How to Make International Business Connections

See also: Intercultural Communication Skills

Many of the world’s most prosperous companies operate on more than one continent. If you want to succeed in business, or enjoy a successful career in the corporate world, it is becoming increasingly important to have an international focus. To accomplish this, it is essential for professionals in a variety of roles to maintain a network of business connections from abroad.

For example, Alan Collins, the former Vice President of human resources at PepsiCo, recommends that human resources managers seek out international experience and connections as a way of differentiating themselves from other HR professionals in an increasingly global economy.

Whether you’re hoping to manage others, take a startup global or simply enjoy a greater number of lucrative sales opportunities for your business, a multinational network can help you achieve these goals.

Unfortunately, establishing an international network can be a real challenge if you don’t know anyone outside of your home country. So how do you meet people and create a trusted network of business connections outside your immediate area? Consider the following nine ideas:

Join International Business Organizations

International business organizations can put you in touch with like-minded people who are also seeking out international business contacts. The following are a couple of prominent international business organizations you might want to consider joining:

  • The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) – This organization is dedicated to promoting international trade and responsible business conduct. ICC has a broad membership base consisting of individuals from 45 million companies located in 130+ countries. They offer you the opportunity to get help with finding local contacts in other countries where you want to do business.

  • Owit International – Owit International is an organization of 2,000+ women who are involved with international trade.

Attend Conventions and Trade Shows in Other Countries

Conventions and trade shows offer a number of industry-focused business networking opportunities that can be productive and valuable sources of international business connections. It might also be possible for you to take advantage of local, domestic trade shows and conventions that attract a global audience.

For example, if you operate an apparel business, and you’re looking to make global connections for marketing the business internationally, it would be ideal for you to attend international trade shows like Première Vision in Paris or Heimtextil in Frankfurt.

It could also be beneficial to attend a domestic trade show. If you live in the United States, MAGIC in Las Vegas could be a worthwhile option to consider, as they attract an international audience. If you invest some effort in contacting people ahead of time, you can maximize your trip by scheduling appointments to meet other attendees at the show.

Volunteer for Relevant Projects at Work

Perhaps you work for a multinational corporation that maintains offices in multiple countries. If that’s the case, you could ask to be assigned to work on globally focused projects whenever you have the chance. Make an effort to connect with your company’s employees, suppliers and customers in other countries whenever it’s practical to do so.

Study Abroad

If you’re a college or university student, you may be offered the option to spend your junior year studying abroad. Many academic institutions offer programs allowing their students to attend a foreign university for a year.

It is also possible for students in some disciplines to complete an entire degree in a foreign country. This probably isn’t practical for certain majors like nursing, because the course contents for these programs tend to adhere to state regulations for meeting the local licensing requirements. However, completing your degree in another country could be invaluable if you’re hoping to work for a global corporation or start your own business after graduation.

Attend Classes at an Academic Institution with an International Focus

You don’t necessarily have to study abroad to make global business connections at school. There are many colleges and universities where international business relations are a main focus of the curriculum. For example, American International University allows students to major in business while developing academic language skills and interacting with people from various other backgrounds and cultures.

Learn New Languages

It’s ideal to learn one or more new languages if you hope to make international connections and conduct business internationally. In some cases, the language courses can be a great source of new international connections. One of the best examples of this is attending a Hebrew ulpan in Israel. Ulpan is a class made up of international students who all want to learn Hebrew. Many ulpan courses are conducted entirely in Hebrew using the immersion method.

Israel is a strategically located country whose population is largely international. Since Israel accepts immigrants from all over the world, there is a need for a common language for communication. Many of these immigrants attend ulpan to learn Hebrew and integrate into Israeli society.

However, ulpan is also popular with people other than immigrants to Israel. Since the country has many unique historic sites, Israel is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. It is common for seminary students and yeshiva students from all over the world to spend time in Israel learning Hebrew. Israel’s healthcare system is world-renowned, and the country is a popular destination for international doctors and scientific researchers who wish to participate in the many research projects being conducted there. Some of these visitors choose to enroll in vocation-specific language courses through Israeli ulpans.

For the entrepreneur who is interested in making international business connections, such a class offers a unique opportunity to meet people from nearly every continent. A typical ulpan course includes students from every corner of the globe, often including Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Ethiopia, and various Middle Eastern and European countries.

There are many possible language courses where you could make international connections, and the language you learn will be useful to you as you embark on your future international business endeavors.

Make Friends with International Students at Local Universities

Many universities are willing to educate international students, and it is common for some students to travel abroad to complete their studies. If you attend a college or university that hosts international students, you have an easy, ready-made source of new international contacts. Even if you don’t actually attend university, you may be able to make friends with some of the international students.

Take Advantage of Government Assistance Where Available and Appropriate

Globalism wouldn’t be possible if governments weren’t willing to cooperate with each other to some degree. Some governments make resources available to encourage their citizens to seek foreign customers for their businesses. Others encourage international development and investments in their countries from abroad. Depending on your location and goals, it may be appropriate for you to take advantage of the resources they make available. The following are a couple of resources that may be of interest:

  • Invest Northern Ireland: Is the regional business development agency that operates under the Department for the Economy. This organization maintains a global network of business executives and trade advisors who could potentially help your business form mutually rewarding business connections in Ireland. Some of the things they help with include B2B meeting scheduling, lead generation and introductions to potential clients.

  • Scottish Development International: This organization exists to help foreigners invest in Scotland, set up a business there or accommodate mutually beneficial trade of goods and services. One of the ways they accomplish this by helping businesses find the local Scottish connections they need.

Use Social Media

Social media is a global phenomenon. If you use sites like LinkedIn and Instagram, you can connect with people all over the world. There may be times when your social media friends travel to locations near you. Whenever practical, offer to meet them in person. This can help to make your budding relationships more meaningful.

Cross-cultural communication isn’t necessarily easy, but it is worth making the effort to achieve success with it. The strategies mentioned above are some of the best ways to begin the process of building a global network of trusted business associates. Whatever your career or business goals happen to be, you’re likely to enjoy success if you’re able to draw on a sizable international network of colleagues for exchanging information, sales leads and advice, and enjoying mutually beneficial relationships.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

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About the Author

Andrej is an entrepreneur, a digital marketer and an avid internet technologist. Throughout his career, Andrej has combined his passion for cutting-edge technology with a keen eye for emerging industry trends to deliver customised marketing solutions to businesses and clients around the globe. He believes that the key to modern marketing excellence is a constant willingness to learn and adapt to the ever-changing digital world.