Jan Seal: Globetrotting Consultant Proves International Trade is a Small World After All
Management consultant Jan Seal (Class of ‘00, MBA) has worked in international trade markets for 35 years, witnessing significant changes in a field that is dependent on good relationships between nations. Working with a variety of industries that include textiles, automobiles, electronics, furniture, food and beverages, she has served as a consultant and given seminars to hundreds of major import and export companies. She says that one of the greatest challenges faced by the import and export business is keeping informed of governmental rules and regulations that are constantly changing in every country.
Dateline: What inspired you to enter a career in international business?
Jan Seal: I originally wanted to teach elementary school, which I did in California for a short time. I quit that job to move to New Orleans due to my husband's job. The only job I could find at the time was a clerical position working for the Regional Commissioner of Customs in New Orleans. I became interested in the work done by the agency and got a professional job with U.S. Customs when we moved back to California. After leaving Customs, I started working as an independent contractor.
Dateline: What are some of the greatest challenges facing the import and export industry right now?
JS: I would say it is probably trying to come up with strategies to advance a business in a highly competitive world, with not only advances in technology by competitors in some industries but also the cost of manufacturing, logistics, marketing, and being able to make enough profit to stay in business.
One of the tough decisions that companies have to make at times is whether to outsource their manufacturing to countries with lower labor costs. Also, it is trying to keep up with the continuous changing rules and regulations and differences between countries when exporting and importing merchandise around the globe.
Dateline: How has the world of importing and exporting changed with post-9/11 security measures?
JS: It has changed the way companies around the globe do business. There are increased costs for the many new security programs in place that have to be factored into their bottom line. It has also created a need for additional and new jobs in the area of Supply Chain Security Logistics and Management.
Dateline: What are some pointers that you would give to students or anyone on dealing with individuals in international commerce in regard to cultural sensitivity and finding common ground?
JS: I would always recommend doing your homework before engaging in international business. Know your contact person's background, the company's products and history, and the country's cultural differences in both personal and business situations. For example, in Mexico there is a slower pace of doing business and [more] time to establish a business relationship. In fact, in many countries this is true, such as in China, France, and Russia. There are also differences in many other areas such as marketing. Something as simple as the packaging of products can be a success or a failure, since certain colors and numbers have different meanings in every country. In the area of translation, the good news is that English is the language of international business. The bad news is that Americans use idioms, jargon, colloquialisms, and slang which are difficult for communication or misinterpretation in other countries.
Dateline: How did your education at CSU Dominguez Hills prepare you for working in an international business arena?
JS: It gave me more confidence and credibility in assisting companies in the import and export business. I frequently have to speak with the president or CFO of a company, and I have a better understanding of their positions and their goals to keep their companies in business.
- Reported by Joanie Harmon
Photo above: Jan Seal (Class of '00, MBA) fords the waters of international trade as a management consultant and as a special interest lecturer for Princess Cruises and other companies in the cruise industry. Recently, she
presented lectures on a 18-day cruise up the coast of Norway, past the Arctic Circle, and to the North Cape
and Murmansk, Russia.
Courtesy of Jan Seal