However much we try to plan our business, there are inevitably times when events take us in an unexpected direction. This is especially true of international trade, and particularly in an age of widely accessible digital communication.
Even the most modest business tends to have a global shop window these days. It’s called a website, and it makes the message that the company chooses to share accessible almost anywhere in the world, presenting us with opportunities as well as potentially dangerous diversions.
Naturally, we all get hit by what has become known as ‘spam’, consisting of a mixture of disguised advertising, confidence tricksters and dangerous, malicious messages that either seek to capture people’s personal details or plant a virus on the recipient’s computer. We also need to avoid the ‘get rich quick’ messages about sharing bank overpayments and similar tall stories. It’s quite frightening to read about how many apparently intelligent business leaders are taken in each year by such scams, with predictably unfortunate consequences.
But it would be a mistake to dismiss all unsolicited enquiries. Any business with aspirations to build international trade needs to develop in a planned and controlled way, but every plan needs to have sufficient flexibility to allow for surprises. In many cases, a business can be taken by surprise by a genuine business opportunity in a market they were not targeting, and it would be a mistake to dismiss such chances out of hand.
It shouldn’t take too long to evaluate most of these enquiries. The poet and writer Rudyard Kipling had a simple rule that can be our watchword: