Through his professional career, Mark Lamb has for the past 25 years focused on international business development projects and responsibilities, working with international and domestic companies in the maritime industry.
In this regard, Mark has written “Compass and a Map”, a book which presents more than 300 takeaways to guide you in the business development process. With this book in your toolbox, consider it as a compass and a map that will be instrumental in guiding you through a career in international business.
The experience he shares in this book will shorten your learning curve in each phase of the business development cycle: networking, business trip planning and execution, and tendering – through the handover of awarded contracts to project managers or operations groups. The international travel guidance provided will be helpful to all professionals who travel globally.
You may have recently assumed international business development responsibilities, or you are a seasoned professional. This book presents information that Mark needed but did not have when he started his career in international business. He shares over 45 years of experience, of which the last 25 were committed to international business development activities.
In an exclusive interview with MARPRO’s Marketing Manager Narjiss Ghajour, Mark Lamb answers 6 questions and tells us about how he got the idea of writing Compass and a Map, the takeaways he wishes the readers take with them and his plans for future books.
6 questions with Mark Lamb
- When and how did you get the idea of writing Compass and a Map?
I first had the idea to write the book after working on my first large project in Argentina. I was young and responsible for managing the project and the financial results. I had no prior business development experience coming from a financial background with Ernst and Young (EY) CPAs. I seriously needed the support and guidance of an experienced mentor or any other source. It was a sink or swim situation! This was the exact point when I agreed with myself to write what is now Compass and a Map. If I had had this type of information, mistakes would have been minimized in each business development phase, which I present in the book as network development, project planning and execution through the client tender (bidding) process. Participating in a large tender is the end goal of the business development process and, as I say in the book, is where the ‘rubber meets the road.’
The Argentina project was thirty years ago. Since then, I have worked on many projects, travelled extensively, and religiously recorded my notes for the future book in eight Moleskin travel journals. The entries include mistakes made, losses and wins, thoughts and ideas, cultural considerations, etc. I completed and published the manuscript during the Covid 19 lockdown period using my career experiences and journal entries.
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I first considered the book’s title to present the main theme. For example, the experience-based information shared serves as a compass to guide the business development manager on an international career path, signified by the global map on the book’s cover. The intended base theme broadened as the manuscript developed. It became clearer to me the importance of the business development manager’s ability to efficiently employ a toolbag full of broad-based technical skills supported by soft skillsets. Another title for the book might be something like A Toolbag with a Compass, Map, Connections, Technical and Soft Skills Make A Career?
Sharpening international travel skills is also a key theme. If you do not arrive at the international destination safely and on time, the business goals will not be realized. International travel is much more challenging than domestic travel. The mistakes we all make are much less forgiving, especially in remote parts of the world, where many larger greenfield projects are found. As in all chapters in the book, I reinforce travel points and suggestions with personal stories that will help the reader remember. Most are common sense, but we cannot always rely on common sense when traveling internationally.
3. Which takeaways are you trying to give your readers when reading Compass and a Map?
This is a difficult question. In the first drafts of the manuscript, I summarized each chapter’s takeaways in the index – approximately 300 takeaways. So, the 280-page book is full of takeaways.
One takeaway I will highlight here is that your industry network is only as strong as your reputation. Making a severe reputation-damaging mistake can permanently damage industry network relationships, often forcing one to start over working in another much less lucrative field. All industry segments become relatively small over time – people get to know the players after a few years, and you cannot hide from a severe reputation-damaging mistake. Another key takeaway is that today’s successful business development manager is highly multiskilled, technically, socially, and proficient in soft skills. I think few careers demand such a broad base of capabilities in one person. As a result, the career includes professionals from multiple technical backgrounds. One last takeaway I will mention is the importance of becoming reasonably proficient in your key client’s first language, even if they are fluent in your language. The client’s respect for you will be elevated and studying the client’s language will enhance your understanding of and respect for their culture. And don’t worry about making mistakes – which you will do.
My sincere feeling in writing the book is that if a takeaway results in the reader maintaining the relationship of a key client or if it is vital in the award of a profitable and long-term contract, then the work and effort writing the book has been worth it to me.
4. According to you, what would be the ideal use of this book that you’d like to see the most?
Compass and Map is an excellent orientation tool for those entering international sales, marketing, and commercial fields. If I were the global sales and marketing executive, the book would be required reading for my team. I plan to use Map and a Compass as course material for mini workshops presented to corporate commercial teams. The information presented in the book is useful to anyone who works and travels globally and interacts with and in multi-cultures.
Finally, I believe that University career cancelers will find the book useful in preparing graduates for interviews for positions requiring international responsibilities with travel. I know the information will give the student more confidence in the interview and might make the interviewer think that the student has prior experience in international business.
5. Any plans for similar books in the future?
After writing Chapter 12 – The Business Development Manager’s Responsibilities for the Tender Process and Contract Handover, I have decided to write my next book on the project tendering process. As with Compass and a Map, I want the book to be enjoyable to read and loaded with takeaways, personal experience stories, and client-oriented comments to highlight the key points made.
As I expected, many of those commenting on the book on my LinkedIn account are located worldwide with international companies. I see these groups having the highest interest level in Compass and a Map compared to those working solely in US domestic markets.
I want to mention that the Amazon paperback version of the book is quite expensive in many countries because of shipping costs. My Mexican friend said that Amazon’s price of USD$19.95 book shipped to Mexico City is US$42.00. Fortunately, the lower Kindle and eBook prices are roughly the same for all readers globally. The eBook version of Compass and a Map will be available around June 15, 2022, on the major eBook distribution sites.
Today Mark is in semi-retirement, as he still provides business development consulting services to international maritime operators, working from his home base in Houston, Texas. He also interacts with educational institutions sharing the findings of his book. Mark is a member of the World Affairs Council, Rice Baker Institute, The Hemingway Society, Asia Society – Texas, and attended the Rice University – Baker Institute Masters of Global Affairs Program in 2015.
What are the readers saying about Compass and a Map?
- “This is really a handbook or a guide for international sales, it can save you time, money and potential embarrassment.”
- “Good tool for entrepreneurs!”
- “It is extremely useful for those starting an international business career. I wish I had a guide like that in my beginnings!”
- “Indeed, a useful tool for the young professionals new in such rewarding and exciting field I used to enjoy great”
- “Even the biggest companies don’t have training materials this useful (or fun and easy to read). There is no wasted ink in this book-it’s all meat that can be and will be used.”
- “This book is really about how a company, large or small, can most effectively manage international business relationships, or as the author says, “The end goal is the award of profitable contracts and the establishment of long-term relationships.”
You can reach Mark:
- By e-mail: email@example.com
- Through his website www.MarkLambConsulting.com
- Connect with him on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-neil-lamb/.
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