I often “clean” my computer on Saturday and in doing so today I found my notes from a talk I gave a long time ago in New York, focusing on what it takes to conduct business successfully in or with emerging market countries. If I recall correctly, I was on a panel with a couple of other international lawyers and we were each to lead it off with two minutes to talk about the ONE thing companies doing business internationally should know. The below is what I wrote in preparation.
Make the law your friend. If you operate both legally and with an eye towards the legal ramifications of what you do, you will have greater leverage with both the companies and the governments with which you do. You will also sleep better at night, both in the short term and the long term.
Use Good Contracts. As an example on the company side, if you get bad product and you have a great contract, you almost certainly have leverage to require your supplier to remedy the problem. If you have no contract, you almost certainly lack the leverage to get your supplier to fix things.
Make Friends with the Government. On the government front, if you are operating legally and paying your taxes, you should consider introducing yourself to the appropriate government authorities so they know who you are before you have any problems so that if and when you have any problems, you have people who already know you who can assist.
What would you have said if given two minutes?