It's been a bad couple of days in Ukraine, as the country's rival political factions square off in a brewing constitutional crisis: the nation's president wants to dissolve parliament, while the prime minister says hell no (or is that "niet"?)
Coming only a few short years after the optimisim of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, the chaos in Kiev could cause some American businessmen to forego the Ukrainian market altogether. Not Howard Dahl. Though troubled by what is happening to Ukraine, Dahl's companies, which manufacture heavy farm equipment, expect to book $30 million in export sales in 2007—the majority of that money coming from Ukraine. Dahl shares the story of how and why his company entered the markets of the former Soviet Union in 1992, in an article in the April issue of Inc., which is on newsstands now.
Today, I asked Dahl, whose company is based in North Dakota, what he thought of the current crisis. He writes : "It has been very troublesome to watch the Ukrainians struggle in forming a functioning government. The East with Yanukovych and the West with Yushchenko have two very different directions they want the country to move—one toward Russia and one toward Europe. They are quite equally divided and I see no simple solutions unfortunately."
Despite the political uncertainty, Dahl says that doing business overseas, in emerging markets like Ukraine and Russia, is a joyful experience. At times, it has even proven a great source of comedy. In the Inc. article, Dahl recalls that in early deals he was paid through barter. "Once, a customer offered us 30,000 polar fox pelts for a machine," Dahl writes. Having no experience in the fur industry, he turned down the offer. "I found out later what the value of those pelts would have been if I had resold them to a furrier in Europe," Dahl says. "I should have done that deal."
To read Howard Dahl's story from start to finish, click here. To browse the entire 42-page package of stories on doing global business, click here. Finally, for a blog on all things Ukrainian, click here.
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