2008 Assessment Survey

SURVEYING PARTICIPANTS IN EARLIER TRADE AND CULTURAL MISSIONS.

This survey was conducted in the late summer of 2008.  We identified 67 participants in our missions to China in 2001 and 2002, India in 2003, China in 2006 and Vietnam in 2007.  Eight of these participated in more than one mission, so we sent out 57 questionnaires, both by regular mail and as an attachment to two e-mail reminders.  The survey contained the following questions: (See below for survey results)

  1. In order to assess the usefulness of the trade mission you attended, please check any benefits you or your company may have derived as a result of the mission (check all that apply, and list any details you wish to share with us):

    Sales or contracts:  Yes____ No____
       Optional:  List approx. value if you wish $_____________
    New sources or vendor relationships: Yes____ No____
       Details: _____________________________________________________________  
    Partnership or joint venture deals:     Yes____ No____
       Details: _____________________________________________________________  
    Memorandums of agreement or Letters of Intent: Yes____ No____
       Details: _____________________________________________________________  
    Educational/market research benefits: Yes____ No____
       Details: _____________________________________________________________  
    Personal gain (broadened perspective, etc.): Yes____ No____
       Details: _____________________________________________________________  
                  
  2. Have you actively followed up after returning from the mission, incl. correspondence, communication, hosting or further travel to the same country?  
    Yes____ No____

     Details:   __________________________________________________________________

  3. Overall, given the outcome, was attending the mission worth the investment in time and money?        
    Yes____ No____


     Details: ___________________________________________________________________

  4. What did you especially like about the mission you attended:
  5. How could we improve future missions?
  6. What would be your preferred destination(s) for a future mission? 

OPTIONAL:

Do you have a short “testimony” that we could use in promoting future missions?  (If you would like this to be an anonymous testimony, please check here:  ______)

RESULTS:

Of the 57 questionnaires we mailed out, several were returned to us as undeliverable because of address changes.  We were able to find the new addresses for some of these, and resent the forms, but for eight of the participants we were not able to find new contact information.  This reduces the size of the pool to 49 people that we assume did receive the questionnaire.

As of the completion of this survey, we received answers representing 27 of the former participants (some of the married couple submitted one answer, covering both).  This is a response rate of 55%.  With a sample size of only 27, this is of course not a scientifically valid or significant study.  However, the main purposes of the questionnaire were to get a feel for tangible outcomes of past missions, and obtaining feedback we can use in planning future ones.

This summarizes the responses to the questionnaire:

Question 1:

In order to assess the usefulness of the trade mission you attended, please check any benefits you or your company may have derived as a result of the mission (check all that apply, and list any details you wish to share with us):

A) Sales or contracts:      Yes:  5  No:  15 

Optional:  List approx. value if you wish    2 responses ($125,000 and $2.5 million)

B) New sources or vendor relationships:    Yes:  8  No:  12

 Details:   5 respondents listed details (see separate spreadsheet)

C) Partnership or joint venture deals:    Yes:  2  No:  18

 Details:   3 respondents listed details (see separate spreadsheet)

D) Memorandums of agreement or Letters of Intent:  Yes:  4  No:  15

 Details:    4 respondents listed details (see separate spreadsheet)

E) Educational/market research benefits:    Yes:  13  No:  7

    Details:   9 respondents listed details:

  • Met raw material producers & visited farms
  • Getting to know more people
  • Student visits
  • Good information gathering for international division
  • Made several contacts with potential partners
  • Good initial picture of economic status/opportunities
  • Broadened public policy perspective on issues such as intellectual property and trade agreements
  • Learned a lot about how the Chinese buy products from other countries
  • I got better educated in international Trade Practices and learned a lot about exports, imports and vastness therein
  •  

      F) Personal gain (broadened perspective, etc.):   Yes:  22  No:  0

        Details:    12 respondents listed details:

  • Increased my feeling for country, learned about the flow of life & how products like mine fit in
  • Plan to go back in the future
  • Learned a great deal about the people
  • Great cultural experience
  • I got a perspective of other Americans regarding the nature of business and opportunities in the visited country.
  • I learned a lot about the countries I visited
  • Learned a lot of Chinese culture. How Chinese business works.  And met my husband on the trip
  • Excellent introduction to Vietnamese culture and contemporary society. Well structured
  • Culture, business methods, comfort level
  • Increased cultural awareness, developed friendships abroad and with new local business contacts
  • I thought this trip was extremely educational and a trip that I will remember for a life time
  • Now I feel that I am a better businessman and learned that even the biggest businessmen are still men and I can present myself among them as a better spokesman.
  •  

    Question 2:

    Have you actively followed up after returning from the mission, incl. correspondence, communication, hosting or further travel to the same country?
                     
    Yes:  19  No:  3

        Details:   13 respondents listed details: (EDITED TO PROTECT PRIVACY)

  • Only to Hong Kong - not to Vietnam
  • Continued dialogue w/sponsor
  • Returned to Mumbai, India for another business visit
  • I have been invited by our friends who went on the mission with us
  • Went on another trade mission. Have travelled to China separately for business with Jeff
  • Hosted two delegations from Vietnam
  • Several contacts still developing - includes ongoing contact with members of State Bar Assn./Vietnamese Americans
  • Always returning for business
  • For a long period I had email correspondence with parties met during the two trips to China and have encouraged local businesses to travel to the regions and pursue opportunities
  • Working on Tilapia production from Hainan Island
  • We hosted a Dinner Meeting at our house with Special Trade Delegation from India.  At this meeting we also invited local business people, Secretary of State – Sam Reed, Tacoma World Trade Center’s Director Mr. Udbye .  Enough time was made available to all to mingle and exchange business talks and business cards for future contacts. 
  • After this Mission to India I made 5 other business trips to India and met some of those contacts and refined our relationships and further negotiated with the company we have entered into exclusive contracts.  Visiting these companies as a part of US Trade Delegation made them believe more easily that we are a part of a highly reputed business community of USA.
  • Staying in close touch with agricultural contact he met and spent two months in India a couple of years ago
  • Information was turned over to the two wineries. Created opportunities for exports.  Also, sister city dialogue is still alive, both with Vietnam and China
  •  

    Question 3:
    Overall, given the outcome, was attending the mission worth the investment in time and money?

    Yes:  21  No:  1

        Details:   9 respondents listed details

  • Made friends & met interesting people. Lots of great stories to tell!
  • Starting to make contacts.
  • My ability to arrange a visit to my particular company allowed the company to achieve a higher level of business prestige amongst its peers it its own country.
  • It was a very good priced mission.
  • I learned a great deal and we are much better positioned to explore the education "market" in Vietnam than previously.
  • Contacts at high levels in government will be invaluable.
  • I was honored to be monetarily hosted, however I saw that the financial investment was a good one for local companies (especially as compared to similar prospecting business trips) and I felt the time invested had an excellent return.
  • It was very educational and learned a lot about their buying structure.
  • It was very well worth going on the trade mission to India for us. Since then we definitely got income over 200 times, the money we spent on this trip. All the quality time spent was remarkable and worth doing it. I would like to do this again.



    Question 4:  What did you especially like about the mission you attended? 22 RESPONSES:

  • It was a privilege to travel with Sam Reed & Andreas Udbye. It was a trip for my own benefit. I did not have any commercial interests.
  • Signed educational agreements on each trip.
  • Variety of meetings, cities visited, a good pace
  • Seeing many parts of the country in one trip. Meeting with the business people there, visiting their homes. Visiting the monuments (Taj Mahal, Red Fort, etc.)  The host, Hemant Sonawala, was superb!
  • Small group - got to know people on trip and developed new relationships with local Vietnamese community. Good contact with port people and airlines people - also with Government officials and follow up visit by Mayor of Haiphong to Seattle.  Also it allowed sufficient free time to go on to conduct other personal business.
  • The visit to the many different locations and contact with the local law enforcement.
  • Excellent host, very well coordinated, good blend of business & cultural experiences, strong emphasis on relationship building, good group dynamics.
  • Certainly felt privileged to see so many different parts of China and to engage with Chinese officials at a level the ordinary tourist would never be able to do.  I think I came to understand their situations and issues and I think I helped them to understand similar things about local government in America, or at least in Washington State.
  • It was a great opportunity to visit with executives from organizations around the Puget Sound and WA State.  This was a collection of people whom I might not otherwise have been able to meet.
  • It was very nicely planned.  We saw and learned about the culture of different countries.
  • Small group where you could connect on personal level with other attendees.  Helped create connections.  Travel schedule was aggressive, but great because we got to visit so many different places.
  • It was a great introduction to contemporary Vietnam and provided opportunities to develop contacts with potential partner colleges and universities in HCMC and Hanoi.
  • The trip was very well planned and organized.  It was a wonderful opportunity to meet local Chinese people and see China from a different perspective.  It was nice to have everything taken care of, including transportation, lodging, meals and events.
  • Contact with govt. officials, variety of locations, exposure to various aspects of culture.  Sam, Margie, Patrick & Andreas - outstanding professionals.
  • I enjoyed being with the Vietnamese men and women in our party and them seeing their country for the first time or on a return visit.  Witnessing their thrill and emotion.  I enjoyed the food and culture.  Andreas and Patrick are the best - their knowledge of the countries and getting us to the best points of interest.  Being with Sam & Margie was a thrill and they were fun and most gracious.  Being part of the protocol with the Vietnamese officials and Sam and Margie made me very proud. 
  • Meeting new people, getting more experience, learning new methods of business.
  • The meetings provided for an interesting mix with government/policy officials and business leaders for potential contracts by local companies.  Sam Reed is an excellent lead for these trips and generally both trips I went on were well organized and supported.
  • Learning a lot about their culture, different foods, customs and speaking with buyers.
  • India - Balance between formal events and "free time" and sightseeing.  Excellent team traveling with us from India made the experience more enjoyable and informational.
  • All the schedules and meetings were performed in a timely manner with worthy contacts.  The meetings one on one, seminars and group meetings were fruitful, educative, and helped me meet other business owners I would have never met otherwise.  This mission provided tremendous amount of respect to me among the other business people who listened and tried to understand me while negotiating with them.  It was a good feeling.
  • Liked the structure and the program.
  • Everything
  •  

    Question 5:  How could we improve future missions? 17 RESPONSES:

  • Objectives clear to all participants
  • I would have liked to visit more farms/agricultural areas. I did this on my own after the mission. The tech stuff was not applicable, and it was the focus it seemed. More tea plantations, spice farms, etc.
  • Keep it small - good contacts with other officials - keep costs down. 
  • None noted.
  • My only concern was with itineraries that carried us into late hours & did not allow for the usual logistic challenges in moving a group from place to place.
  • For political issues such as sister city courtships, more lead time would certainly help.  By the time political leaders walk into the room to meet, most of the questions should already have been answered.  Orientation on political and economic issues and protocol in dealing with business people and government officials would be a good idea.
  • For our business, would be nice to meet more textile contacts.  But overall good mix of business and government.
  • I would like to see a mission solely focused on education (higher ed.) opportunities and exchanges agreements between Vietnamese and Washington schools.
  • The schedule was very tight and left little time for personal sightseeing, shopping, etc.  At times it felt like we were on the job, which is something that I was not expecting.  There could have been more advance notice and preparation for this aspect of the trip.
  • Add a few more (3-4) culturally focused events.
  • Have Sam, Margie, Andreas & Patrick lead the delegation!
  • For the Port of Seattle, we have specific target markets that we can access easier and more efficiently ourselves.  The Trade Development Alliance study/trade missions are more useful, as is the Governor's trade missions.
  • Minimize last-minute changes.  Have a daily itinerary slipped under hotel doors to help everyone understand how the day’s events will run (or have changed).
  • I thought the mission went very well and would not change a thing.
  • Ensure a balance of activities - not necessarily an even split, but some "free time" is helpful to break up the sitting and taking in so much information.
  • Need more time, longer missions and more frequently to different countries.
  • Would have liked more time in Seoul, Korea
  •  

    Question 6:  What would be your preferred destination(s) for a future mission? 17 RESPONSES:

  • No chance at this time
  • Eastern Europe (Turkey, Romania, Greece)
  • I would go on any of them.
  • Maybe China (same potential sister city) again
  • Nordic countries.
  • 1) Turkey and Greece; 2) Spain, Portugal & Morocco; 3) Russia
  • Mexico - currently looking at textile factories there to work with.  Possibly Vietnam or Thailand.
  • Russian Far East or Mongolia.
  • Asian related (growth areas), maybe do a Vietnam/India/China split.
  • Beijing, Hong Kong, India.
  • Anywhere in Asia.
  • India, South Korea, Vietnam, Peru and Columbia
  • Some of the industrial regions of the East coast of China, where they produce a lot of finished products that I send raw material over for.
  • Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam
  • India, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia.
  • India (he and wife would like to attend 2009 mission)
  • South East Asia and Australia
  •  

    TESTIMONIALS - 9 RESPONSES:

  • No one in a position of business leadership should miss an opportunity to witness and see first-hand the dynamics of China. It's hard to get a full perspective of the competition and the opportunity without being on the ground in Asia.
  • The trade mission was a fabulous experience overall.  It was a great way to get the inside scoop on the feel and flavor of the countries we visited by meeting the local entrepreneurs and elected officials who make the country work. Highly recommended!
  • Keep promoting Washington State as a global player and encourage foreign investment in the State. 
  • This mission allowed me to observe the workings of the local police departments, which helped me in having a broader view of overall police operations.
  • There is no doubt as to the goodwill and expanded relationships that result from properly planned and executed mission trips.  I feel Washington State, our business and industry were well represented and benefited from the experience.
  • For my wife and myself, going on a trade and cultural mission with Sam and Margie Reed and party was a once in a lifetime experience.  To see so many parts and aspects of China, and to engage with local and provincial officials and business leaders on substantive issues, was a privilege impossible for the visiting tourist--or individual American businessperson--to duplicate.  I would highly recommend taking the next such opportunity when and if it's offered!
  • The two trade mission trips I took to China were beneficial for many reasons: We met government officials, got to see them in action, and made many new business and personal relationships.  Most importantly, I met the love of my life, got married, & now we have a beautiful baby boy (and another precious baby boy on the way).
  • This was a great way to initiate the process of breaking into a new market.  The meetings were well focused and the logistics and groundwork were flawlessly organized.  I highly recommend joining one of these missions as a positive way of exploring new market territory.
  • Exceeded expectations.  Arrangement and management outstanding.  Sam, Margie, Patrick and Andreas highly professional.  Contact opportunities at all levels were superb. Can't beat traveling on a trade mission for a wide and in depth exposure to the culture, business and political climate.  Never get this kind of "education" on a vacation.
  • Overall conclusions based on the feedback:

    To generalize and summarize the survey results, I list the following:

    1) 25% of the respondents listed that they got tangible sales or contracts as a result of the mission.  Two of them – a software company and an importer/exporter of consumer gift items - listed the approximate amounts ($125,000 and $2,500,000).  The other three (without specific amounts) are companies in the grocery and seafood businesses.  In addition, we are aware of other sales and contracts as a result of the missions, but the particular companies did not respond to the survey. 

    2) 40% of the respondents reported new sources or vendor relationships.

    3) 10% of the respondents reported new partnerships or joint ventures.

    4) 21% reported Memorandums of agreement or Letters of Intent.

    5) By summarizing the answers to the first four items of this question, we find that 59% of the respondents gained something tangible (sales, contracts, vendors, partnerships, MOA’s, etc.)

    6) 65% claimed educational/market research benefits.

    7) 100% of the respondents claimed they gained personally from the mission.  Many mentioned their cultural learning experiences.

    8) In response to what people particularly liked about the missions, six items seem to jump out:

    • The variety and quality of the meetings and the people we met with
    • The access to government officials
    • Small and good groups to travel with; people made many new connections and friendships
    • The missions were well planned, organized and coordinated
    • The cultural learning experience
    • Praise to the mission leaders (Sam, Margie, Patrick and Andreas) 

    9) To summarize how we could improve future missions, the following can be distilled:

    • Better briefings/advance preparation on the mission’s objectives and protocol issues
    • A slightly less stressful schedule with more time for sightseeing, personal free time and cultural experiences
    • The practical suggestion of slipping a copy of the day’s updated itinerary under the door is an excellent idea

    10) Of the suggested destinations for future missions, votes were cast for the following countries or regions:

    • India   5
    • China  4
    • Vietnam 3
    • Australia 2
    • Greece  2
    • Russia  2 
    • Spain  2
    • Turkey  2
    • One vote each went to Asia, Southeast Asia, the Nordic countries, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Morocco, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Mongolia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Cambodia,  Thailand and Japan.

    In the reminder e-mail that I sent to the former participants I mentioned the possibility of a 2009 mission to India, so this may have influenced people’s answer to this question.  At least we have had some verification that India may be an interesting destination again.

    11) Many of the nine testimonials that we received can be beneficial for promoting future missions.  We will also put half a dozen of them in future mission brochures. 

    It is rewarding to learn about the many benefits delegates derive from attending our trade and cultural missions.  It will always be difficult to quantify the exact economic effects of these missions, so we mostly have to rely on anecdotal evidence and testimonials provided by the participants, respecting their rights to privacy and secrecy in their business matters.   The results of this survey, however, are promising enough to justify arranging several more trade missions over the next few years.  The benefits seem to far outweigh the costs, especially when considering that our missions (incl. the planning and payment for the mission leaders) don't cost the State much at all, as they are paid for by the participating delegates and supporting sponsors.  It therefore seems like a good use of the Secretary’s time to lead an annual trade mission to our foreign trading partners. 

    September 17, 2008
    Andreas Udbye, University Place, WA
    International Trade Consultant