'And Other Duties as May Be Assigned'
There are two pathways for U.S. Commercial Service officers—domestic and overseas. But sometimes that pathway merges as it did recently when Ryan Kanne, director of the Minneapolis U.S. Export Assistance Center, was called upon for temporary duty in Bogota, Colombia.
Kanne was filling in for the U.S. Commercial Service officer who had to leave the post suddenly due to a family emergency. Kanne only stayed two months, although they would have like him to fill in longer, he said. The structure in a foreign office is different than in the U.S. The U.S. officers lead the office, but the native employees are the experts. They are the heart and soul, the institutional knowledge and also the bread and butter of the post, since it's their local knowledge that's sold to franchisors coming there to export their services or products. U.S. officers are rotated every two to four years, so they remain the face of the U.S. and don't go "local," Kanne said.
Kanne's observations while there are good news for U.S. franchisors. “It was surprising how much Colombians spend going out to eat,” he says, adding that they dine out their extended families, which is good for check averages.
“I saw long lines out the door for Johnny Rockets,” he said. The Starbucks by his office was busy, even though there were two local coffee places close by.
Carl’s Jr was just opening when he was there in April and May, and Applebee’s was crowded when he dined there during the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s basketball finals.
In addition, “every other block has building” going on, he said.
Kanne speaks Spanish, although not fluently. His wife is a Brazilian attorney who is studying to pass the U.S. bar, so he knows some Portuguese. While he was in Colombia, he said the locals thought he was a Brazilian speaking Spanish. That won’t be the case when he visits Brazil, however which is why he’s studying Portuguese, first in the U.S. and then for three weeks in Brazil. “I want to know all the franchise terms fluently,” he says. Which will come in handy should a trade mission be heading there. Currently, Brazil isn't on the agenda for upcoming mission in late September to Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala.