Proceed with caution, but proceed

There is no question that global markets are in flux. Britain having voted for “Brexit” is putting a strain on the European Union, along with problems tied to the refugee crisis. In Asia, a combination of Chinese expansion in the South China Sea and threats of missile tests by North Korea add to the uncertainty. Russian adventurism in the Ukraine has helped to destabilize the region, and in Latin America controversy has embroiled Brazil, Venezuela and numerous other countries.

Put these all together, and the No. 1 question I am asked by partners and clients is, “What do I do under these challenging conditions?”

In times of uncertainty, a few core practices will guide you through the rough waters.

Even in times of controversy, business continues. No matter how serious a global economic crisis may be, remember that in times of global economic depression and even war, fortunes can be made. People still need the necessities of life, and businesses are still looking for partnerships to provide both stability and growth.

If you work in a country undergoing significant change, your stable ongoing business with local partners may make you an even more valuable resource.

Be adaptable and flexible on tactics. If changes in currency policy in one foreign market suddenly create uncertainty or even devaluation, rather than take a financial hit, perhaps you can turn it to your advantage by changing payment terms, adjusting prices or even cross-trading other physical goods that you can sell or market domestically. Let tough times bring out your creativity.

Stay the course on strategy. When things start to turn upside down, people are often tempted to scrap a carefully honed strategy and become reactive. Part of the problem with this approach is the “crisis” might blow over after a few days, and your offshore partners and suppliers could now question your commitment.

Adapt if you must, but don’t change a good plan because of uncertain circumstances.

When politics are in disarray, your relationships are critical. The most important factor in getting through a difficult time is the key long-term relationships that you carefully crafted and established in your critical markets.

Increase the tempo of communication, increase the frequency of face-to-face visits and engage with your foreign partners to find ways to solve problems rather than be at the mercy of conditions.

Go and see for yourself. Many times I have watched the U.S. media play up stories of global conflict, only to find that when I arrived in the country, the true level of anxiety was greatly exaggerated. Before you start making wholesale changes in response to a reported calamity, jump on a plane; you might find little has changed on the ground.


Franklin D. Roosevelt, facing down the twin challenges of the Great Depression and World War II simultaneously, once said, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” He was absolutely correct. No business can expect fair winds and smooth sailing all the time.

Master the techniques of dealing with adversity and proceed confidently.


David Iwinski Jr. is the managing director at Blue Water Growth. A global business consulting firm with extensive experience and expertise in Asia, Blue Water Growth services include merger and acquisition guidance, private capital solutions, product distribution, production outsourcing and a wide variety of business advisory services for its Western and Asian clients.