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Recap: Business trip from the Land Down Under
April 04, 2011 2:16 PM
By Colleen Jolly

Editor’s note:  This is the last of a series of blogs about Jolly’s trade mission trip to Australia. Jolly is a principal with the 24 Hour Co. in Falls Church and managing director of its London office.

Back from Australia I finally have a minute to collect my thoughts. Below is a recap of my thoughts and experiences during my more than week-long stay abroad.

The country: Australia is great! The weather is great, the food is great, and the people are great. I have two very small complaints. The first is that with the parity of the Australian and American dollar, it is expensive to travel in Australia. The second is that Australia is really far away. That makes traveling there inconvenient and challenging, because of the difference in time zones.

The mission: I was skeptical about traveling with people I did not know who may or may not be at my level of travel sophistication. I was concerned about having to follow along like a tour group. I was completely wrong. The leader for the mission was incredibly flexible and tailored each person and company’s experience to his or her individual needs. It was good to know I had a touchstone in case of emergencies or, if I was lonely, but otherwise I wandered around town like I prefer.

The meetings: I was also skeptical that someone who was not intimately associated with my business could set up quality meetings. Again, I was wrong. The in-country consultants through the Virginia Economic Development Partnership mission set up amazing meetings.  I had 18 scheduled meetings altogether, and the VEDP provided detailed information about the contacts, the beforehand conversations, how to get to the meetings and also a list of declined meetings from other potential clients or partners.

Overall, I worked 10 hours a day going from meeting to meeting with little time in between. My nights were free and, if I wanted, there was an instant network of dinner companions. The week was completely packed, and I was exhausted every night. The travel arrangements, which included recommended flights and a discount at a hotel in a prime location, made it easier to focus on my meetings without worrying about logistics.

I highly recommend traveling in general. Travel gives you perspective and allows you to see things in new ways. I also highly recommend using a trusted resource like the VEDP to help you set up meetings and introduce you to a new market or country. The state agency lent me credibility and provided valuable information that would have taken me months to figure out on my own.

A new country may seem scary and different, but it is a lot easier than you think to do business internationally. There are organizations in foreign countries and in your home state that can do most of the research for you, free or at very low cost. English-speaking countries tend to be easier for starting expansions, although culturally there is nowhere exactly like the U.S. It is good to not forget that.

My advice? Go. To Australia, the UK, any place you are personally interested in. It is a big world out there, and you won’t be alone!


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