Eastern Europe, Russia, Siberia, and back! We just caught up with Nick Butze, Vice President of International Business at CH Trade. Butze explains that these are great business markets for the North Dakota companies they represent. CH Trade, named after owner Chris Harris, came to fruition as Harris built an extensive network of international business contacts throughout the world in his previous positions. CH Trade builds off its global network of contacts and exporting experience to work as an international sales arm for companies they represent. Many of the companies they represent are involved in agricultural manufacturing and other machinery based equipment, with other companies engaged in firearms and hockey equipment.
Butze was talked out of pursuing a law degree to join CH Trade and has not looked back. “I could be pushing a lot of paper as a lawyer right now. This is much more interesting,” he says. The Russian and Brazilian markets were his first challenge in developing connections. These markets have been historically problematic. But, he prevailed. Slowly yet surely, he set up distribution centers, dealerships and built-up a reliable network to assist North Dakota companies.
With a variety of services, CH Trade can assist in all areas, from business planning up to full operations of an international business department. As an international sales department, Ch Trade will take on business duties such as accounts payable, sales, banking, logistics, service, spare parts, and global marketing. For their firearms business, CH Trade has taken on the licensing and regulations involved for this exporting business, which can be challenging to manage. They are a full-service export provider.
Dedication is a pillar of CH Trade’s business. Butze calls himself a ‘road warrior,’ traveling many weeks out of the year to coordinate with overseas partners and dealerships. This work includes; ensuring operations are going well, host training, and demonstrating products to potential buyers.
Going out to the dealerships/distributors has been a great way to build trust and consistency, especially in times of uncertainly. “So many people like to have that face-to-face interaction and to be in front of products. There is no good substitute for traveling to customers and giving them the needed attention to be successful. And we are doing that,” says Butze describing recent trips overseas, ensuring everything is operating with their dealerships/distributors as smoothly as it can.
Before the pandemic, Butze describes a typical fall, “We used to be traveling August through November, going to more than 20 tradeshows internationally, but now, we have focused our approach with more demonstration days, which has worked well.” He goes on to say that very few people are traveling right now with the global pandemic.
CH Trade has taken advantage of that situation and found a new rhythm, focusing on its international customers’ needs and increasing global marketing while competitors have shifted to internal matters. With the pandemic, CH Trade and their dealerships/distributors have shifted slightly away from big farm shows with large crowds to a more selective approach with product demonstration days. “Getting in front of people and promoting our brands has been a great opportunity for CH Trade and our partners to continue doing business as many parts of the world have slowed down.”
Butze’s general advice for new exporters is to get in front of people, “All the travel is well worth it, and remember that they are all just people too. I don’t know how many times that a problem could have been fixed more efficiently by just getting on a plane and making it happen.” With all the technology, people often forget the impact face-to-face interactions can have.
He also points out the importance of making the right deals in the international business environment. “Often, people get too excited to have their first deal. They need to make sure it is the right deal with the right people. Making sure that agreements are fair to the company, it is hard to go back on agreements once they are made,” says Butze, speaking from experience.
CH Trade works with a mix of companies. Some have been exporting for years. Others want to expand internationally but don’t have the capacity – this is where CH Trade can help. CH Trade offers many services that can support all businesses with their diverse contacts and international marketing experience to build up success. It can even be a great way to test the waters if a company is not yet ready to dedicate a full sales team to an international market.
Looking towards to future, CH Trade will be increasing travel as it becomes more comfortable. They also plan to focus on making the most out of every export sale coming out of ND by combining shipments and working with like-minded ND companies to increase efficiency and build trust along the way. Because, as Butze admits, they have always had a soft spot for ND manufacturing companies.