What growth strategies are you considering this year? As a small-business owner, it's smart to do an annual review of your profit-generating centers to determine which areas could be further developed.
One strategy that's often overlooked by business owners looking to expand is the international marketplace. For many, the complexities of foreign cultures can be confusing and intimidating, but the advantages of fully engaging with international businesspeople are undeniable, especially when it comes to biotechnology.
My years on the California-China Advisory Board have convinced me that one smart road to building international businesses is through biotech investments, and China offers numerous opportunities for businesses hoping to grow in this area. After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last February, for instance, California Governor Edmund Brown had this to say: “The Pacific Rim has become the center of the world economy, presenting California with countless opportunities to grow alongside our neighbors across the ocean. The office will encourage direct investment and further strengthen the existing ties between the world’s second- and ninth-largest economies.”
If you've never considered doing business with a foreign company, it’s an opportunity you should seriously consider. Not only will investing in international biotech increase your exposure to new technologies, but it will also give you access to cutting-edge information that could improve the lives of millions.
International Biotech Is Booming
As an advisory board member, I learned a great deal about the importance of the development of the international biotech business. The large aging populations in the United States, China and India are driving increased demand for health-care solutions for age-related illnesses. This can be an investment opportunity for businesses that are tackling disease prevention and chronic disease management.
But these benefits aren’t one-sided. U.S. companies that build businesses in China can perform research and development without excessive costs, and Chinese companies can partner with U.S. companies to take advantage of America’s established regulatory system. Capital investments and partnerships that build these connections can also create economic opportunities for both sides, giving life to the budgets of U.S. companies and creating jobs and opportunities in China.
And there’s a lot that can be gained personally as well. Involvement in international biotech offers unique access to a world of technology that would otherwise be off-limits—technology that could change lives. Similarly, broadening your experience through international investments can give you a better perspective on your investments. For example, some technologies that are new to the U.S. are ubiquitous in other countries. Therefore, you can refer to the historical information available in those countries to determine how well the technology will be received by your own customers.
If you’re interested in learning more about the biotech industry, here are a few ways to get started:
- Attend conventions. Attending “bioconventions,” such as the BIO International Convention, is a great way to gain perspective on the progress of international industries.
- Follow the speaking circuits. Attending lectures by leaders in your field of interest will provide updates on emerging biotech trends. Professors who visit universities also have great insights into what’s viable in biotech, and they’re often interested in exchanging ideas with others in the field.
- Stream international seminars. Thanks to technology, you don’t have to attend tons of seminars to get something out of them. Often, organizations host scientific webinars that are available online for international audiences.
- Use tech to stay up to date. Using tools such as PubMed to read scientific publications can be a good way to keep track of biotech developments. You can also subscribe and receive updates.
Opportunities to get involved in international biotech will arise naturally from learning about it, but before you begin trying to forge international relationships, you should understand the significance of cultural differences. Catering to these differences is the most important thing I’ve learned during my time on the board. Here are a few things to keep in mind about culture:
1. Find the comfort zone. Make sure everyone in your meetings feels physically and mentally comfortable. Tension can ruin an international encounter, so work on balancing the two cultures to create a relaxed environment that fosters creativity and rapport.
2. Be concise. The less you say, the less likely you’ll be misunderstood. Make sure you’re expressing yourself as clearly as possible, especially when there’s a language barrier.
3. Learn from your experiences. Take mental notes during each interaction. Then adapt your next approach so you can improve your interactions. Communicating with people from different cultural backgrounds is a progressive learning process.
4. Listen first; speak second. Letting the other party speak first gives you time to collect your thoughts so you can form a clear, concise response. Being a good listener and thinking before you speak can make all the difference when developing new relationships.
Learning how to properly negotiate international encounters can have a positive impact on how you conduct business. As an entrepreneur, you hold the unique ability to bridge the gap between international businesses through biotech partnerships and capital investments, which will forge stronger relationships for the biotech industry as a whole.
Kevin Xu is the CEO of MEBO International, an intellectual property management company with offices in California and Beijing that focuses on human body regenerative restoration science. Xu is also a member of YEC, an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most-promising young entrepreneurs.
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