Thursday, May 24, 2007

Puerto Rico, Part I of III

I have never been to Latin America and this May was my first time – we went to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a US island in the Caribbean basin though only on paper. In spirit it is nothing but. It is truly Latin American in all respects and this is what I liked most about it.

If I had to describe Puerto Rico in two words I would say it is all about Celebration of Life. From the lush green and bright fragrant flowers everywhere to multi-colored houses of old San Juan (the capital) where indeed there are no 2 houses alike: pale pink next to bright orange, sky blue to vibrant green - it seems like these houses represent all colors of the rainbow, all shades and all variations except for boring black and gray which dominate the usual urban landscape.

The abundance of tropical fish swimming even in shallow waters right at the beach compete in variety of colors with the old San Juan’s buildings.

In addition you hear birds singing everywhere: various birds, many distinct voices. You might not see them since they are hidden somewhere among beautiful tropical plants but their songs follow you wherever you go.

In the evenings there are other songs heard on every corner: street festivals, bars, and clubs welcome you. It is not by chance that it was Puerto Ricans who invented one of the hottest Latin American dances – salsa.

Puerto Rico reminded me of Mauritius (I already wrote about this island on my blog): it is tiny but it has so many things to explore. An amazing tropical rain forest with magnificent waterfalls, a cave park with stunning stalactites and stalagmites, old fortresses and cathedrals, the famous Arecibo Observatory and so much more. If you are into nature or arts or history or astronomy you will realize that your trip to Puerto Rico was worth making.
So when next time you see a Bacardi rum commercial on TV which invites you to the “Latin Quarter” you can be sure that the “spirit” it is talking about is very much real and it is very much Puerto Rican (again, it is not by chance, I think, that the largest Bacardi plant is located on this amazing island).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Small businesses going global: International Art Gallery

When we talk about International Business, most of us think about huge multinational corporations. What fascinates me personally is the ability of small businesses to find their unique niche and grow the business globally. With this article I start a series of stories about such companies.

Capucines Boulevard art gallery and auction ( is a very interesting entrepreneurial venture based out of Chicago, IL which succeeded in becoming international on several levels:

1. Capucines Boulevard gallery attracts artists from all over the world: though it's a relatively new venture founded in 2005 it already represents nearly 60 artists from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, India, USA. Therefore it creates a unique opportunity for visitors to experience everything from the mesmerising landscapes of New Mexico to unusual sceneries from a small Russian village. Paintings, ink drawings, prints; glass and metal works; painted silk - an art lover can find anything and everything in this gallery. But most importanly many of the exhibited works of art can be found ONLY at Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, for example, are not strong in e-commerce yet and is the only outlet where artists from these countries offer you their art for purchase.

2. Being an Internet based art gallery and auction has a truly global outreach: it can sell a work of art to anyone anywhere in the world. You can make a purchase from the comfort of your own home and it will be delivered to you by a courier within a couple of days.

Of course, there are many Internet art galleries but the following characteristics make unique:
1. It does not specialise on just 1 - 2 - 3 countries, this gallery is truly diverse and international
2. The experience you get from interaction with the gallery is dynamic: you can view the photos of the works of art, listen to the artist's favourite music or their interviews, view virtual tours of their studios, etc.
3. Even static works of art come to life in gallery!! To learn how it's possible you can watch these videos:

This company is a great example of a small business going global, an excellent sales and marketing approach and an exciting experience for customers - all in one.

PS The ink drawing included in the article is called "Dancing Libra" from Zodiac collection of a Russian painter Anatoly Kudravcev exhibited at

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

International Consultants

I wanted to share my recent observations with regards so-called "international consultants" who are plenty in USA and whom I meet quite often at various networking events.

I don't really understand what is the reason behind the phenomenon I am going to talk about (may be the geographical position of USA - far away from most of the world, i.e. Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa) but most of Americans I meet who spent at least a couple of months abroad during their lifetime (either working or as a student) consider themselves to be professional international consultants. Here are 2 classic examples that I recently met:

1. Middle-aged guy who spent 3 months in Europe as a student (about 20 years ago) insists on being extremely knowledgeable about in European business. He never worked in any European company and since his days over there many countries do not exist any more and new ones emerged.

2. A lady who spent a year or so in Europe working as a ground personnel for 1 of the American Airlines (you know those girls who check in your luggage before the flight) now has her own consulting company specializing in... international business and international relations! How much did she learn about European business models printing baggage receipts???

Moreover, neither of these so-called "international consultants" speak any foreign language and I suspect has know clue about cultural aspects of the regions they "specialize in" either.

However, their businesses exist and, apparently, some companies trust them! I just wanted to warn my readers about these types of "consultants" and "international experiences". Don't waste your money! If you have never been abroad except as a tourist your experience and knowledge is not inferior to that of such "consultants" even if they spent several month abroad. The main question you have to ask is what were they able to learn doing whatever they were doing while staying abroad? Drinking in pubs with other students or printing boarding passes (as per my examples) has nothing to do with understanding the principles of international business.

I do call myself an international consultant too (my company is Emerging Markets Advice ) but in contrast to what I have already mentioned I lived, studied and worked in 5 different countries (and when I say "studied" I mean I studied international management, and when I say "worked" I mean I worked as international business development professional in big multinational companies). I also participated in a number of cross-regional and global projects involving a dozen other countries and in addition I speak 3 languages.

This phenomenon does not exist, say, in Europe because you cannot fool a truly international community where the majority speaks at least 2 languages, has experience studying abroad and some of them have worked abroad too. There you really have to show you can add value compared to everyone else.

Therefore, dear business owners, if you plan an international expansion, please, be careful choosing a consultant to help you with the task! Beware of former international camp councelors, flight attendants and the like.