From the March 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

The final announcement is only two months away: Which member countries of the European Union (EU) will formally adopt the new, singular currency system known as the euro? At press time, all countries had confirmed except Denmark and the United Kingdom.

The familiar attitudes behind this monumental transformation range from pro (it will bring monetary stability and simplify taxes between the nations) to con (it will result in real-wage reductions and inhibit a smoothly functioning labor market). Despite that, the changeover is set to go. Next up? On January 1, 1999, all participating countries will officially adopt the euro and jointly embrace the European Central Bank as their sole monetary authority. Of course, full integration is not expected for a few years.

This historical occurrence is sure to captivate global attention. According to the Standard Chartered Bank in London, the EU, whose population numbers 350 million, today holds title as the world's largest market--and accounts for more than 20 percent of all international trade. And while consolidating 15 currencies into one is unarguably an enormous undertaking, most experts agree the transition shouldn't negatively impact the economies of the United States or other countries around the world.

Foreign Exchange

International interns build business.

Business cultures vary, and it's no surprise that firsthand experience is the key to familiarity. But before you book that trip overseas, consider something a little closer to home instead--like a foreign exchange program for business professionals.

"For people who are thinking about going into [international] markets, this is a great introduction," says Jeffrey B. Samudio, co-founding partner of Design Aid Architects, a Los Angeles firm specializing in the preservation and restoration of historic properties. For four years, he's hosted Japanese interns from one such program--the Tokyo-based International Internship Program (IIP). Its mission? To promote better international understanding through professional and cultural exchange.

Samudio insists the skills he's learned from the interns--ranging from the Japanese style of presenting business cards to understanding the formalities of the country's bureaucracy--were instrumental in securing his first project in Japan, the restoration of the Cheouke House, a Victorian structure damaged by the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

Often referred to as "cultural ambassadors," IIP professionals offer experience in a variety of industries and work for up to one year as unpaid interns for host companies. They pay for airfare themselves, as well as their living and transportation expenses once in the United States. In turn, the host companies take them under their wings and give them experience money can't buy--such as improved conversational language skills and a better understanding of the Western way of doing business. It's a win-win situation, says Samudio: "The experience has been rich for the people who work for us and the interns themselves."

In The Ranking

If you export, chances are you do business with Canada, the United Kingdom or Japan, according to a Federal Express survey conducted last summer that ranked the top markets for small-business exporters. The study based its findings on interviews with more than 700 export managers of small businesses nationwide.

There are several reasons why more small-business exporters prefer these markets, as well as Mexico, Germany and Australia, over others, says David Shoenfeld of FedEx. "Small businesses have been more successful at understanding their own strengths and using them to their advantage in trade," he explains. In other words, they're more likely to target markets that conduct business in English, prefer one-on-one relationships, or are supported by favorable trade agreements.

Contact Source

Design Aid Architects, (213) 962-4585, daid@pacbell.net