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Last Update: Thursday July 2, 2020

Key Idea: Go Global

Jimmy's travel has taught him that America is the oldest democracy but is still a new country compared to so many.

Key Question:

A: 

You have to teach if you are a bit ahead of your market.  In Jimmy's case, he has traveled the world and found that tile is preferred over carpet in most developed countires.
Even though the United States is the wealthiest country in the world, other countries have enjoyed many amenities that the U.S. has been slow to adopt. For example, the French have taught us about perfume and wine, the Germans have set the pace in automobile engineering, and the Italians are the best in the world at designing and manufacturing of leather products such as handbags and shoes.

As incomes rise and people look for ways to make their lives more enjoyable, they search for products that will fill a desire. We are not talking about a basic need. We are  talking about a desire to have the best or the most unusual. Jimmy is convinced that Americans want to experience everything the world has to offer and that includes tile for every room of the house!

Q:  What countries does Jimmy import tile from and why?

A:   Spain, Portugal, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Japan. These countries have a long tradition of making tile. Basically, tile is made with the same techniques, but the materials are unique. Just as a wine made from grapes grown in France tastes different from a wine made from grapes grown in Italy, so tile made from sand in Japan is different from tile made from sand in Spain. Also, these countries have artisans that are following a long tradition of tile making that is part of their heritage.

Q:   Do Americans use as much tile as do the other leading industrial countries in the world?

A:  No. Jimmy says it is because we have a wood floor tradition. Carpet took over and tile has never been completely accepted as a standard.

Q:  Why is Tampa such a great place for a tile business?

A:  Jimmy serves the entire state of Florida from one central port, and Florida is hot. Tile is used more in hot climates because it is cooler than other floor surfaces.

He saw an opportunity to bring to Tampa the world's best tile at a great price. In just a few years he has become North America's largest importer for some of the world's largest tile manufacturers. If you're like us, you were born in this country and only speak one language. Jimmy says that should not stop us from going global with our businesses. If we do our homework, seek advice and take the world seriously as a potential supplier and customer, and with technology and telecommunications on the desktop, we can build a global business.

Q:  Why does Jimmy think more American-based business owners do not do business globally?

A:  Lack of vision. Most of us haven't traveled as Jimmy has, so we haven't been exposed to the way the rest of the world lives. Back in "SMALL BUSINESS TODAY," Donald Cassel said that the world loves American products. He sells a skateboard bolt to American kids and now half of his $6 million dollars in sales is coming from Japan and Europe.

One of our favorite small business exporters is Jerry Shapiro.  He personally traveled to Tokyo fifty times.  Today  his company, Petrofsky's Bagels,  based in St. Louis, has 99% of the bagel market in Tokyo.


Q:   Why is doing your homework critical to building a global company?

A:  Time and money "burn" at a faster rate when you venture into global markets. A plane ticket could be a couple thousand dollars and the travel time is a drain on you and your employees.

Q:  How can a person who speaks only one language work in global markets?

A:   Learn some key phrases, hire an interpreter, work only with companies that have at least one English-speaking employee, hire a person from that country who has immigrated to your town and  use  translation software for your Internet site. You should love to travel yourself and love the idea of owning a global business. Some Americans enjoy tracing their roots back to the country of their ancestors and begin doing business with that country.

Some of the Small Business Development Centers around the country offer courses in international trade. There are some Small Business Development Centers that specifically focus on global business. Also, visit the Department of Commercee on the Internet. Their help is country-specific.

Think about it

Should you look for global markets?

Clip from: Tile Connection - Jimmy Fand Sources Globally

Tampa: Meet Jimmy Fand and his wife, Maria. They were shopping for ceramic tile for a new home. Jimmy thought the selection in the USA was too limited and the prices were too high. So unlike most people, they started a business!

Their business, simply called The Tile Connection, is the largest North American importer of several tile manufacturers through Europe and South America.  Jimmy was born in Columbia (South America),  traveled the world extensively, and speaks Spanish, English, Italian and Portuguese. Jimmy came to New York City when he was 19, completed three university degrees, and became an American citizen. He met his wife, a Cuban-American.  They're a global people and they encourage us all to source globally!


The Tile Connection

Jimmy Fand, CEO

5906 Johns Rd
Tampa, FL 33634
813-885-2219

Office: 813-885-2219

Business Classification:
Construction, Specialty Retail

Year Founded: 1991

Go Global

JIMMY: Many of us in the country feel that isolation is the proper way to go. That was the case 200 years ago. But we are surrounded by friendly nations that are within reach in short hours by plane or in seconds by fax, telephone and so on. The world is getting too small. Technology has brought it closer and closer to us, as well as us to them. The more we look for international places to deal with, the more chances of success we can have. We can sell our products to those people as well as buy their products and distribute them, like I'm doing in this country.

So there are many opportunities out there. For those individuals that only speak one language, that's fine. English is the most widely spoken language in the country, but you could also obtain services of translators that are very easy to obtain, not only through the US Commerce Department, Chambers of Commerces in many cities, but also with private companies that offer those services. And there are many products out there that we need, the local communities, and they're not--no one is taking advantage of bringing them in and distributing them.

HATTIE: There are small-business owners who are afraid to do business outside of this country. Could you give us some tips, some advice that would reduce our fear?

JIMMY: A prospective importer should not be totally nervous to deal with factories overseas, but needs to be very cautious as to who he deals with and how--those he transactions with because, unless you know the company or manufacturers or agents that you're dealing with overseas, you could lose your money very easily.

You need to go to trade shows, and at the trade shows you learn, you get into contact with manufacturers, with agents that represent those manufacturers as well. You need to do a lot of homework in finding out the products that you need to buy and whether or not they are good products for your marketplace. And also, you also need to do a lot of homework as to the pricing that those manufacturers or distributors will sell you the products, whether or not they will be competitive in your area and the acceptance to the public of those items as well.

HATTIE: Once you've done the research, then what? What's the next step?

JIMMY: When you start dealing with--especially internationally, which is what we do as far as bringing the products that we distribute, you must learn to weed out those factories that do not produce the quality that you expect, do not maintain quality controls or who are not reliable. And there are many of those. For example, in Europe, you have about 1,000 factories of this industry between the countries of Spain and Italy, and probably 50 or maybe 100 of those factories are worth dealing with, as far as we are concerned, for our market.

HATTIE: Really?

JIMMY: The rest produce junk.

HATTIE: So only 10 percent are good enough for you.

JIMMY: To us. I'm very selective with factories. They have to be large enough to be able to supply us with the quantities that we need to. The quality control has to be there on permanent basis, not only your first shipment or in your second one, but all the time. They have to have the support that we need as far as customer relationships. If a problem arises because of quality problems in the material, we need those factories to back us up. Now we only deal in first-quality materials, so we don't have any problem as far as the factory not being responsible for the materials.

HATTIE: (Lightbulb in the Studio) The world is shrinking, and Jimmy Fand is a citizen of the world. Born in Colombia, he traveled on three continents as a teen-ager, landed in New York City, educated himself and became an American. He speaks English, Spanish, Italian and some Portuguese. As a customer shopping for a home he was building for himself, Jimmy discovered that in this country ceramic tile prices were high and the selection low. He saw an opportunity to bring to Tampa the world's best tile at a great price.

In just a few years he has become North America's largest importer for some of the world's largest tile manufacturers. If you're like me, you were born in this country and only speak one language. Jimmy says that should not stop us from going global with our businesses. If we do our homework, seek advice and take the world seriously as a potential supplier and customer, with technology and telecommunications on the desktop, we can build a global business.


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