your cultural norms and traditions.  Friendship associations, cultural groups, and Sister City Programs are all tools that you can use to learn to navigate a successful international venture.

Repost from 2013

If you need grant writing or more information about how you can connect with Sister Cities, feel free to contact me for a consultation: