In the post about Excel, what I initially wrote was really long and heavy that I ended up having to write second post that wasn’t as long as the first for those that had been interested in the subject of the “exploratory trip”. For those brave souls, here are some tips for the planning and following through of that trip.
# 1) Look at businesses of all sizes:
If your project is going to be in a country much smaller than the USA, than looking at the larger businesses will teach you less than the smaller ones. Regardless, the idea is that you look at all different sizes in order to know how your business should be from before the first day, after a year and after the third.
# 2) If you have a chance, talk the owners/Presidents who will dedicate their time to you, and still try to talk with the employees:
With the medium-sized businesses what happens often is the boss has a “speech” that really doesn’t hold a lot of weight with the theory. It is good to hear what the managers have to say but also, to be able to contrast that to what the employees or “operatives” say. In the case of Officenet, it is one thing to talk with the President, another thing to talk with the Deposit Manager, and another with the “picker” that carries out the orders. They all have a lot to teach us and you will gain an incomplete education if you talk with only one level. It is really good, if at all possible, to do the same tasks as them for a while: fill the orders, make deliveries, ect.
# 3) When returning, remember to adapt this to your reality:
Seeing how things work in the USA is VERY interesting. But there are certain things that will need to be “tropicalized”. Andy’s and my error was looking at how much the businesses in the USA charge and it took first place in embarrassments and was the most told anecdote in the history of Officenet.
# 4) If they let you, take photos and draw out plans:
It is fundamental that you write down everything that you can. Our heads forget immediately. Share with you project’s team photos about the things that called your attention the most. In Officenet’s case, drawing plans of the deposits were key.
# 5 ) Get a hold of everything!:
Building a business from scratch requires miles and miles of little things. Don’t let anything pass you by. On that trip, for example, Andy and I visited the RRHH areas and collected all the internal forms that the companies had used. When we returned we translated them and all the stationary of RRHH directed us to the level of a good business without a single effort.
# 6) Maintain post-trip relationships:
I stayed very good friends with one of the people that we visited, to the point that one of them offered to visit us a year after start-up and help us to look for ways to better our operation. As a thank you, we took him to the Waterfalls!!!
# 7) If you don’t have the money to travel, at least write some mails:
The process that I explained in the last post was about sending out mails with some questions. If you aren’t going to be able to travel, don’t stop trying to develop relationships and get information via mail.
# 8 ) Pay it forward:
Given that you’re not going to be able to give back the favor that your generous hosts did for you, I learned this lesson and when your project is an established business, do the same for others. For me, their example really made an impression on me and is why Officenet helps other similar but much smaller businesses in Uruguay, Chile, ect. Be generous with what you know to others that need your help and that represent no threat to your enterprise.