U.S. Business in Cuba (Part 2 of 2)


I was interested to learn Cuba has a “surprisingly robust biotechnology industry that makes a number of vaccines not now available in the United States,” along with boasting one of the largest deposits of nickel in the world. Sounds like the potential for importing may be as interesting to explore as any new Cuban exporting opportunities.

One industry sure to get a boost from renewed U.S.-Cuban relations is tourism. Groups that run tours to Cuba under the old restrictions are reportedly being inundated with calls from eager U.S. travelers who want to be among the first to see the country only 90 miles from Florida. About three million people visit Cuba each year; many of them Canadians who are lured by appealing discount tour packages.

The Obama administration has announced plans to create a general travel license that tour operators are hoping will reduce bureaucracy and allow more Americans to visit. Others have begun pushing for complete abolition of all travel restrictions. Conservative estimates from the travel industry predict an increase of up to one million additional U.S. visitors to Cuba next year.

U.S. Business in Cuba (Part 1 of 2)

Cuba-FlagNothing seems to incite a capitalistic feeding frenzy quite as fast as the scent of a potential new market. I’m referring to President Obama’s year-end announcement about restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba. Since then, the media has been bursting with news about U.S. companies—from Iowa-based Caterpillar to global PepsiCo—that are developing strategies to introduce their products and services to the Cuban market.

While I’m the first to applaud entrepreneurial zeal, a bit of strategic reflection wouldn’t hurt either. I visited Cuba about 15 years ago, as part of a government-approved “cultural learning” group. It was fascinating to see the impeccably maintained mid-century jalopies, to learn about Cuban culture (those highly touted cigars, for example, truly deserve their stellar reputation!) and to see a part of the world so close to us and yet, for most, completely inaccessible.

While American companies are noticeably absent in Cuba, other countries appeared to have established a considerable business bulwark there.  U.S. company leaders who imagine a sleeping Cuban giant, just waiting for American consumer products and services to flood their country, may be in for a rude awakening.

Notes Kirby Jones, founder of Alamar Associates, which has advised companies on doing business in Cuba since 1974, “It’s just not going to be like other regions where you see a McDonald’s on every corner.”

Jones opined in a recent New York Times article on the topic that while there may be robust opportunities for some companies, especially those selling products or goods viewed as enhancing Cuba’s domestic production (good news for Caterpillar!), other companies could get the cold shoulder (Pepsi perhaps?).

Intertech Computer Science Scholarship

STEM-Logo-300x178With the New Year underway, Intertech’s scholarship is live.

We’ll be providing a $2,500 scholarship for students entering or in computer science in a U.S. university.

Here’s an excerpt from the Intertech website on the scholarship:

One of the Intertech Foundation’s focuses is the inspiration of young people towards the building of science, engineering and technology skills. To further that pursuit, the Foundation has announced an scholarship for students interested in pursuing careers as software development professionals. This opportunity is aimed at college-bound high school students, who have excelled in the areas of Math and Science, to move on to college studies in the area of computer science.

This non-renewable scholarship (only awarded for one year to any scholarship recipient), in the amount of $2500, will be available starting January 1st, 2015. To be eligible, the student must possess:

  • Cumulative GPA of 3.3 or better
  • An intent to be or a current computer science major
  • Acceptance or current student at an accredited college or university within the US

To see more information on the scholarship or apply:  http://www.intertech.com/About/Foundation/Scholarship

Giving the Gift of Health (Post 3 of 3)

Happy-EmployeeBeing innovative to create more four-way wins—integration between your roles at work, home, community and self—involves six elements:

1. Being results focused

2. Resolving conflicts

3. Not being afraid to challenge the status quo.

4. Looking for new ways of doing things.

5. Being creative with change

6. Creating an innovation culture

If that list sounds daunting, Friedman provides tips and exercises to make them manageable. Scenario exercises help to focus on results, for example. They involve identifying a specific goal you want to achieve and then listing three alternative methods for getting there, including the resources you’ll need and the challenges you’ll face. He also recommends experimenting with new patterns of behavior (how and when you do things) and even crowd sourcing as a way to see new ways of doing things.

At Intertech, we’ve woven innovation and new ways of doing things into the very fabric of how we operate. For example, our annual FedEx Day gives employees the freedom to design a new product or process that they believe will benefit the firm as a whole. We also host an annual employee town hall, which provides opportunities for brainstorming and recommending new ways of doing things.

Personally, I spend time away every winter. The time away from the daily routine (and Minnesota winter!) is a chance to more deeply connect with my wife and kids. It’s also important time for me to reflect on every aspect of my life and to consider new ways of doing things or how to stop doing things.

I also advocate reading widely, attending well-chosen leadership development conferences, and participating in leadership networks. All of these activities help me to keep my mind open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

According to Friedman, “leading the life you want is a craft. As with music, writing, dance or any athletic endeavor, you can always get better at it by practicing.”