Smart Answers

Convince Overseas Companies to Partner with You


We operate an online freight exchange that handles logistics for road transportation in India. We want to approach freight exchanges in the U.S. and Europe and propose collaborating. How should we position ourselves as we seek these strategic partnerships? —S.G., Mumbai

Reliable delivery of goods is one of the essential components of successful businesses, particularly those operating on a global scale. Your task is to persuade potential partners that your logistics operation is crucial to their success.

Draw up a brief proposal that includes information on your company, your own background, and the business synergies, efficiencies, and competitive leverage that could be created under these cross-border collaborations. Solidify the benefits for both parties, so you can present a win-win scenario, says Peter Zapf, deputy chief operating officer of Global Sources (GSOL), an online resource for importers and exporters.

"Understand how the synergies would benefit both parties," he says. "Such synergies could be either on the customer side—assisting customers that have cross-border freight requirements—or on the operations side, such as having a single development team with domain expertise, rather than two separate development teams," Zapf says.

Your proposal should include several components, including your corporate vision and the principles your company stands for, says Ayse Oge, a small business export consultant with Ultimate Trade, based in Encino, Calif.

"Benefits to the U.S. firms from a complete and rapid entry into this fast-growing market need to be precisely stated," she says. "How much cost-cutting would the U.S. firm generate out of this partnership? How would it affect their bottom line? What new customer acquisition can realistically be expected within the next couple of years?"

Customer Contracts

If you can bring actual customer contracts to the negotiating table, that will be a powerful draw for the companies you are targeting, says Damon Schechter, chief executive officer of Shipwire, an international shipping and logistics firm based in Palo Alto, Calif. "If you can solicit local customers to look abroad for growth, lots of potential partners will be more than happy to help you grow those customers," Schechter says.

In your proposal, stress your customer service orientation and include some case studies, as well as the competitive advantages you enjoy in your industry. If you specialize in moving particular products—say, apparel or high-value items—make sure you mention that as well. "Specialization is important for logistic companies in the U.S.," Oge says.

Make sure that you research the companies you approach, so that your proposal is savvy and on target with their business goals. You should also think about how you'd like to structure these partnerships. "Are you thinking about selling a stake in your corporation? Establishing cross-holdings between your two companies? Cross-marketing to each others' customers via cash or barter? There are many possibilities," Zapf notes.

Put together a compelling set of value propositions for your prospective partners, stressing the entry you provide into one of the fastest-developing markets in the world. Good luck.

Karen_klein
Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.

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