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Where Is the Potential?

Ali Günertem
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The USA is the world’s most powerful economic dynamo, yet at the same time it is a consuming monster, swallowing whatever it finds. It is the biggest and the most profitable market of the world. Everyone struggles to put the goods they produce into this market.
The market is big, yet it is difficult to enter. Once you are in, to be successful you have to spend money, obey the rules and be patient; however, unfortunately patience is not a virtue of our business culture. Jump the gun and turn the corner… for the last 25 years we are so used to this way of thinking in Turkey that it seems quite wrong to us to wait for the harvest time with patience and tenacity.

The situation in the major Turkish companies that we call the professionals is no different. However, the US market does not work with such an understanding at all. If you do not have patience or business ethics, it is impossible to be successful. You need a 10-year business plan, at least. If you manage to hold on and your business becomes successful, the opportunities are endless. As long as the quality of the product is maintained at acceptable market standards, business relations can last for years, and in the long term the investor can earn a lot of money.

When I take a look at the major Turkish companies which do business in the US, the situation looks quite miserable. Why? Because they are so few in number. Mavi Jeans, LTB and Gilan are the first three that I can bring to mind.

There is no courage, no foresight, and most importantly, no patience. Instead of coming to the US and fighting for years with small profits, our companies prefer to do business in other places of the world where there is less control and larger profit margins.

However, the number of individual entrepreneurs who came from Turkey and have become successful is incredibly high. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who came to the US to study or to work and have become examples in the companies that they established. I could mention some of them, but I don’t want to forget anyone. Those who are curious about these names may contact TURKOFAMERICA, because their data banks are full of such success stories.

In short, these entrepreneurs are more successful than our major companies.  Let’s take a look at the two major active institutions of Turkey. The rich-men’s club TUSIAD has 530 members. Among these members how many of them have serious operations in the USA? Maybe four, maybe five... such as Zorlu, Kiska, Edpa, Exsa and Kordsa International. On the other hand, the number of companies who have serious trade connections with the US must be around 15-20.   That is to say, major Turkish companies who are members of TUSIAD do not consider the US market profitable. Instead, they believe it to be more profitable and less risky to be the Turkish representatives of American companies and to be active in the domestic market.

And how many of the 650 members of the Turkish-American Business Council or Turkish-American Businessmen Association have any major activity in the US market? It is difficult to give an example for this, too.

Every single Turkish-American that lives in the US has tried to establish a business with Turkey in some part of their lives. Of course there must be successful ones but mostly what they experience is disappointment. Some have learned their lessons, given up their dreams, and continued their daily businesses which have nothing to do with Turkey. Others, on the other hand, still spend their time and money on such businesses, with big expectations, and continue their efforts to create business opportunities between Turkey and America.

Every year hundreds of Turkish businessmen come to Turkish American Business Council meetings. I have always wondered what kind of business relations these meetings create. For example, though they do not find any American counterparts, many business people from the textile industry come to such meetings, which are generally about the weapons industry.

Again, a few years ago, some businessmen came to Washington, D.C. to explore new communication technologies, yet they didn’t even visit Tyson’s Corner, the heart of the technology companies. In the same year, DEIK held a conference, but it was early in the morning and there was not much participation.  However, on the same day in the afternoon the shopping mall Tyson’s 2 was full of our Turkish business people!

I’d like to finish my article with a self-criticism. I also dealt in such businesses with a couple of my friends for about 5 years. We were working on new communication technologies and developing formulas which would be quite beneficial, and created a data bank. We believed that this would have a value in a developed and civilized business world and wanted to share it with Turkish companies. We talked with many large scale and small scale companies to bring these new technologies to Turkey. Yet what we got as an answer simply was “give us the names you have and we will contact them.” Such answers that I received from well dressed, highly educated Turkish businessmen and administrators disappointed me.

In another enterprise, I wanted to help a well-known water-bottling company to enter the US market. However, I was again disappointed, because instead of doing business with supermarkets here, they wanted to limit themselves to the Turkish markets in NY and in NJ, and they didn’t see the potential in front of them. After such experiences, I said to myself, “Maybe I’m the one who is not successful,” and gave up.  However, I’ve been watching for years, and the stories are still the same...

(January 2007 23rd Issue)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07

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