Whether it's a cruise to the Caribbean, a European excursion, a coffee bar in Morocco or finding a chief financial officer for a company on the other side of the country, the businesses that make it happen are found in Maricopa.
“We do work in pretty much every state and a few different countries,” Café Design & Architecture founder Ed Viser said. “But the main hub of operation is here in Maricopa.”
Michael Denning, a marketing professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, said it is important for businesses to reach beyond their city’s limits.
“If they don’t, they’ll ignore a major part of the market,” Denning said. “If you’re only going to do business locally, you’re limiting the size of your business and how much it can grow.”
Maricopa business owners say the large customer base that comes from working internationally is beneficial, but time-zone differences, language barriers and money issues make it challenging.
DESIGNING COFFEE BARS
Café Design & Architecture relies on technology to work internationally, Viser said.
“Technology definitely has enabled us to be small in overhead, but have national and international reach,” he said.
The company consists of interior designers, food service planners and architects who help people start coffee businesses around the world. It has satellite offices in San Francisco and New York City.
Viser said he started his business in 2004 in San Francisco and moved to Maricopa in 2006. The cost of real estate, quality of life and family-friendly environment drew him and his wife.
Viser said company employees communicate with each other and clients by phone, Skype and email. “The three people who work with me on a regular basis live in three different cities, so we communicate mostly through texting and email.”
Ninety percent of the company’s work is in the United States and less than 10 percent in Arizona. The company is working on projects in New York, California, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Panama City and finished one last year in El Salvador.
Viser said the café in El Salvador was designed entirely in the U.S.; he never set foot on the site. The diagrams used to create the design were in Spanish and used metric measurements.
“It was great to see that our drawings really withstood scaling and everything,” Viser said. “Being able to do the work and not have to be there is great.”
However, Viser said doing work internationally isn’t always easy.
Denning said the propensity of fraud is a challenge for small- and medium-sized companies doing business abroad.
“That’s the reason most companies require a payment upfront if they are doing a service, like architectural design, to cover at least their costs,” he said.
Referencing a project in Qatar, Viser said doing business with companies abroad is difficult because of money issues. The company does require international clients to pay 50 percent upfront, but Viser said it is a large sum of money.
“It’s hard for individuals to send significant amounts of money at one time,” he said. “It’s also hard to verify who a customer is sometimes.”
Denning said companies abroad can prevent money issues by having an irrevocable letter of credit with a bank.
FINDING KEY EXECUTIVES
The Executive Leadership Institute, another Maricopa business, uses its website to get information to companies and executives around the world, said President and CEO Jim Rives.
The company helps corporations find new leaders who have the necessary technical skills and fit the company’s culture, Rives said.
“I use an online leadership assessment that tells really quickly which leadership competencies have been mastered by an individual,” he said. “It is used worldwide.”
He said the assessments he uses are from MySkillsProfile.com, which is in the United Kingdom. He also has a partnership with a company in Mexico for team building assessments.
Rives said his online assessment and today’s technology enable him to connect with companies abroad.
“Sitting here in Maricopa, the United Kingdom contacted me to develop a program for a large network of commercial real estate women here in the United States,” Rives said.
His goal is to create a new business model for executive recruitment by taking more advantage of technology and online assessment.
“I want to turn (my company) into more of a resource for individual companies to be able to hire through my services.”
Previously, Rives was president of the executive recruitment division of a Phoenix firm with clients across the U.S. He launched his business in Maricopa in 2007.
CRUISIN’ THE WORLD
“The contacts I have made all over the world that I can pass on to my clients if they travel to those places is definitely a benefit,” Miller said.
She has deals with jewelry stores and other vendors who give discounts if her clients show them her business card.
Michelle Jackson, owner of a Cruise Holidays franchise, also points to her contacts abroad.
“I have a lot of companies that I work with especially for their shore excursions and tours,” she said.
She also relies on networking with other franchise owners. If she doesn’t know a particular tour company, someone else might.
Both Jackson and Miller travel on their own to become familiar with the places their clients are interested in. For example, Miller visited China earlier this year and met a tour guide who she will recommend to her clients.
“I know they’re going to get somebody that will treat them well and be very informative,” Miller said.
Similarly, Jackson has cruised to the Caribbean, Alaska and the Mexican Riviera, which are popular places for her clients.
“I’ve been to a lot of places so I can give personal information about which tours to do and which not to do,” Jackson said.
Jackson said her business is in Maricopa because she likes the small town lifestyle and friendly residents.
Miller has worked as a travel agent for 20 years and moved to Maricopa in 2006 when her husband got transferred, she said. She likes to be involved in the community, so she started operating her business from her home in Maricopa.
Miller said she could work anywhere as long as she has her laptop and an Internet connection.
“Some of my clients that are out of the country, I haven’t even met,” Miller said. “They’ve contacted me through recommendations from other clients and we communicate over email.”
THINKING LOCAL BEFORE GLOBAL
Denning, from the W.P. Carey School, said small companies should focus first on building a customer base close to home before reaching nationally and internationally.
“They have to have that critical mass so they can survive,” he said. “Once they get to that point, then I think it is appropriate for them to look outside their geographical territory.”
He said, however, that businesses limit their growth if they remain inside their city’s limits forever.
The growth of companies in a small community, like Maricopa, is essential to the health of the economy, he said.
“The work that people in small businesses do is absolutely critical for the country to continue to thrive,” he said.