The World Trade Information business, like most professions, is as much about art as it is about science. It requires intuition and vision in addition to operation manuals and financial statements.
Barney Lehrer was a Juilliard-trained professional cellist, who performed all around the world, before making World Trade his vocation. In 1990, relatively late in his life (but in the infancy of the internet), he left a successful musical career to get his MBA from the prestigious Thunderbird School of Global Management. Thereafter, following a short stint with a trading company in New York, he joined FITA (Federation of International Trade Associations) to develop their website.
In the Wild, Wild West of the World Wide Web back in those early pioneer days, there weren’t a lot of guidebooks and gurus to tell you how it was supposed to be done. Therefore, Mr. Lehrer invented it as he went, and became a self–taught maestro in the many facets of website development. Now, some twenty years later, FITA (http://www.fita.org) is a recognized staple for trade information. Approximately 100,000 visitors frequent his web site every month:
- Searching for advise on how to start an import -export business.
- Looking for a job in the international trade industry.
- Hunting for merchandise trade leads, where/who to buy from or sell to.
- Fetching background information on a particular industry or country.
The FITA website and newsletter (Really Useful Sites) was sold to the Paris based company, Export Enterprises, three years ago. Since the sale, Mr. Lehrer not only continues to shepherd the FITA as Vice-President, but also has been charged with directing content development and U.S. operations for EE’s new enterprise, GlobalTrade.net, launched November 2010.
Barney Lehrer is a man of vision. In our recent interview, he remarked that the next important trend in international trade information would be in and about social media; hence the focus of GlobalTrade.net. Creating transparency and interactivity within the global trading community is not easy. But the need is there.
Vetting prospective service providers, foreign manufacturers or potential buyers is vital. Can technology really help bridge the trust and accountability gaps? Apparently, many companies have tried and failed to establish methods to adequately validate potential foreign suppliers. Alibaba’s recent “Trust Pass” scandal further testifies to the difficulties involved.
Thus Barney Lehrer undertakes, through GlobalTrade.net, to begin the bridge building task. GlobalTrade.net attempts to provide users background information on specific industries in specific countries through 15,000 reports obtained from their various global government partnerships. Then, through their network of 12,000 service providers, GlobalTrade.net tries to bring trading parties separated by miles, languages and customs a little closer to THE DEAL.
Still in its infancy, investors and sponsors are called upon to provide the necessary financial undergirding. It is hoped that upon reaching critical mass, the “pay-per-lead” revenues (resulting from the matchmaking process) will sustain and prosper the enterprise. In the end, the best way to establish trust and validate a potential supplier, as Mr. Lehrer attests, is “to get a plane and meet face to face.”
Notwithstanding, the Maestro will certainly bring his best to the task of bringing all the players together within GlobalTrade.net in an effort to provide greater harmony, synchronization and facilitation within the arena of global trade. To that end, we wish him well.