Great Technologies And Services For Doing Business Overseas
My company sells business software. And a big part of my business is adding on custom developed features to make the software exactly right for our clients. To do this we use developers here in the U.S. and a few as far away as India and Ukraine. Today, it’s not as hard as you think to have a relationship with a foreign supplier or partner. And it’s all because of technology and technical services. Let me share a few of the best that we use to make the experience as profitable as possible.
Bank Transfer Services
Setting up wire transfers with your supplier or partner is a whole lot easier today than it was 30 years ago! Depending on your bank, some of the initial setup may still need to be done in person. You’ll of course need payment information (bank information, routing numbers) of your foreign supplier. But once created, transfers are easy to do, inexpensive, and take only a short time to clear. We do this in some cases when our foreign partners require.
Online Payments and Credit Cards
Most good financial services companies like MasterCard offer the ability for online bill payment or just to send money to someone else anywhere in the world directly from your computer or mobile device. Of course, you can just pay using a credit card as well, and if you’ve got the right card you might earn points to redeem for future purchases too. Yes, there are fees and exchange rate costs. But depending on fees and circumstances, I’ve found that just paying online or by credit card to be the easiest way to settle bills.
Sometimes seeing someone makes all the difference in the world. And in today’s ever-decreasing world of international partners it’s critical to use video calling services to improve your communications. For a small business like mine, I tend to use Skype, ooVoo and Google Hangouts, depending on the preference of our developers. It makes an enormous difference when you’re seeing someone else’s expressions as you’re discussing a project. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words. And it’s impossible to translate a concerned look!
Speaking of translating, we haven’t had to use any translation services…yet. That’s just because I’m lucky that my project manager grew up in a Russian family and is fluent in some eastern European languages. And most of our counterparts in India speak English. But utilizing a good translation service may be critical if your partner is struggling with English. Google Translation is nice but here’s a list of other good tools too. Chad Brooks of Business News Daily also has this nice listing of business translation services for when you require a human touch.
No matter the language, faxing, mailing or emailing contracts and other documents to a foreign partner for review can be tricky. We like to utilize online document management services from EchoSign and DocuSign. Here we can upload our documents for immediate review and sign off. The documents are stored in a central place for both us and our developers, and are available any time for us to refer back to.
When working with anyone remotely we often have to show our developers drawings, designs, slide presentations, spreadsheets and other documents. And when our developer finishes a task and wants to demonstrate we want to see what he’s done in action. The best way to do this is to share our desktops. So we use great services from Glance, Join.me and GoToWebinar. They’re inexpensive and instantaneous.
When running projects we want to make sure our foreign partners and suppliers are current on their tasks, commitments, milestones and budgets. So we heavily rely on collaboration tools. For example, we save important materials on Microsoft’s Skydrive and Dropbox. We also like to use project management applications like Basecamp and Zoho Projects. This way, for only a small monthly fee, we’re able to communicate progress across timelines and regardless of language.
Amazingly, and with all the money we’ve spent with developers in Ukraine and India, I’ve never been to either place. But I plan to. Fellow business owners who’ve travelled afar to meet with their key foreign partners rely heavily on mobile applications to make their travels easier. The best ones? WhatsApp is great for free text messaging wherever you are (as long as you’ve got WiFi). Skype, of course, for Internet phone calls. Converse for the iPad will help you…well…converse in just about any language. TripIt is essential for planning your travel. XE Currency for money conversion rates.
Doing business overseas? Be grateful for today’s technology.
Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small business owner. He writes daily for The New York Times and weekly for Forbes, The Huffington Post, Inc Magazine, FOX Business, and Philadelphia Magazine. His columns are read by thousands of small and medium sized business owners around the country. Gene has also written five books on business management, specifically geared towards small and medium sized companies. Nationally, Gene frequently appears on, FOX News, Fox Business, Bloomberg, and CNBC discussing matters affecting the business community. Gene owns and operates the Marks Group PC, a highly successful ten-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium sized businesses. You can find Gene online at GeneMarks.com