Kazakhstani Students Tour US Businesses

    Take-Aways From Their Experience

    Kazakhstani group Check out Jeff in the Kazakhstani hat! A gift from the students he met.

    Six college students from Kazakhstan, in Eastern Asia, were chosen to visit the Seattle area to learn about business and entrepreneurship.  These students toured Trophies2Go’s Awards Factory in Renton, WA along with our Awards Design Center in Issaquah, WA.  Over the next three weeks, the students visited area businesses each weekday morning, with English lessons in the afternoons.  At the end of the three weeks, these students treated their teachers and leaders to a traditional Kazakhstani meal and power point presentations about what they learned over the three week period.

    After listening to their presentations, I was amazed how each group of two was able to distill their experience at each business into a single take-away.  Below are some of the business strategies they found successful and really stuck with me.

    Know who your customer is.  How can you provide services and products if you don’t know who they are going to and what the customer needs? Target in on your customer and what they want to be successful.

    Treat your employees well.  That seemed to be a common theme for many companies.  If you put your resources into your employees, they will treat your customers right.  From training, to perks, like bringing your dog to work, many businesses take good care of the people working for them.

    Use horizontal management vs. vertical management.  It sounded like in Kazakhstan, many businesses were run vertically, with the manager issuing commands with employees to follow.  (The students thought this might be left over from the Soviet Era, which I found interesting).  Of the businesses the students visited, most used horizontal management, where employees and managers were more equals.  In horizontally managed companies, ideas were shared among all employees of the company and employees were more empowered within their jobs.  This was an entirely new concept for these students.

    If starting a business, you don’t have to know everything.  If you don’t know about accounting, bookkeeping, or marketing, for example, there are experts out there who can help you get started and show you the way.  Don’t be afraid to jump in even if you don’t know everything there is to know about business ownership.

    Take your time and be patient. The students visited a video production company, and the take away from that experience was that videos took a long time to make, and if they’re rushed, they don’t turn out well.  Patience is key.  This is something we could definitely use more of at our company, and was a great reminder for me.  Also, they visited a shellfish farm, and the time it takes to grow an oyster from seed to market is over two years.  It takes a lot of time, investment, and patience to see a profit from this type of business, but if you can wait, it pays off.

    Use good equipment.  It saves time and energy if you have the right tools from the start.

    Concentrate on service rather than sales.  This point was from a car dealership; they were more interested in taking ongoing care of the customer than making the big sale.  However, since they were so customer focused, the sales did come, and they are one of the largest dealerships in the Seattle area.

    Be precise in your product quality.  The students visited Paccar, and learned how important it is to be exact and precise when creating a high quality product.  If a part doesn’t meet exact specifications, it needs to be redone.  Quality matters.

    Expect low profit margins.  In Kazakhstan, entrepreneurs expect large returns quickly when they start businesses.  However, in the US, it doesn’t always work that way.  It must be our free economy at work!  Slow and steady wins the race.

    Persevere.  The students visited Amazon.com, and even though it’s a rockin company now, it took 10 long years to get going.  Yet they didn’t give up, and now look at them!  If you start a business, there are always going to be rough patches that try you and your team.  Treat them as challenges and rise to the occasion.

    It was a really great experience to learn from these young people, and it makes me want to visit Kazakhstan and learn more about their country and culture! Above all, here is the theme of their experience and the ending slide of the power point presentations:

    “The future belongs to those of us who are still willing to get our hands dirty.”

    Cheers, Jessica

    Leave a Reply
    Trophies Awards