Global Supply Chain

Global Trade - Getting to Excellence

Ned Blinick

Co-Founder, 3rdwave

To be excellent means understanding what "excellent" means in its context. Organizationally, excellence is a constantly moving target and it requires constant commitment and dedication to improvement by all individuals. Personally, excellence requires a commitment to improving the way you work and the outcomes from your effort. Getting to excellence implies constantly striving against the status quo.Being excellent consists of 6 key elements: desire, leadership, talent, time, effort, and tools. It is virtually impossible to achieve excellence without at least 4 of these basic elements. If you are one of the very few people that are exceptionally talented in a specific field, with desire and the right tools you might achieve excellence. However, as Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers, "an extraordinarily consistent answer in an incredible number of fields ... you need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good." To which he added anecdotally: " ... natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest."The same can be said for an organization. In order to achieve excellence, and get to great, the organization must have the leadership, desire, talent, and effort from its people and provide the time and tools to support them. Without these 6 elements, the organization cannot achieve real excellence. The same can be said for the operational and staff functions in the organization. Organizational excellence takes a team and commitment.

6 Key Elements for Global Trade Excellence

  1. Desire - Desire is that intangible that you can't define but you know it when you see it. Organizationally, it is the combination of passion and the drive to succeed that is infused in the functional team and all its members. It manifests itself in wanting to do the best...always. It is about constant improvement and stretching corporately or personally to achieve better.
  2. Leadership - The vision resides in leaders. Leadership is at times formal and rests in the head of the team or it expresses itself informally through individuals within the team at different stages. Leadership creates the environment where Desire thrives. It fosters a "Yes I Can" attitude and provides the support when things don't go quite as planned. When it doesn't exist everyone knows it and things generally muddle along.
  3. Talent - Without talent, excellence is elusive. Like leadership, talent rests with the individual. Organizations that aspire to excellence look to hire and cultivate talent. From a Trade Compliance perspective, talent might have 3 letters after the name - LCB - but it is definitely not a requirement. Trade compliance requires the willingness to learn what is necessary to ensure compliance and apply it effectively and efficiently. This means understanding how trade compliance affects its relationship with Customs, Census, and other government agencies, internal stakeholders and external service providers and suppliers, and implementing solutions and actions that materially improve the organization.
  4. Time - Whether you agree totally with Malcolm Gladwell or not about the number of hours it takes to be really proficient at the task, what is clear is that it takes time and business cycles to understand the job and be in a knowledgeable position to make the improvements necessary to strive for excellence.
  5. Effort - Excellence is a moving target and it requires tremendous effort. Improvement involves consistent physical, emotional, and intellectual effort to move beyond a current state to the next level.
  6. Tools - In today's environment having the desire, leadership, and talent will only get you so far on the road to excellence. Without the right tools for the job, excellence is totally compromised. I say totally because it is virtually impossible to be efficient at the job required. Like a professional athlete, equipment is an integral part of their reaching their full potential. It is no different in Global Trade. Without the right tools that enable the organization and the individual to reach their full potential, the results will always be sub-optimal.

Why companies fail to achieve Global Trade Excellence

From conversations with 100's of people across the global trade spectrum, there are 2 obvious reasons why companies fail to achieve global trade excellence. They are a lack of leadership and tools.From the perspective of global trade, the failure of leadership exhibits itself in its failure to recognize the untapped potential and value that the importing and exporting can bring to the organization. Most global trade professionals we talk to are very involved with their work. They want to do a good - make that an excellent - job but are stymied by the lack of understanding or focus (or both?) by management. Part of the problem lies with the inability of the trade professionals to adequately make the case to the right people in the organization as to the real value that import or export excellence delivers in terms of shortening the global supply chain life-cycle or the ability to reduce risk across the supply chain. This is where the desire, leadership, and effort from the trade management team is essential.Tools are the second area where global trade execution is generally deficient and this severely handicaps the organization in achieving excellence. Lack of the right tools is derivative to the lack of understanding and investment in the automation tools that deliver the value of global trade management. Trade automation tools enable the global trade team to increase organization excellence by:

  • deliver visibility to the organization on the state of product across the global supply chain.
  • control and manage service providers for better service level/cost benefit.
  • improve supplier and customer relationships through better communication.
  • reduce global supply chain lifecycles.
  • reduce inventory safety stock requirements and other related capital expenses.
  • supporting other internal stakeholders in the development of product and the execution of shipments.
  • reduce product total landed costs.

Addressing these issues and constantly improving performance allows the organization to achieve global trade excellence.The simple reality is - the cost to getting to excellence is not the problem. Understanding the opportunities and value of global trade improvement and being able to express it effectively is the problem.About 3rdwave:

3rdwave simplifies global trade through automation. 3rdwave is a GTM platform that delivers total global supply chain visibility, minimizes manual data entry, streamlines business process, and provides contextual information enabling its users to make informed decisions to reduce global supply chain risk. It's a cloud-based platform that requires minimal IT resources for quick implementation. 3rdwave ensures that companies meet the highest levels of GTM execution and Trade Compliance conformance.

Ned Blinick is Chief Product Officer of He has been involved in global trade for too many decades and he loves making the global supply chain simpler for everyone. If you would like to engage with Ned he would really enjoy the opportunity of communicating with you or your boss. He can be reached at (416) 510 8800 ext 234 or at