By Gayathri Selvaraj
Blount International, Inc. is a global manufacturing company that manufactures, designs, and markets products for three business segments: 1) Forestry, Lawn, and Garden 2) Farm, Ranch, and Agriculture 3) Concrete and Finishing. While the company’s corporate headquarters is based in Portland, Oregon, it also has manufacturing, distribution, and sales offices in nearly 115 countries around the world. The company’s Chairman and CEO, Mr. Joshua Collins, visited Portland State University on January27, 2014, to give the graduate students in the international management program a lecture about Blount and conducting business globally.
Blount manufactures a variety of products, but their main product line is the chainsaw, with about 200 million sold each year around the world. The company sells their chainsaws and other products through distributors to dealers in some areas, whereas in others it sells directly to dealers. In Europe, the products are directly sold to the end user. The products are also available online through shopping retailers such as Amazon. The company is expecting high growth in its concrete and finishing segments over the next five years, and it has its sourcing offices in North America (mainly Portland), China (Fuzhou), and Europe. In the future, Blount plans to expand the facility in China and build a facility in Eastern Europe.
During his visit, Mr. Collins addressed some of the major issues faced while conducting international business:
- Transactional issues, which involve currency risk, taxes with double taxation, and logistics and import/export duties. Those duties involve paying a huge amount for airfreight and a high fee at customs. However, the newly established free trade zone at the North American distribution center in Kansas City enables the company to get the products from Asia, store it in a warehouse, and ship it to Europe without having to pay additional fees.
- Operational issues, which involve sourcing (with quality being the biggest challenge) manufacturing, sales, and distribution.
- Legal and ethical issues, which involve bribes, intellectual property (with counterfeiting being a big issue, especially in China), and human rights (like safe working conditions).
- Management and cultural issues, which involve language and communication. Communication can be very challenging when conducting business internationally. This also encompasses negotiations, recruiting and turnover, and leadership and expat assignments.
Mr. Collins’ lecture was very informative and interesting. As future business leaders look forward to conducting international business it is very important to learn about different issues that global companies face in today’s world. By sharing some of the challenges that Blount faces, Mr. Collins gave us a glimpse of that world.