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Group Helps Export Efforts : Marketing Directors Share Their Trade Secrets

Times Staff Writer

George Otott found that he rarely had a chance to sit down with international marketing directors like himself.

He attended occasional meetings of the local World Trade Assn., but those tended to be crowded dinner affairs that didn’t lend themselves to productive conversation.

So 4 months ago, he organized his counterparts at seven non-competing Orange County firms--all medium-size operations with less than $100 million in sales--into an informal group to discuss their experiences in exporting.

“We all had problems with such things as getting equipment into foreign countries, getting letters of credit honored, transferring money and understanding differences in cultures and language,” said Otott, who heads international sales at Life Cycle Inc. in Santa Ana, which manufactures exercise equipment.

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The group meets monthly and has proven a boon to Micro Motors, a Santa Ana maker of miniature air motors for dental use.

While Otott’s firm sells up to 15% of its products overseas, Micro Motors is just starting its export efforts, said James Kiehl, the company’s marketing manager.

The experiences shared by group members have helped the firm’s overseas sales grow, Kiehl said, by letting him know what to expect.

“We’re trying to keep from reinventing the wheel,” he said.

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Japanese companies have been engaging in similar information exchanges, Otott said. Because they are free from the kind of antitrust laws faced by U.S. firms, Japanese competitors often band together and map out plans that would be illegal if U.S. laws applied to them.

Otott plans to keep the meetings going in spite of a major hitch: Rarely is everyone in town to attend the meetings. As international marketing directors, the group’s members often are traveling overseas.


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