Have you ever heard of mapping underground pollution? I hadn’t until recently, after Doug Barry sat down with John H. Sohl III, the founder of Columbia Technologies. This mapping involves using sensor technology that tracks leakage of pollutants, and following an analysis, customers can make decisions on risk assessment, disposition of the property and proper cleanup actions. The more interesting aspect of this story is how the company grew internationally.

Columbia Technologies initial market strategy was essentially a piggyback approach. Establish a good working relationship with global firms in the U.S., and use the good reputation to expand the technology to these firm’s international locations. One of their key strategies as a small business is to not overextend themselves and grow too fast. Columbia wants to make sure they are doing exporting right in the few locations they are currently (which include Canada, Mexico, and many Latin American countries). The company expects to double in size just because of their international growth, with many more opportunities ahead.

The biggest surprise for John was the fact that people were so willing to help the company move in, because they were so intrigued and eager to learn about technology those countries had never really had before. They would not have been able to expand so successfully without the help of the U.S. Commercial Service however. At one trade show in Mexico, the company got introductions to people who expressed an interest in purchasing their services because of their connection to the U.S. Commercial Service. With their help, they are able to get an audience and gain some help from those people who are locally based. When you are focused on doing things right, looking for long term international relationships, and have the U.S. Commercial Service backing you up, success is right around the corner, as it was for Columbia Technologies.

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