In today’s interconnected world, networking has become an integral part of both our personal and professional lives. From social media platforms to face-to-face encounters, networking plays a crucial role in shaping our careers, businesses, and industries.
In this blog post, I’ll delve into the importance of networking, particularly within the realm of Global Trade and Customs Compliance, where we at Emma Systems operate.
The General Importance of Networking
We all have our presence on social media platforms, whether by choice or under the influence of our tech-savvy kids. Personally, LinkedIn has played a pivotal role to me as it has been a part of my professional life since August 2007 (my longest-lasting social media relationship). For me, and many others I assume, LinkedIn is not just about having an online CV; it’s just as much about staying updated with industry trends, connecting with customers and peers, and sharing valuable insights.
If we take a step beyond the digital realm, face-to-face interactions still hold immense value. It might seem impossible to balance a plate and wine glass while shaking hands, but it’s only a matter of practice, much like other things.
Networking in the Customs and Trade Compliance Space
So, what type of networks am I, or are we as a company, part of?
As you hopefully know, we are delivering one solution for customs filing in the Nordics (EmmaSped CMS) and another one to stay compliant with customs documentation and deal with the significant amounts of data related to this (Emma E-doc).
For those of us deeply entrenched in the Customs and Trade Compliance space, networking takes on a whole new level of significance. Companies like ours provide solutions for customs filing and compliance, and our customers rely on us to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of customs regulations.
Our customers trust us to be on top of all (and there are a lot of them now) customs changes going on in the countries we operate inCarsten Amtrup, Head of International Business, Emma Systems
Not only do we need to be aware of and understand the changes, but we must also deliver the new or updated solutions to our existing and new customers on time.
To stay ahead, we tap into multiple networks. First and foremost, we monitor Customs Authority websites and resources for updates. However, the primary source of valuable information and collaboration comes from our participation in networking groups operated by both authorities and independent organisations.
In these groups enable a broad platform to be open and focused. We often have the same challenges that we need to solve together to keep cross-border business (our customers) running. The main thing is the respect and trust we have for each other in the industry. You get to know your industry colleagues and can support each other, if possible and within appropriate boundaries, to constantly evolve and improve our industry expertise and support our clients.
Furthermore, our presence in these groups often influences the authorities themselves. They listen to us as representatives of the trade, aiming to deliver operationally effective solutions that align with customer needs. In the Nordic region where we operate, these groups anticipate customs changes that will occur in the next 1-3 years.
Across the channel in the UK, our membership in AFSS (Association of Freight Software Suppliers) takes a slightly different form. AFSS represents the collective voice of member companies with HMRC and other relevant authorities. AFSS Chairman, Steve Bartlett, is doing a sterling job in collaborating with more than 45 member companies to ensure that our voice is heard at HMRC, the JCCC (Joint Customs Consultative Committee) and many other working groups.
AFSS members regularly engage in discussions to address short-term challenges and contribute to the development of HMRC’s long-term strategy. This is important for us all and Steve makes sure that all the relevant information is distributed to all members. The members are learning a lot from each other and discussing technical challenges, to ensure we all deliver to customers on time.
At this time of many customs changes in the UK, there are weekly calls to discuss challenges. Once a year all the members meet for the annual general meeting, which is a great opportunity to meet with peers. Normally HMRC or other Business Organisations are invited, such as BIFA (British International Freight Association) or others to give their view on the world of customs from their standpoint.
Steve also represents AFSS and the UK suppliers in the European Organisation ETN (EurTradeNet). Emma Systems is a direct member of ETN and our CEO, Rolf Botnen, is currently the Chaiman of ETN. Maite Miret is the CEO for this group and has been doing a tremendous job here for many years.
Why am I telling you about all these groups and networks?
It proves that even though we are often competitors battling for the same business, we can work closely together as it simply makes sense.
While we keep our commercial strategies close to our chests, we recognise that the challenges we face in this complex landscape are universal. Whether we serve one country or many, have 5 or 5,000 customers, we all realise the same challenges.
We’re all spending much time and money participating, and that’s why we have a vested interest in delivering sound solutions to our customers.
By coming together, we invest our time and resources to deliver exceptional solutions to our customers, support the authorities, and ensure the success of our companiesCarsten Amtrup, Head of International Business, Emma Systems
Other ways to network, gather and share knowledge
In addition to all the industry groups we are part of, it is also important to understand the market and our customers.
The Global Trade space is part of a bigger eco system designed to moving goods to where it needs to be. For us, it’s important to understand how the niche we operate in fits into the Supply Chain and transport processes. How can we deliver solutions that fit into this, so goods are flowing smoothly and at the same time keeping our clients compliant with customs?
We have a responsibility of understanding the technology and trends that the entire supply chain is utilising and facing. How can we fit into that, what should we be prepared for in the future and how can we build sustainable and continuously evolving solutions to support this?
Tech suppliers have their own events, where the future is discussed. They can be within TMS, WMS, Delivery Management, Real Time Visibility, ERP and many more. There are also industry organised events. We are going to some of these and have had great use of Multimodal in the UK, where we learn a lot from talking to customers and peers in transportation.
Everyone who works with Supply Chain knows that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You have FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) regarding e-commerce, and you have industries where they have long term planning possibilities. They all have segment specific events, so if your company is working with a specific vertical, you can learn a lot from these events.
In addition to our focus on supply chain, our E-Doc product is intended for the finance, tax, compliance, and audit departments, as it relates to storing financial documents. This means that we must understand those areas of the business as well.
My final two networking cents (at last!)
I have no idea how many events and networking scenarios I have been to in my career. It is out there that I learn and meet people – and I actually enjoy it!
We don’t always have to look through a commercial lens, but whether you are in production, finance, supply chain or sales, meeting people is where you get inspiration from. My friends and colleagues would probably be surprised to hear this, but I am not the forward leaning, business chasing guy at events, talking to everybody. If we have a stand, I like to meet people hoping that we can help them, or I like being at the networking sessions in the afternoon of the events and have glass of wine and talk to interesting people.
In conclusion, networking isn’t just about collecting business cards or connecting on LinkedIn. It’s about building bridges, fostering trust, and collaborating for the greater good of our industry, our customers, and our businesses. Sometimes you do business and other times you learn something (or both), so there are no downsides to this.
I have focused on the physical networking, but naturally a lot can be done in the digital world, and it is much closer to you on a daily basis. I believe that a healthy balance between the worlds is best.
Let me know if you’d like to network and we can have a coffee or wine somewhere. Now I will go out to collect my mail from the mailbox, which will take me an hour, because I like to network with my neighbours as well…