By Cathy Koch, Founder, CEO and President of K-Tec Systems
My confession is that for many years we presented K-Tec Systems as a global company. Now I realize not everyone saw it that way.
Why did I think we were a global company? K-Tec Systems was in Michigan and had Canadian customers; we had to fill out customs paperwork to ship, we had to make sure our payment terms were in U.S. funds, and we had to pay brokerage fees. We also imported from Mexico. I even visited the factory there! Why wouldn’t I think we were a global company?
So when a U.S. automotive OEM (original equipment manufacturer) encouraged us to supply test equipment that we manufacture here in the U.S. to their China location, I thought for sure we were a global company. We had to communicate directly with the China OEM and negotiate payment terms because even though they had the same name as the U.S. OEM, the companies operated differently. With this shipment we learned about EXIM insurance, ISPM-15 standards for packaging, and cultural differences. This project was large enough that if we did not get paid it could present a problem for our cash flow. I said to myself, “Wow, now we are global!” And then I asked, “Is that correct?”
Well, that’s not correct according to most OEM’s; without a presence, local office or distributor in these countries, we are only shipping exporters.
Still talking to myself, I said, “What! Now we need to change our website!”
Paying brokerage fees and learning about EXIM insurance, ISPM-15 standards for packaging, foreign currencies, and cultural differences helps in understanding what being a global company is, but it does not mean a company is global.
A true global company has a physical presence in other countries around the globe.
After learning all this, I had a “aha” moment and decided to explore why K-Tec Systems wanted to be a global company.
The reason was clear to me: international expansion is needed for our long-term growth.
We may be able to offset negative growth when the U.S. market is down and gain from international markets.
We can build our brand awareness and learn about new uses for our products and find new markets.
We may even gain new foreign investment opportunities for many governments offer incentives to companies looking to invest in their region.
To find out if K-Tec Systems was ready to go global I sought out resources from our local SBA, WBENC, government and other sources.
I was encouraged to take this assessment from Export.gov that assesses your company’s readiness for entering your first markets, expanding into additional markets, or taking on more challenging, high-growth export markets.
We scored high and we now are moving on to our next steps:
Grants and educational resources
The SBA (Small Business Administration) has a step grant available to help with travel and matchmaking events. SBA has working capital loans to help with cash flow during the manufacturing phase of the products to be shipped to your international customer. The MEDC (Michigan Economic Development Corp) has classes and guidance from experts on export assistance.
We are looking into distribution or rep channels that will gain us insight, build relationships locally, and help with understanding cultural differences.
We are continuously learning more about brokerage fees, custom paperwork, who pays import taxes, and how to partner and learn from UPS.
It is very important to make sure your bank is set up for international trade. Our current smaller bank uses a third-party and this may cause some confusion to the customer.
We have a lot to learn but are very excited to grow globally. We are thankful for the resources that are available to help us! We feel we have a large team behind us supporting our efforts.
Our goal will be to have our brand known globally, as well as us learning the needs of the world, We are changing our website after all; it will become more internationally usable.
Soon, we will be able to say, we really are a global company!
Ready to go global? Don’t miss the Global Circuit in the WBENC Business Lab at the 2019 National Conference & Business Fair.
Hosted by UPS, the Global Circuit will cover the ins and outs of what it means to take your business worldwide, including exporting, packaging and shipping, trade law and more. For the experienced exporter, learn about market entry strategies, identify target markets and better understand export compliance.
Cathy Koch is Founder, CEO, and President of K-Tec Systems, a global manufacturer, distributor and integrator of advanced control systems.
For over 30 years they have been a reliable source to the automotive, aerospace, food and chemical industries manufacturing and distributing in the Canada, China and the United States.
Cathy has been featured in DBusiness Magazine and in 2017 K-Tec Systems was recognized as “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” and in 2018 K-Tec Systems was awarded “Best Small Business” and “SmartZone.” Cathy is passionate in helping other women grow their businesses. She enjoys golfing, cooking and family time with her first grandchild.