Working overseas takes planning

By Steven F. Huszai and Bobby WArren WOOSTER DAILY RECORD Published:

WOOSTER -- Ohio residents and businesses looking to explore overseas' opportunities should carefully plan their trips because it involves more than purchasing an airline ticket.

One basic element is health care. Dr. Gregory Halley, Wayne County's health commissioner, recommends people traveling abroad get in touch with their primary care physicians and discuss health issues.

"People should take plenty of medications and review their (vaccination) history," Halley said. "For Western Europe you don't really need anything different than you would here, but it all depends on where you are going, what you are doing and who you will be exposed to."

For those who are dealing with chronic illnesses, like diabetes, Halley said they should make sure their physicians know where they are going and any precautions that should be taken. He reiterated taking enough prescription medicine because "you may or may not have access to the medications you are used to."

Another thing to consider is health insurance. People should contact their insurance companies to see if they will cover out-of-country care or if they need to purchase a rider.

When it comes to traveling abroad for business, Stephen Spoonamore knows a thing or two from years of experience.

"I have done business on every continent except Antarctica," said the CEO of ABS Materials, based in Wooster. Before forming the company Spoonamore did extensive work in the IT realm, specifically cybersecurity issues, when worked for companies involved with the Department of Defense. Others have been sold to larger entities such as Bloomberg, MasterCard, and DuosTech. In years past, Spoonamore said he has travelled more than 150,000 air miles in a single year for business.

"I have had offices and spent substantial time in London, Munich, Kampala, Tokyo, Dubai and Laizhou, China," he said when he was co-founder and CEO of CPR-Group and Cybrinth. Both firms were later sold to larger, aforementioned entities.

CPR-Group had eight to 10 overseas affiliates, where Cybrinth had three in the United Kingdom, Libya and Dubai. He also ran a mining company from 2002-05, which had another five-six subsidiary companies.

Spoonamore recommends using preferred travel exemptions in order to skip through customs, mainly for people who travel abroad more than three times a year.

Uday Vaidya, chief executive officer of NobleTek, a Wooster-based engineering services and product lifecycle management company with additional office in The Netherlands and India, once spent a year working in Germany. He had been working in TechniGraphics's office in India before heading to Germany.

"The important thing is when you work in European companies, you need a work permit," Vaidya said. While people might be OK working fewer than 90 days overseas, for anything over 90 days, Vaidya said to get a permit from the country's consulate here before leaving the United States.

Also, it will help to learn the language. "You don't have to be fluent, but get to know the basics," Vaidya said.

When Vaidya was in Germany, he lived in a smaller village about an hour away from his office. "Virtually no one spoke English," he said. "In Frankfurt and in the business community, you're OK, they speak English."

Understanding the language also is important when driving.

"When you are driving in Germany, it is a good idea to know the (road) signs. They are all in German," Vaidya said.

Rod Crider, president of Wayne Economic Development Council, said he normally works with overseas companies wanting to locate here, but for businesses looking to do business in foreign countries, the process is similar. Once a market is identified, a company can look for a representative to handle sales or set up a sales office. If things go well, then the next step would be to explore setting up an assembly plant or manufacturing facility.

Spoonamore's extensive experience and global connections have also led to his current venture expanding rapidly around the world. But he lets the "experts" take over from there once overseas markets have been identified.

"Setting up an overseas operation depends a whole lot on where it is and what it is for," he explained. "Just like in the U.S. where we have C-Corp, S-Corp, LLC, LPs and others, there are generally several options in every other country as well."

Those who do not have the extensive experience of Spoonamore can look to the state for some help into expanding into overseas markets: The Ohio Development Services Agency can offer companies help with exporting their goods and services.

There are seven International Trace Assistance Centers around the state, including one at the Small Business Development Center in Kent. Here, people can receive comprehensive, one-on-one counseling, said Wes Aubihl, assistant deputy chief of export assistance with the ODSA.

The goal is to help educate and prepare businesses to export and to help them understand the intricacies of international business, Aubihl said.

The state can also provide in-market support research and qualified contact research. If a company is export-ready and has identified a market, then state officials can help find distributors and end-users, Aubihl said. Also, business representatives can accompany state officials on trade missions to learn about overseas markets and meet with potential buyers.

The state also offers financial support through its International Market Access Grant for Exporters. Eligible small businesses can receive 50 percent reimbursement for international marketing activities up to $15,000.

There were 13,106 exporters in Ohio, based on 2010 U.S. Census data.

Interest in exporting is growing as business leaders look to access new markets, increase sales and grow their businesses, Aubihl said.

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