Finding the Right International Partner

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I have often been asked how I obtain so much international work. This year alone, I have presented in Africa, Asia, Latin America, as well as in the United States.  

My secret, if you can call it that, is cultivating foreign partners. I work with them on everything—determining exciting and relevant topics to present, marketing events, finding the best venues, collecting registrations and payments, paying local taxes and managing legal and business issues, preparing handouts and learning materials,  conducting the actual training, following up after the event, marketing other programs, and more.

There are risks in working with partners, and finding a local, reliable partner is not always easy. Here’s some advice from my many years working abroad.

Beware of partners who talk a good game, but cannot deliver results.

This type of partner will promise you a program, you will book the dates and turn down other business, and then they will fail to reach break-even and cancel at the last moment when it is too late for you to find other opportunities. This has happened to me more than once.

One way to manage this problem is to ensure that there is a cancellation fee, with escalating amounts that increase as the date of delivery approaches. Another way to manage the problem is to ask for U.S.-based presenters (or at least Westerners) as references for those foreign partners.



Beware of local partners that book your days, but then fail to pay.

To manage this problem, make it a policy that you are paid half of the delivery fee upfront and receive complete travel reimbursement for the first few sessions you conduct with a new foreign partner. If the partner is unwilling to do that, then it is probably not a reliable partner. Suing offshore partners in a foreign court, while possible, is a distasteful process compared to the alternative I suggested.


Beware of local partners that are unable to market effectively.

Some partners think that they need do nothing more than send out mass emails at the last moment, trusting that a foreigner’s name and reputation is all it takes to fill a room. That approach does not work in America, and it also does not work anywhere else.

About the Author
William J. Rothwell, PhD, SPHR, is the president of Rothwell & Associates ( and professor in the Workforce Education and Development Program at the University Park campus of Penn State University. As a researcher he has been involved with the last five competency studies conducted by Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD). In 2012 he won the association's prestigious Distinguished Contribution Award. He is author of 81 books and 250 articles in the field and had 20 years of experience in government and the private sector before becoming a college professor in 1993.
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