Are changes to Visa Waiver Program affecting you?

If you traveled to Syria, Sudan, Iraq or Iran, the USA will now require you to apply for a visa, instead of allowing you to enjoy the visa waiver program to enter the United States. This major change in policy will affect quite a number of business travelers.

Like most Western Europeans, you have most probably traveled to the United States of America enjoying the simplicity of the Visa Waiver Program that is in place with some 35+ countries, including Belgium, The Netherlands and France. Some major changes were announced on January 21st, that could affect your future travel plans.

Recently, the press has covered instances of dual national citizens who have been refused entry to the US. The story of a dual-national British journalist, on her way to visit relatives in the United States, is a perfect example. Read here – bbc journalist.

Probably less known is a second category of travelers directly hit by the changes implemented under the ‘Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015’. Nationals of countries that enjoy the visa waiver program, and have traveled to the aforementioned countries after March 1st, 2011, are affected. A press release from the Department of Homeland Security states that:

Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.”

Here is the link to the press release: http://www.dhs.gov/news/2016/01/21/united-states-begins-implementation-changes-visa-waiver-program

The same press release reassures that visa requests can be processed on an expedited basis for individuals who require a visa for “urgent business travel”. Furthermore, the release clarifies that:

“…any traveler who receives notification that they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP are still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate. Such travelers will be required to appear for an interview and obtain a visa in their passports at a U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to the United States…”

Forewarned is forearmed. Check your travel of the past 5 years, because coming to the US for business might now require a little more effort on your part.

If you have questions you can always contact me (although I am not a lawyer), or your favorite immigration lawyer.

 

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A great location…

Identifying the optimal location for a business’s first steps on the US market, is a crucial decision in the business development process.

Earlier blogs (read location…location…location) described how foreign direct investors should search for the right mix of elements. Take into account where customers and competition, but also vendors are located; what incentives and support are offered; what caliber of employees can be found, without forgetting about time zones, cost of living, legislation, climate and connectivity.

This made Renuka Rayasam’s article on Atlanta a great read, defining it as a great location to work and live. We can confirm. She also points to the recent influx of major companies who have recognized this by relocating to the Big Peach. Daimler-Benz’s recent announcement attracting most of the headlines. We are certain more are to follow.

Read the article here: http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20150331-beyond-the-worlds-busiest-airport

Flemish exports reach record height in 2013

According to an article in the Flemish newspaper De Tijd exports from Flanders – one three regions in Belgium, the others are Wallonia and Brussels – grew in 2013 to a new record height. In comparison with the previous year exports increased by 1.64% to 294 billion euro. Flanders represents 83% of all Belgian exports. All the numbers originate from Flanders Investment and Trade.

Aside from all these positive macro-economic data, COGNEGY itself has seen a growing interest for the US market by many Belgian SMEs. More feasibility studies than ever before are being run, and more client businesses are enjoying our support with the execution of their growth strategies on the US market.
Another notable positive trend is the realization by many entrepreneurs that such a market entry has to be well prepared. Far more than in the recent past, they recognize the importance of early identification of ‘hurdles‘ and ‘springboards‘ (the opposite of a hurdle, an accelerator) and the understanding of competitive environments, which leads invariably to a stronger value proposition and in turn to more successful customer acquisition.
The original text was published in De Tijd – and can be found here http://www.tijd.be/r/t/1/id/9484774.
All numbers quoted originate from FIT – Flanders Investment & Trade.

 

Georgia #1 state for business

Georgia – that is the state in the US and not the country – has been named #1 state for business by the Site Selection Magazine.

In a press release by the office of Governor Nathan Deal, Site Selection editor Mike Ahrend was quoted saying:

“Executives at companies investing there regularly point to its many logistics advantages, cutting-edge workforce training programs, particularly Quick Start, and proactive economic developers on the state and local levels who understand the business requirements of today’s capital investors.”

Read the full press release here: http://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2013-11-04/georgia-named-no-1-state-us-business

So, just like Ray Charles you should have Georgia on your mind!

what is business development?

This blog has never been about us… but any good rule should have an exception.

Over time many people have asked me: ‘what do you do?’  I tell them: ‘…business development…’ And nine out of ten the reply comes: ‘so, you are a sales person, right…?’

Well, yes in a way, but actually no, not really…

Many people erroneously adhere to the idea that ‘business development’ is just another fancy name for selling. They see sales people as ego-hungry creatures, who are continuously looking to put something ‘new and improved’ on their business card. First they were simply sales guys, who then evolved into account managers and now have to be addressed as business development managers…

Or could ‘business development’ actually mean more than sales?

Sure, because others will tell you that business development is essentially the activity to forge new partnerships, alliances, joint ventures or even acquisitions, allowing the organization to grow non-organically.

Others again, will favor the concept that business development is in fact the opening up of new product – market combinations, and preach that actually its lifeblood lies within the R&D and new product development teams.

So, who is right? And, what do I actually do…?

In fact all of the definitions are accurate in a way – because business development is an effort that combines all of these elements and a couple more.

For us business development means ‘…leading the concerted efforts of a company’s profitable growth into new markets, new relationships and new business activities that typically take place outside the realm of its current day-to-day business…’

And that is what I enjoy doing – take businesses into unknown territory!

It’s not the carpet, it’s the value proposition…

Successful entrepreneurs spend their scarce time developing a value proposition for their business, and are not mesmerized by the administrative side of bringing their business to the US.

The quagmire of administrative questions has bogged down numerous entrepreneurs with its lure of choosing: the nicest office building, the best CPA, the fastest internet connection and cheapest phone provider. Selecting the new phone system, printer and copier or even the first receptionist will not improve the odds of your business start in the US.

Instead you should spend your precious time finding out about your (potential) customers and their needs. Who are they, where are they, what do they buy today and why? What do they need that you can offer?

American businesses and consumers alike are very much into asking ’what’s in it for me?’ Why should I buy from you and not from my current vendor?

Have a crystal clear answer to that question, and do not get stuck with just thinking in product or service terms. Think total solution package (sales, customer support, technical support, price, marketing, supply chain,…) through the eyes of  the customer.

A sharp definition of what your business’s value proposition actually is, will set you not only apart from competition but on the right path towards US business success.

Then you will have plenty of time to select the carpet…

Is it a client or a customer…it is a ‘clustomer’!

A while ago I entered into a debate on the difference between a ‘customer’, a ‘client’ and a ‘consumer’… Was my debate partner selling to ‘clients’ or rather to ‘customers’?

Very quickly we agreed what a consumer was: the person at the end of the supply chain who actually consumed the product or the service…

It got a little trickier to define the difference between a client and a customer…

Webster says: ‘a client is a person who engages the professional advice or services of another’ and in the same breath confirms that ‘a customer is one that purchases a commodity or service’.

Well, that did not really help because my debate partner was actually selling marketing services to a niche market. It got even more confusing considering the fact – although they too offer a service – that doctors, dentists or psychiatrists do not have clients. They have patients. We quickly agreed that calling his clients/customers patients did not seem a good business idea.

We then decided to look at it from the perspective of the client/customer – would they have different expectations? Both buy a solution to their need and will become loyal if it fulfills or exceeds their expectations.

Again, this did not provide a differentiation, because both clients and customers tend to come back for more if they are happy. Although this is also dictated by the laws of offer and demand, because I cannot imagine Oliver Twist, whilst exclaiming ‘Please, sir, could I have some more…’ considered the food to exceed his expectations.

But we are digressing.

Clients, customers, consumers and patients alike will come back for more if you provide the right solution to their needs. So, have regular conversations with your clients, customers or consumers because their needs change, and find out how you are doing…

PS – we settled on calling my debate partner’s client/customers from now on ‘clustomers’. And he is still my client.