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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Go Global

Altoon and Porter have proven that the world wants Yankee ingenuity. They give us some advice: Do your homework before you get on the airplane; bring to your international customers products and services they can't find locally; establish local strategic alliances and deliver on your promises.

Key Question:


Think global.

Q: How did Altoon + Porter get its first international project?

A: First of all they had seven years of domestic success. Just as you should never try to franchise your business until you have made it work locally for you, you should not try to go after international markets until you have created a profitable local business.

Going global is expensive and risky so you must be building upon a strong foundation. And, Ron said they didn't spend much to get their first project in Asia. He paid a small fee to the friend of a former employee to do some research for him before he got on an airplane himself. After extensive "homework" he made his first trip.

Architects must be licensed to practice in every location they work in, so, they always have a local liaison. This is what we would call a strategic alliance and Altoon + Porter establishes one in every country where they have a project. Even though having a local firm play the lead role because Altoon+Porter doesn't want to go through the licensing process is the first reason they set up the local relationship, it has turned out that the technicality is the least important reason to have a local presence.

The local firm guides Altoon+Porter on all matters from hiring the best subcontractors to custom protocol.

If you go back and study Automated Food Systems and Solid Gold you'll see that they use local distributors to handle their products. Petrosky's Bagels are sold all over Tokyo because Jerry Shapiro made 50 trips there himself and Jimmy Fand of The Tile Connection does all of his own negotiations because he happens to speak five languages. All of these small business owners will tell you that once you get started, working internationally is tricky but not impossible. It boils down to relationship building and delivering on your promises.

The United States Information Agency has fed our show, beginning with Small Business Today in 1994, then Small Business 2000 from 1995 to 2001, and now SMALL BUSINESS SCHOOL. Their signal goes all over the world. Now the Chinese Ministry of Television tells us they want to air the program. We are going to Beijing with our own interpreter because we don't know the people who have started a dialog with us about broadcasting SMALL BUSINESS SCHOOL and we want to understand exactly how this will all happen.

Right now a third party wants to handle the deal including the translation and dubbing but we discovered on the first sample that they left some material out. We now have to go through each episode with our language expert. This will be a lot of work, but, there will be 35 million viewers there while we have only 1 million viewers here. We believe it will be worth the work.

Think about it

Have you ever considered doing business outside the US?  What global markets would buy your product or service?

Clip from: Architects Altoon + Porter

Los Angeles, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Amsterdam : They worked for Frank Gehry and found that it had limits. So, architects Ron Altoon and Jim Porter started their own firm and today they are quite literally changing the world.

They do not try to cultivate "star power" but brain power. The result? This professional practice went global virtually overnight. Brain power translates into  extraordinary product power in any language!

Every customer and every architect is a star. Keep your egos in check.  Focus on customers and  growing your team. The result?  This firm now has ongoing work in 16 countries with more international work on the drawing boards for the future.

Like so many of our businesses that go global, they have proving that the world does want American products and services!

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Altoon Partners

Ron Altoon, Senior Partners

617 W 7th St #400
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Visit our web site:

Office: 2132251900

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1984

Go Global

JIM: So we're able to bring value there, and found an audience. And the first big project was in Jakarta, turned into a project after a series of studies on other projects for the same client. It turned into a 7.7 million square foot project, a million and a half square foot six-level shopping mall, a eight-complex development of housing on top, 36-story towers. Altogether, a very large development, large by any scale of measure.

HATTIE: So you learn it under pressure.

JIM: We are able to do it because we look for a very technically capable local firm, wherever we go, whether it's in Washington,DC, or Kuala Lumpur, or Jakarta, and we have to have that.

HATTIE: You hire a local firm who works under your umbrella to do a lot of the detail on the ground?

JIM: They do the local liaison. They know the codes. They know the laws. They know the building materials. They know the technology, whether it be low or high--I mean, the realities of how things get built. And we learn from that. We bring all of that back home, and we design buildings around that. We have decided from the beginning, to date, not to open branch offices. We do all of the design work here, so that the projects benefit from the input from all of the partners, you know. From--all of these different diverse areas of the practice are focused on every single project. So we take that design overseas, present it and work out the details locally. We could direct our destiny. Instead of going with the flow, we go upstream.

HATTIE: A lot of us get in a rut, and--but we don't have the courage to say, `Step out of that road, and go down another path.'

RONALD: You know what? I'm very, very fortunate because I'm the one that tends to be willing to take whatever risks we need to take. And I can't do that without having around me the partners that keep everything in balance.

HATTIE: The world wants American products and services. Altoon and Porter have proven that. They give us some advice: Do your homework before you get on the airplane; bring to your international customers products and services they can't find locally; establish local strategic alliances and deliver on your promises.

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