U.S. Embassies: An Out-of-the-Box Entity to Help a Small Business

The United States has an embassy in almost every country in the world. You can go to the State Department website www.state.gov for a list of all the countries and the contacts there.

The Embassy is an out-of-the-box entity for a Small Business source. My personal story in utilizing a U.S. Embassy was when I had my watch company and acquired a license for an Elvis Pressley watch. I had noticed earlier that many retailers sold musical Mickey Mouse watches, and my research showed that these watches were made by Seiko, which owned a patent on the musical part of it. Seiko was a Japanese based company. I tried to contact them re obtaining a license or to have them make the movement for me with the Elvis tune that we would supply, and I was prepared to visit them in Japan. It was an easy stop off for me when I visited China where our watches were made. Despite numerous attempts to contact Seiko to set up an appointment, my entreaties were greeted with silence. So, as a long shot, I contacted the U.S. Embassy in Japan to ask for help in getting an appointment with Seiko. I was pleasantly surprised at their timely response in contacting management at Seiko on my behalf. This was quickly followed by my receiving a warm response from a high Seiko official, inquiring when I would like to set up an appointment to see them. When I did see them in Japan, I was ushered into an elegant conference room where 12 Seiko people were sitting, waiting to hear my story. This was an amazing outcome in my mind to a simple inquiry. A Small Business guy (although I was physically taller than everyone) all alone with 12 managers of one of the largest companies in Japan.

When you think about it, one of the missions of an Embassy is to assist American citizens visiting their country. My inquiry was a rarity and therefore got their attention. Compared to the complex problems they frequently encounter, this was an easy good deed for them to accomplish. An official request from an American Embassy can carry great weight with a foreign business in a friendly country.

The old maxim “nothing ventured, nothing gained” applies here. I believe this is as good a source to use as any to get an introduction to a firm you want to sell.

The back end to this story is after a lengthy, cordial meeting, they refused to sell me or license me their technology. They did offer to sell me their musical clocks, which I somehow believed were not good sellers for them.

Fortunately for me, six months later, someone invented a new musical watch chip, much less expensive than Seiko’s, which I was able to successfully use.