ExportGA Program | International Business Strategy

https://www.georgiasbdc.org/exportga/

I. Company Description

Stallings Industries, Inc. is a company that sells fluid sealing products including gaskets, sheet goods, mechanical seals, isolators, pump diaphragms, packing, butterfly valves, isolation kits, monolithic isolators, expansion joints, and more items. These items serve the manufacturing, pharmaceutical, chemical, paper, power, water, energy, and waste industries, and the company is also open to creating custom products for potential customers as required. The company also offers services to customers such as hands-on gasket training, which teaches the proper way to install gaskets and comply with critical safety instructions. Stallings Industries partners with Garlock in order to provide the highest quality of gasket and sealant application as well. Founded in 1988, the company is also a nationally-certified WBE, which stands for Women’s Business Enterprise; this signifies that a majority of the company is owned by women. Currently, the company is looking to expand overseas within the Caribbean region.

As an ExportGA intern, my role within this company was to work directly with Amber MacFarland, the international sales leader and specialist; I worked on assignments gathering market research and data for countries within the Caribbean while simultaneously working on independent smaller projects as needed by the company. Specifically, Stallings Industries utilizes a strong direct sales and marketing approach in order to discover potential customers and partnerships overseas. Many of these partnerships must be bolstered with outreach through the development of an international sales kit, outreach templates, and marketing materials, which I worked on as well. My internship assignments revolved around analyzing companies within the Caribbean region in order for Stallings Industries to find partnerships and possible buyers or product distributors.

II. Work Description

a. Market Research & Analysis

Throughout the course of the internship, I conducted various types of market research in order to analyze countries in the Caribbean region that would be entry markets for Stallings Industries’ product distribution. As many countries in the Caribbean face similar economic issues and are geographically similar in distance from the U.S., I delved into other economic, political, and social indicators to select countries and provide backgrounds on them. Because this foreign expansion was novel to the company, I first researched the products and types of service lines that these products aided; I viewed trade volumes and trends from data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and researched which countries imported and exported certain goods. I also conducted research on the trade volume of plastic or rubber imports and exports within designated countries. Researching the industry itself allowed me to gather data on successful trade within the industry for rubber goods such as gaskets and other sealants, and perceive the positive benefits of these trades and how these techniques could be possibly replicated within the Caribbean region. I assessed risk factors in potential larger Caribbean countries that currently benefit from American tourism, and I utilized these findings in order to find trade partnerships such as the CARICOM (Caribbean Community). I think it was important to take into account how relative risk factors were in comparison to other similar countries, because I quickly learned that I must view risk relative to the region and not the world as a whole. Leveraging this information, I was tasked with curating a market analysis matrix, ranking the more stable countries in the Caribbean and choosing markets of entry for maximum trade potential and minimum risk factors.

Utilizing the tools and resources provided by ExportGA partnerships, I researched the services of different trade agencies within the U.S., including the GDEcD (Georgia Department of Economic Development) and the USCS (United States Commercial Service) in order to select possible services in order to help Stallings Industries reach out to potential partners and product distributors within their countries of choice in the Caribbean region. I discovered possible routes that Stallings Industries could utilize in order to bolster overseas connections, find domestic partners for international relations, secure international buyers, and develop a customized support system for any international trade-related issues they may run into as a future, especially as a small business. I learned that these services have export training programs available for participation for international trade specialists within small businesses, and that guidance on exports, international relations, market entry, and choice of buyers can be relied upon through assistance by these agencies.

Because many countries in the Caribbean are already economically reliant upon the fluctuations of the American economy and the exchange rate of the American dollar, I found these services to be especially helpful in the area of finding and securing potential buyers or product distributors. After organizing the breadth of these services for ease of use, I researched payment methods that would work efficiently for Stallings Industries, given their status as an extremely small business with niche, yet diverse product lines. I researched and outlined payment methods and loans that Stallings Industries could possibly take advantage of through their small business status in order to establish their presence within the overseas market and bounce back from any trade volatility. Analyzing the current economic conditions and market volatility as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, I concluded that because many Caribbean countries rely heavily upon tourism as the primary source of their GDP, or gross domestic product, these loans and supports would be a good initial way to finance entry and establish competitiveness.

Furthermore, I conducted an in-depth brand analysis in order to aid Stallings Industries in acquiring new customers and maintaining a strong relationship with them through brand presence via social media platforms. Specifically considering website design, I completed a small audit of the Stallings Industries website and provided further recommendations in order to bolster their information on international sales and facilitate trade partnerships with overseas customers and potential product distributors. This process led me to learn about effective and cohesive market strategies, something that I have not covered thoroughly as my time as a finance major at UGA. Utilizing these pieces, I also provided recommendations for legal considerations that the company should take when developing partnerships and exporting their products internationally, analyzing freight costs, possible tariffs, and buyer-seller contracts. As an accounting major, I thoroughly enjoyed researching the full breadth of tax incentives available for small businesses conducting international trade. Additionally, I found various resources outlining the Georgia SBDC (Small Business Development Center) and their role on making Atlanta such a large international trade hub within the U.S. I researched IC-DISC and FDII tax benefits to Stallings Industries and included this section as a large incentive for international exporting.

b. Sales, Marketing, and Brand Analysis

As a large piece of customer research and partnership acquisition within foreign markets is currently obtained by Stallings Industries through direct marketing techniques and a strong marketing presence, I aided in the revision of international sales kit letters, outreach templates, and other marketing materials as needed and requested by the international trade specialist. Throughout this process, I was not only able to absorb information on which countries Stallings Industries was prioritizing for the purpose of possible international trading connections, but I was also able to grasp the importance of building a strong brand presence within both the domestic and international markets. When researching Stallings Industries’ brand presence, I first reached out to the international sales specialist and asked about the company’s marketing outreach plan for potential partners or customers, current sales and marketing tactics, and social media presence. As cohesivity is crucial in presenting an overarchingly strong brand presence and image, I first spent time researching and organizing data pertaining to these fields. I skimmed through the website to grasp an understanding of language, logo, colors, and font utilized, and compared and contrasted this with the same aspects utilized within the international sales kit materials and addendums that the international sales specialist previously shared with me. I then moved forward onto social media platforms; I found that LinkedIn was utilized sparsely, but color cohesivity and announcements of critical company milestones were present. Moreover, the Instagram and Facebook platform both lack a large or significant following and brand cohesivity, but they do provide the website as a resource for customers and provide updates and information on the company’s mission and products.

Overarchingly, since LinkedIn is a platform for outreach for critical customers, and the international sales specialist will be utilizing messaging as a tool to find potential buyers and product distributors, I took the initiative to create a comprehensive brand guide that would strive to keep content, manipulation, and language across all social media platforms consistent and persistent in order to grow brand presence. This brand guide was based upon the Stallings Industries initial logo colors and expanded in order to incorporate secondary colors to utilize as required via social media platforms. The brand guide also included typeface and fonts to utilize through visual content creation of posts and infographics that could be promoted in order to display product images and short descriptions. On overarchingly visual platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, I aimed to match the website’s base design in order to keep future posted content consistent and efficient for any further usage. In order to facilitate ease of replication and brand cohesivity, I chose and produced colors through the Canva processing platform, and included the HTML color codes based on the universal Pantone color scheme system (i.e. #XXXXX). I also chose fonts available to all Google platforms so that they would be easily accessible as required; these fonts were split into two categories based on website branding. First, I selected a font in order to bolster smaller, less significant aspects such as product descriptions, company information, and other details of lower priority to the audience. Secondly, I selected a statement font that could be utilized for announcements, headers, and other details of high priority designed to readily grasp the attention of the viewer and quickly communicate details of high importance within a few words.

Creation of a foundational brand guide is not something I have learned in my classes, but something I have learned through my extracurricular activities at UGA; colors are often chosen and honed within the UGA textile laboratory for larger organizations, so I utilized my resources and network at UGA to do the same. Throughout this process, I was able to learn how important a cohesive brand identity and presence is to a smaller company, and how this can effectively translate over to international partners as well. Securing trade partners through direct marketing via LinkedIn must be supported by a strong brand image and consistent activity, so I also included a posting schedule, content examples I researched on the internet for various small businesses, and provided recommendations on posting time, posting frequency, and details on marketing techniques for various social media platforms utilized by Stallings Industries.

Utilizing the resources provided in the final presentation, this brand guide was definitively enhanced by my recommendations for the website regarding ease of international trade. I analyzed the Stallings Industries website landing page, contact information, and export partnership information in order to provide realistic and applicable recommendations that could and should be implemented into the website itself. If the company is to expand to foreign markets, there must be a larger scope of information regarding international trade and potential partnerships as well as more detailed contact information and visual graphics supporting this information. I suggested adding a tab on the landing page outlining this information, as well as specific adjustments to the company’s contact form and translation possibilities.

III. Use of Coursework

Overall, I enjoyed and was able to apply the classwork and presentation resources provided within each ExportGA session. I truly believe that this program’s partnerships with Green Worldwide Shipping, the SBA, USCS, and EXIM were extremely helpful because presenters and professionals were able to provide personal insights into the importance of their role within the international marketplace. I think it would have been helpful to have further information and examples of companies that may have utilized services pertaining to legal compliance factors, and perhaps even examples of negative scenarios that exporters have faced in the light of international trade. I know that even with a multitude of these resources available to small businesses seeking to establish a presence within the international export market, it cannot be easy initially to compete and bolster sales. I would suggest the incorporation of case studies of businesses that have faced some obstacles throughout this process and what steps they took to solve issues as they arose.

Additionally, I was curious as to how international trade information and resources would possibly be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, so it would have been interesting to see a COVID-19 global impact resource or information packet. I think many of my other courses at UGA have focused on sharing news or tools tracking the pandemic’s impacts within various sectors of the economy, so this may have been useful as a section to add to this course as well for both businesses involved and student interns who may have had similar thoughts or inquiries upon this topic. Other international business courses and Terry College of Business foundational business courses also augmented this experience by teaching me about the international logistics of supply and demand, international trade agreements that have set precedents and regulations of modern-day international trade, financing a project or trade agreement, and the importance of global cohesive brand presence and adaptations.

a. Session #1: Identifying and Entering Your International Target Markets

I found the implementation of researching and utilizing HS codes was a good way to become familiar with all the products my company chooses to export as well as become comfortable with speaking to U.S. government agency officials in order to obtain adequate information on products. The prompts given to research the data surrounding trade volume, trends, and country risk were also helpful and set a good foundation of background skills and topics for assignments to be conducted after Session #2.

b. Session 2#: International Partners

During this session, it was incredibly helpful to be taken through the process of curating an example market analysis matrix in order to identify best practices and countries for international export expansion. The modes of entry and examples outlined were also good starting points of research for the company’s specific goals and expected export regions. This is the first session where it was extremely helpful to have contacts from the GDEcD and USCS speak and present on the technical aspects of their agencies and the services that they provide; this established points for further research based on company needs. The definition and initial descriptions of incoterms and their importance were also critical to finding and analyzing which of these would be most helpful for Stallings Industries in the future.

c. Session #3: Total Landing Costs & Financing Your International Expansion

The physical photo of the landing cost calculation and possible methods of payment were useful in determining both of these based on various countries. The pro and con analyses on these slides supplied critical information and decreased the amount of time that was required to perform independent research on these payment types and come up with proper financing recommendations for the company.

d. Session #4: Legal, tax, compliance, and website considerations for an exporter

This session’s in-depth analysis of improvements to be made to an example website for an international exporter was a perfect resource to use in order to compare and contrast with Stallings Industries. I was able to provide specific and targeted recommendations based on the visuals and points outlined in these materials and slides. I also liked that the purpose of each of these improvements was included as well so I could effectively and similarly communicate this in my findings to the international trade specialist within the company. The two major considerations for tax incentives were helpful as starting points for further research I was required to conduct for my company; as an accounting major, I really enjoyed that taxation incentives and benefits were incorporated into this section of the class.

IV. Reflection

Throughout my internship, I learned the value of time management, as this course is not one that is completely structured with rigid outcomes or expectations. The sessions provided a strong backbone for assignments and research to be done and prepared, but the majority of this course relied upon the initiative and enthusiasm of the company contact and of the intern. Throughout my completion of assignments, meetings with the international trade specialist of my company, and initiative I took within external projects, I learned the value and importance of managing my time between projects and being able to complete my tasks as required by the company. I also delved into learning about effective communication, especially now that everything is virtual this semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. Scheduling Zoom meetings, responsiveness to emails and task requests, and communication around projects is extremely important to the quality of any work produced. This proved to be an extremely valuable skill and lesson that I grasped from this internship experience because I find Zoom or screen fatigue to be extremely real; it is not always easy to be glued to the computer for all communication, coursework, and significant social interaction, and keeping up sufficient communication is a skill that must be balanced alongside other requirements in order to maintain an open line of communication, essence of thorough reliability, and professional etiquette throughout all work completed. Further, I believe that I honed my teamwork skills throughout this internship by being able to work sufficiently in a remote manner with the international trade specialist, Amber. At times, she had questions on the nature of the work I was doing or required clarification on some of my deliverables, as did I. This eventually led to further collaboration between us as well as an air of teamwork and support; I always knew I could ask her as many questions as my assignments required or propose new assignments for myself as I saw fit. The final lesson I believe I learned was the importance of taking initiative. Stallings Industries, as similar to many of the other companies who chose to participate in the ExportGA program this semester, is an extremely small and niche company. Because of this, their team is open to new ideas and initiatives in order to fuel their growth, both internationally and domestically. At times throughout the internship, I was hesitant to suggest new things or ideas, but became increasingly confident and comfortable with the notion of recommending new strategies, especially those revolving around communications and branding. These are areas and skills I have honed during my time at UGA, and it was as great way to showcase my enthusiasm and commitment to the growth of Stallings Industries both during and beyond the scope of this internship timeline and process. I was pleased to receive positive feedback and eager accommodation, so that was extremely valuable, and I am now confident in taking further initiatives in other areas of my professional life.

One thing that immediately stood out to me regarding Stallings Industries was the company’s certification as a WBE, or Women’s Business Enterprise. I did not know much about this certification before, but researched and discovered that it indicates that 51%, or a majority, of a company is owned by women. This was inspiring to me, as was Amber’s role as an international trade specialist, because as a finance major, I do not see a large amount of women in my many financial institutions. The push for female empowerment and females in positions of power is becoming stronger, but in my experience, many high level executives within companies are still largely male. Amber will definitely stay in my mind as a role model and an expert that I is pioneering a whole new section within the company she works; her role is all-encompassing and she must wear many hats at one time. Thus, Stallings Industries was a very inspiring and motivating company to intern for, and I am extremely happy with the assignment I was placed into.

In conclusion, this internship process was unlike, and candidly, one of the best internship experiences I’ve ever encountered. Most internships in my experience, no matter how large or well-known the company truly is, are comprised of little technical learning coupled with a large amount of shadowing, taking notes, and observing how processes are conducted. However, I was pleased to find that this internship considered deliverables and different technical learning aspects and topics at every stage, and I was able to actually make a tangible impact in resources the company used and their future international trade expansion strategy. This internship definitely exceeded my expectations, and I would have also thoroughly enjoyed learning about how international trade is changing and transforming as result of the coronavirus pandemic. I enjoyed the push that I had to undertake in order to learn new things, set up meetings, and provide assignments on my own with my company.

I think this experience is applicable to any further career experiences I will have and definitely sets a tone on how an internship should and can be structured within a company. I hope to utilize this experience in a wide array of ways; thinking about how thoughtfully each workshop agenda was constructed, each speaker was presented, and each deliverable was written makes me want to incorporate some of these into my own company someday in the future or extracurricular activities that I lead. I think business internships sometimes only graze superficial learning aspects, and I am proud to say this one explored the depths of international export topics that I had no knowledge of beforehand.

V. Future Plans

My hope and current ultimate goal in the future is to work the infrastructure and development of smart and biophilic cities; I am currently researching and writing a book on this topic, and I think the independent and self-motivational aspect of this internship experience with Stallings Industries clearly showed me how initiatives can be propelled and put into actionable steps by one individual. For my research on the book, I am reviewing subject matter expert profiles and transcribing my interviews with professionals in selected fields. Similar to the communication skills required and honed during this internship, I am required to effectively communicate and organize my time with selected individuals. This experience has taught me that it is possible to prioritize things in order to minimize Zoom fatigue, and how invigorating taking initiatives on certain projects can be. As I am conduct independent research, I am now even more aware how self-motivated I must be in order to continue writing my manuscript because setting up meetings and conducting independent research upon Stallings Industries required a similar level of motivation and a similar skillset.

Furthermore, the international component of this project has made me realize just how valuable globalization is to a business, and how dependent the U.S. is upon other countries, and vice versa. Everything from learning about the vast array of international trade support services within various U.S. government agencies to learning about tax benefits and incentives for international exporters made me realize how dependent in a supply chain a business truly is within a global context. The U.S., nor other overseas individual countries, cannot exist in a domestic bubble; natural resources and supplies must be globally exchanged in order to foster the most efficient trade environment and result in the production for the highest quality of products and services available to consumers.

Applicable in my own career goals, I think that the same concept applies for smart cities and the infrastructure and sustainable materials it takes to curate them; city models form overseas countries like Singapore can be replicated within the U.S., but only with the help of international subject matter experts, a network of architects, and other support groups that can be consulted to efficiently complete projects and analyze dilemmas, just as many agencies provide consulting or advising services to international exporting companies. I will never forget pieces such as the large database of HS product codes, freight transportation types, and legal compliance that goes into choosing export partner and pinpointing individual prospective countries as trading partners. At the closure of this experience, I am now even more eager to pursue the career I desire and conduct research to amass the knowledge I require for it.

--

--

--

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

361 Degrees Sports Wear

Trends That Will Play An Important Role In E-Commerce This Year

e commerce

Why Are Consumers Adopting Voice Assistants in Their Lives?

Efficiency is a very seductive idea.

How Facebook is building its very own city

ClimateAi Welcomes Seed Industry Veteran John Nelson to the Advisory Board

ENHANCE YOUR INBOX WITH CHINA TECH INSIGHTS

The Fashion Perspective: What Fashion Can Teach You About the Business World

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Anjali Sindhuvalli

Anjali Sindhuvalli

Student.

More from Medium

The Pitbull for the PMO

Build Your Own Games

What is on Guard for your NFTs?

A session that I find interesting is “How To Take An Idea And Find Out Who Your Customers Are”…