Nestled in Overland Park, Kansas just outside of Kansas City sits Johnson County Community College. Housed within in the Kansas Small Business Development Center (SBDC) which serves in a consultant capacity for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under the direction of President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI). Here, we caught up with John Addessi, a Business Advisor for the Kansas SBDC, an adjunct professor and a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP).
Before landing at the Kansas SBDC, John served as a consultant for the Washburn University SBDC and prior to that he spent 15 years in management positions for organizations in both the public and private sectors. He also supervised the Language Learning Center at the University of Rhode Island.
With such a career, one might assume John has always focused his studies on international trade. Instead, he started his college career as a Political Science major before eventually achieving a Bachelor of Arts in Russian. According to John this was “long enough ago that all I can remember to say is “it is snowing” and “there goes my bus” – most useful.” While pursuing his Master’s in Business Administration he added an international concentration to his academic pursuits.
John first became aware of the Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) program when the SBA offered training. He jumped at the opportunity to broaden his international trade knowledge. One of his instructors was James “Jim” Foley, recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from NASBITE, and considered by John to be “one of the best educators I’ve ever met.” He mentions that preparing for the exam was a “humbling experience”, but “the training and test ensure that there’s a common baseline of knowledge.”
Training and knowledge doesn’t end with the test. NASBITE is the credentialing body, and requires recertification annually to keep a CGBP in good standing. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are offered in a variety of formats each year. One such way to earn CEUs is by attending the NASBITE Annual Conference, where you will hear from trade professionals like Mike Allocca, who according to John is “a dynamic educator who can make even (trade) compliance interesting!” The Annual Conference also offers ample network opportunities with fellow CGBPs, trade educators and practitioners. As John says, “This is an amazing community!”
In his consulting position, John aids local Kansas companies on various business topics. He typically sees a couple hundred clients annually who are mostly interested in marketing, financing or strategic planning assistance. International trade in not often an initial topic for most of his clients, but “something they say or a unique product or service will get us talking about it.” Being able to impart research and trade knowledge learned through the CGBP program aids John in opening clients to the idea of international trade as a viable next step.
“Finding that one client business that ‘gets it’, it all starts from there. One true believer can become an ambassador for trade and do more for fostering our efforts than almost anything else we do,” says John. “We have a terrific client whose products are in 19 or so countries across the world – he embraces international trade and is a community leader, so he is a significant influence.”
Several times throughout the year John is also called upon to lead lively seminars focusing on exporting basics. These “Riddle of the Exporter” training sessions created by Elyse Eriksson help businesses grasp the various parts of the exporting process through spirited team competition. He invites outside individuals who are experts in their respective trade fields (e.g. freight forwarders) to present during these sessions and impart their wisdom. According to John, “the more you get into international trade, the more you find that you are surrounded by incredibly smart, dedicated professionals who are able to look at the big picture. I constantly feel like I’m the dimmest bulb in the room, but I don’t mind – it’s inspiring to work with these people!”
International trade is an important part of national and local economies. John shared a story that showcased how important trade was to one Kansas company, a recent Kansas Governor’s Exporter of the Year award winner. The company manufactures grain driers for use in the agricultural sector. Despite the robust nature of the U.S. agriculture industry and the company’s location in what is considered the “Breadbasket to the World”, they actually sell more grain driers to Poland than they do in the domestic market. The company credits exporting for the ability to retain several employees who are viewed as family during recent U.S. economic downturns.
One of the most important lesson John has been able to take away from his career in global business is the reminder that international trade is ultimately tied to peace. He says, “That sounds all ‘Kumbaya My Lord’ but simply put: trading partners may squabble, but they don’t fight. China was diametrically opposed to the US in the 50s. Now, China couldn’t afford to fight their best customer. Those economic bonds are stronger than treaties.” I think we can all agree that peace is a great by-product of trade.