Selling Internationally from Southern Utah, Part II

by Tim Anderson


Why can you sell goods and services from Southern Utah and other perfect places largely in your own language and largely in the way that you are accustomed to doing business? In no small part, you can thank the British.

In 1992, before “the earth is flat” era, Joel Kotkin authored Tribes, a fascinating book about how race, religion and identity determine success in what was then seen as a new world economy. Kotkin’s premise was that notwithstanding the dissolution of national boundaries due to a modern world-wide system of trade, tribalism is still alive and well as certain “global tribes” have been at the center of the world’s economy for hundreds of years and will continue into the 21st century. His thought provoking work focused on five major groups: Jews, British, Chinese, Japanese and Indians. I recommend this book highly to those seeking deeper insight into the longer term influences that shaped our world economy.

The opportunity for the small business person in rural America of today to be a participant in international trade was shaped, in part, years ago as the British undertook a form of conquest somewhat unique to world history at its greatest period of expansion. Kotkin points out that the march through history of the British certainly confounded the other seekers of global power such as the Germans, Italians, Spanish and most of all, the French. Even as late as the 1780’s, France had surpassed Britain in overseas colonial trade. The population of France was four times greater than that of Britain. French industrial power was superior and the French language stood second to none throughout Europe. It was the language of kings.

Yet today among the nations that were spawned by the British Empire, the United States, Canada, Australia, India, Britain and New Zealand, you have over half of the world’s GDP and by far the largest block of overseas foreign investment on the globe. You have English as the first language or the second language of preference virtually everywhere. What the English did to accomplish this phenomenal result was varied, but among the most important reasons is that when the British moved around the globe with their navies and armies, they did not merely go as the conqueror. To the contrary, legions of administrators and business people followed. Often it was the British East India Company or some other major commercial entity that helped guide government objectives and policy. The result is that a society was installed wherever possible that had perpetual mercantilism and trade at its heart. It stood to reason that war was disruptive to commerce and that good was more apt to flow in times of peace than in time of conflict. The British did not do a perfect job. They can’t forget that little mistake of getting the American colonists upset, but they did undertake a much more comprehensive effort in building community and commerce as opposed to mere conquest.

The result is that great empires, rather than falling, merely took on new custodians like the Americans and the Indians who continued the practices of government laid down and established by their British ancestors or conquerors. Moreover, other emerging economies have found success in adopting the British commercial models installed long ago. You see it in China, Japan and many of the prosperous Arab states. You see it in Hong Kong, Singapore and New Delhi, which retained much of their British traditions and architecture. British law, customs, commercial practices and business language are replete throughout the world – and even in the small towns of America.

When you, as a small business person in America have something to sell, the rest of the world is to some degree already prepared and waiting, thanks to the British. They often speak English or desire to. They are already experts at supply chain models established by the traders from the British Isles who came and in many cases stayed until their story was well understood, and until their story was part of the local history.

So, if you wonder why I can encourage you to put together a strategy for selling in foreign lands and actually lay out a process for doing so, it is thanks in part to the British, one of the great “tribes” who two centuries ago, built the economic core of today’s global commerce.

NOTE: Next Post – Some Nuts and Bolts for International Selling from Southern Utah and Other Perfect Places

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