Meet the Panelists for our Scaling Globally Event

We are thrilled to host our first Scaling Globally event on June 6th, 2019. As we draw closer to the event we want to introduce our esteemed panelists. Throughout this article you will get to know some of Pittsburgh’s most innovative tech experts and what they have to offer for our global discussion.

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Denis Meinert, Head of Finance at Duolingo

Meet Grove City and IUP alum Denis Meinert. Denis serves as Duolingo’s Head of Finance. In his role, he forecasts, assesses risk, and implements long-term profitability strategies for the free language-learning application.

Duolingo’s roots lie in the art of teaching new global languages, so it is no secret that Denis is exceptionally qualified to speak to what it means to scale globally. With an application deeply rooted in diverse language learning courses, Duolingo must constantly adapt their cutting-edge application to global markets.

Sameer Kshirsagar, Head of Supply Chain and Business Operations at Uber Advanced Technology Group

Give a warm welcome to our next panelist, Sameer Kshirsagar. Sameer boasts an impressive educational background, starting at Virginia Tech and earning his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, then moving on to earning his M.S. in Manufacturing Management from Kettering University, and lastly earning his MBA from Ohio State University. On top of these accomplishments, Sameer holds certifications in Supply Chain from the University of Texas at Austin and Strategies and Leadership in Supply Chain from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Sameer serves as the Head of Supply Chain and Business Operations at Uber Advanced Technologies Group. Uber ATG is the self-driving autonomous vehicle operation headquartered in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Uber ATG is lucky to have Sameer’s extensive experience in supply chain management, quality operations, engineering and lean manufacturing. We’re thrilled that Sameer is part of our panel!

Kevin Dowling, CEO at Kaarta

We are honored to introduce Kevin Dowling, the CEO of Kaarta. Kevin’s education is rooted in Carnegie Mellon’s world-class programs in mathematics, robotics, and computer science. Kevin graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with his PhD in Robotics and Computer Science.

His company, Kaarta, is paving the road of 3D technology. Kevin and the Kaarta team create 3D models and maps of the real world in real time, and then integrate them into existing workflows. Kevin is also the founder of Pittsburgh Robotics Network which is devoted to addressing commonly found issues in the local robotics industry.

We’ll let Kevin’s LinkedIn biography explain just how significant of an asset he is to our panel:

“At the intersection of science and business, I've been fortunate to be a member of leadership teams that have propelled early-stage companies with advanced technology to industry leadership, as well as an IPO and $800M exit. Strong and effective experiences in engineering, R&D, supply chain, and IP. I love to build teams, products, tech, and companies.”

Mary Koes, Product Manager at Google

Mary Koes, Product Manager at Google, is another incredible success story that comes out of CMU’s Robotics Institute. Prior to joining Google, Mary worked at the innovative juvenile company, 4moms, for over 9 years.

As VP of Technology, she spent time setting strategic IT visions to enable growth, improve efficiency, and streamline service across multiple business units. In addition, she was an integral member of the leadership team with her prior experience as VP of Operations. In this role, Mary oversaw the design, development and general oversight of all products.

As you can tell, Mary’s experience in technology and operations is the perfect match for our panel. Now, Mary is a Product Manager at leading search company, Google, and we can’t wait to hear her insights.

Steven Murray, Senior International Trade Specialist at US Commercial Service

Since our panel will focus on the current global business climate, we knew we needed an expert who focuses solely on this process. This is where Steven Murray, Senior International Trade Specialist at the US Commercial Service, comes in!

Steven is joining us with over 20 years at the US Commercial Service. His skills lie in international trade, export controls, and international relations. His extensive experience will tie our entire panel together, as we discuss how Pittsburgh companies can expand across the globe.

If you haven’t secured your tickets for our inaugural Scaling Globally panel, make sure you do so now. Proceeds from ticket sales will be benefiting charities chosen by our panelists. Charities include:

Our panel is on Thursday, June 6th from 5pm to 8pm, and tickets are $35. Tickets include networking hour, the panel, two drinks, and appetizers. You can purchase them at this link.

It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

We Compiled Iconic Leaders’ Hiring Advice, So You Don’t Have To

You posted the job requirements, you’ve reviewed the resumes, but when it comes to making the best hiring decisions for your company, you can never be too prepared. Even some of the most successful business leaders have run into making the wrong hires. Years of trial and error and learning from mistakes has led to a broader understanding of finding the right employees.

To save you the time and energy in hiring quality candidates, we’ve compiled some of the world’s most iconic business leaders’ hiring advice that can hopefully help you through your hiring journey.

Hire Someone You’d Work For - Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

“I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person… if Facebook just disappeared and I had to go find something else to go do, then I’d be happy to go work for that person.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s advice should resonate well with business owners and leaders. Look for the candidates that you feel would be someone you could potentially learn from and work alongside. An old hiring adage is to always hire people who are smarter than you. When interviewing, ask questions that give you better insight for the person’s knowledge and leadership skills. If they are someone you could see yourself working for if the roles were reversed, consider adding them to your team.

Cool, Curious, and Connected  - Mindy Grossman, CEO, WW

“I hire for the human first, and then the resume, to a degree. There are table stakes for me. Humanity, values, a clear path that someone has taken, where they've made thoughtful and strategic decisions, not just to get that one leg up necessarily. That they've been able to take risks, and sometimes rebound from them or sometimes they've not been successful but then they've course corrected. That they're very honest and transparent about that.”

The CEO of WW (formerly Weight Watchers), Mindy Grossman, only hires people that she finds interesting, thoughtful and curious - or cool, curious, and connected. She feels that people who are all of these things are not only multifaceted but are most likely interesting enough to have a large network. The benefit of hiring someone with these traits is that it’s almost like hiring multiple people. Really get to know the person you are hiring by asking them questions that require them to open up about some of their greatest accomplishments outside of the office and who they know.

Are They Happy? - Barbara Corcoran, CEO, The Corcoran Group

Real estate mogul and Shark Tank Investor Barbara Corcoran is as experienced as they come when looking to hire good employees. During an interview with The New York Times, she mentioned that the best way to field employees is to ask them about their family.

“If their family couldn’t give them a positive attitude, there’s nothing I can do that’s going to change it.”

This advice came from the discovery that people who are good at their jobs, aren’t always pleasant people. If someone doesn’t light up when talking about things most people love, then they may simply not be a happy person. Corcoran also noted that having “just one unhappy person in a pool of 20 happy people, you feel that weight.”

Expose Them to the Team - Steve Jobs, CEO, Co-Founder, Apple Inc.

“When we hire someone, even if they are going to be in marketing, I will have them talk to the design folks and the engineers.”

The late Apple Inc. co-founder and CEO had one mission: have other employees get to know how interviewees operate. It should come as no surprise that Apple Inc. is a collaborative work environment, encouraging all team members to work together on business strategy and process to create new and efficient products.

Steve Jobs encouraged job candidates to speak to a dozen key team members across his organization in order to truly size up how well they work in a team-centric company. Interviewing for a design position with head engineers could help Jobs hire people who could talk the talk, and walk the walk. Experienced candidates have been turned down for job opportunities even if one interviewer had concerns.

Culture Over Everything - Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos

Zappos has been known as leaders when it comes to company culture. They have a pretty extensive culture assessment where they ask behavior-based questions to determine whether or not the candidate is a good fit for them. The questions that they ask focus on customer service, how they embrace change, how they communicate, whether they are open minded or not, are they eager to learn more, and even if they feel they’re fun to be around.

“We’ve actually passed on a lot of smart, talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line but if they’re not good for our culture then we won’t hire them for that reason alone.”

Look At Their Character - Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it's true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”

Warren Buffett believes integrity is the most important character trait. Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing moral uprightness in all that one does. It’s admitting when mistakes have been made, even when it comes at a cost. If an employee can’t hold themselves accountable for their own actions, they can’t be relied on to help build team trust. People without integrity are also not individuals you would promote into a leadership position. In fact, a 2016 study proved that integrity is the most important leadership attribute as it is a representation of a manager’s character.

Personality is Key - Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group

Like Buffet, Richard Branson hires based on personality, saying,

“Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, you are on to a winner.”

Branson also notes that people’s full personalities may not come out in interviews, but it’s important to use your own judgement of character. Don’t get fully hung up on qualifications, when you have the right mix of people on your team, you are sure to see growth and success. He has also said in the past to not hire friends. Instead of pulling from your friend and family base, it is imperative to make sure you hire qualified candidates who meet the criteria of your specific job requirements.

It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

A Conversation with our Key Account Manager, Abby DiBenedetto

Fun Facts:  Dog Lover  Aspiring Fly Fisher  Marathon Runner  Graduate of the Introductory Sommelier Exam, Court of Master Sommeliers

Fun Facts:

Dog Lover

Aspiring Fly Fisher

Marathon Runner

Graduate of the Introductory Sommelier Exam, Court of Master Sommeliers

What is your role at Castus?

As a Key Account Manager at CASTUS, my focus is always on building strong, trusted relationships with our clients. We work together in order to identify and understand their needs then transition into developing strategy and implementing solutions that help them achieve long-term success. I’m new to the CASTUS team, but not new to the business of client service. My entire career has been filled with fantastic partners that I value immensely.

What is your education background?

I attended Allegheny College, a liberal arts institution in Meadville, PA. I was drawn to Allegheny because the school encouraged and embraced unusual combinations. I was able to explore the many areas of study that piqued my interest (everything from Marine Biology to Art History!) – while still graduating on-time. In the end, I received my Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts, minor in Economics. I chose to major in Communications because I love working with and learning from people.

At Graduation, I received the Philo-Franklin Oration Prize, awarded to one member of the graduating class for outstanding achievement in the field of speech communication.

What is your experience with consulting?

My background is in international business and product development with a total of 8 years’ experience in retail/consumer goods. I spent 5 years working in the Juvenile Industry at 4moms where my main responsibility was to grow international sales and brand awareness with a focus on our largest market, the UK. I truly embedded myself in the market, living in Manchester for three months where I had the opportunity to work directly with our distribution partner in order to build relationships with key retailers and strategically grow the business.

At DICK’s Sporting Goods HQ, I was able to further sharpen my retail skills and geek-out on product full-time! As a member of the PD Product Management Team, I was responsible for driving innovative product strategy, creating an effective development calendar, and delivering key financial results for owned brand apparel.

What led you to become a consultant?

I love the long-term relationships that the role allows for us to develop with our clients. Helping them achieve success is the BEST feeling.

What is your most memorable experience from traveling for a client?

I was fortunate enough to have a client take me to a Manchester United vs Liverpool football game at the iconic Old Trafford Stadium. Manchester fans give our Steelers fans a run for their money!  

What was the most rewarding ROI you’ve seen from your work with a client?

As most of my experience is based in retail, I love seeing sales! After building a product/assortment/pricing or promo strategy, the most rewarding thing is seeing strong sell through.

It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

A Conversation With Our Account Coordinator, Hannah Vaccaro

Fun Facts:  NH Native  Ice cream enthusiast  Marathon Runner  Aspiring "So You Think You Can Dance" contestant

Fun Facts:

NH Native

Ice cream enthusiast

Marathon Runner

Aspiring "So You Think You Can Dance" contestant

What is your role at Castus?
I hold the position of Account Coordinator at Castus. I joined the team at the beginning of January through a rotating job placement program within an organization called the Pittsburgh Fellows. As account coordinator, my primary responsibilities include running day-to-day Castus operations, identifying business development opportunities for the company, and working with the team to develop growth strategy plans for new partners.

Where did you go to school?

I attended Grove City College, and graduated in May of 2018 with a B.S. in Entrepreneurship.

What is your experience with consulting?

Although new to the consulting industry, it’s been an interest of mine for a long time. Throughout college, I participated in every business plan or elevator pitch competition offered. I absolutely loved crafting the perfect pitch deck and finding the right narrative to pitch solutions to prospective customers. The entire startup process excites me like nothing else, and partnering with a startup has always been a personal aspiration. Consulting with our partners about best development strategies is both exciting and energizing to me as a startup junkie!

How will working at Castus give you a leg up in your career?

Operating in a true startup mentality, Castus allows me to identify new ways to help grow the business, improve efficiency, and develop the company culture. Working in consulting is an exceptional training grounds for a business development and entrepreneurial career. I have the opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge in a short amount of time, since crafting a growth strategy requires a working understanding of multiple company facets. Daily, I have to use problem-solving skills while simultaneously learning and adapting to new trends. Working and collaborating with various partners, I get exposure to a wide array of industries; a perfect foundation for any business-oriented career. At Castus, I am continuously learning, being challenged, and valued; pillars that I firmly believe will develop and carry me forward professionally.

It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

Survive or Thrive: How Iconic Brands are Adapting to Customer Demands

Adapt /əˈdapt/ - verb

Gerund or present participle: adapting

Definition: Make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.

Used in a sentence? Brick and mortar locations must adapt to the fast-paced, modern world to ensure continued support from the consumer.

We invite you to take a moment to reflect on the incredible shifts that have taken place over the last decade in the retail and consumer goods industry. Reminisce on Saturday mornings swiftly walking through your local mall, dropping in to each store to catch a deal with your poorly-cut out coupons from the Sunday paper. Now, fast-forward to today: cell phone in hand, online shopping cart, only “4:56” until your promotional code expires, flash sale, get a monthly subscription box and save 20%!

Phew, that was a whirlwind. This vast transformation is a result of the new and agile technological advancements that have taken the world by storm. The rapid changeover has done a number on some of the world’s most iconic brands but has also offered opportunity for growth and reclaimed glory for some, too. We narrow the present-day opportunities down to a core business decision: As a company are you willing to take a chance on your consumer through advancing with the times, or will you stay in your comfort zone and hope your consumers will stick around?

All Aboard the Struggle Bus

Survive /sərˈvīv/ - verb

Definition: continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship.

Used in a sentence: Some companies are just surviving in today’s post-strip mall world.

As fashion trends continue to change, we’ve seen a lot of brands fail to survive. It may come as a surprise though, that stores like Victoria’s Secret, JCPenney, and Gap fall among stores that could not withstand the test of time.

Once a popular lingerie and yoga pants store for teenage girls and younger women is no longer that. Victoria’s Secret has lost over 3.8 million customers since 2017, with stocks dropping more than 40% in the past year alone. The biggest reason for their decline doesn’t come as a shock for most - they simply aren’t catering to the demands of their customers. In a self-accepting decade where women are encouraged to be body positive, Victoria’s Secret has stuck to their roots of airbrushed models and push ups. Women are asking for newer, modern products and the brand has repeatedly failed to deliver.

Instead, consumers are directing their purchases to fashion lines with more body positive messaging like ThirdLove, Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty, and even Aerie by American Eagle. Because of Victoria’s Secret’s reluctance to change their products and image, they will close 53 stores in 2019.

Suffering the same fate as Victoria’s Secret, JCPenney also took a hit during the fourth quarter, losing 4% of sales. Although their struggle isn’t necessarily a new one (they’ve been trying to reclaim their popularity status from discount retailers since 2006), they haven’t been able to recover profit in over a decade.

When former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson took over as JCPenny chief executive, he completely changed their entire business model, targeting marketing efforts at wealthy shoppers instead of their actual demographic - the low and middle-income consumers. Without any insight on their customer base, Johnson got rid of JCPenney’s coupons and changed the logo to create more of a “best-in-class” brand. In 2012, sales plunged $4.3 billion.

Penney’s would continue to lose sight of their target audience, continuously changing direction until they no longer had anywhere else to go. Without a CEO and no clear vision of their brand, the future does not look good for JCPenney.

Know your Customer then Serve your Customer

Thrive /THrīv/ - verb

Definition: to grow or develop well or vigorously, to prosper and flourish

Used in a sentence: Consumer brands are thriving on consumer trends and the successful model that Amazon has brought to the present-day economy.

Stylish, trendy shoewear isn’t enough to draw people into DSW anymore. Shoes are one of the only products in the apparel family that run pretty true-to-size across the board. Unlike pants, especially for women, where each brick-and-mortar boutique offers sizing inconsistencies. Take, for example, this trend from a few years back, where women showed the size variations in pants across different apparel brands. So, when online shoe havens like Zappos [Amazon-owned] and JustFab [Subscription-based] began to take DSW consumers by storm, CEO Roger Rawlins knew something had to change. In order to entice women to shop, the store tested out two nail salons in Ohio. They found that women who were going to get routine nail maintenance, were staying to make shoe purchases in the store.

DSW also created a new loyalty program that gives members exclusive promotions and events - putting them up against their subscription-based competitors. With the loyalty program, they are able to get better insight of their customers and know how they like to spend money. This allows DSW to better tailor promotions and trends to their target market.

Identifying how consumers purchase is a big step for brands that last.

Back in 2012, it was almost over for Best Buy. Not only did they have personal issues with their CEO at the time, they were beginning to lose business to the king of internet sales and competitive pricing, Amazon. When Hubert Joly took over as CEO in 2012, he invested in his people and encouraged his employees to be authentic. It no longer was about the number of sales in a day, but how educated and helpful Best Buy employees were. After all, happy employees make happy customers. In order to better serve the customer, Joly partnered with large brands to showcase their products so customers had options to test electronics before investing in the purchase.

In order to continue competing with Amazon, Joly installed the practice of “price-matching,” which allowed Best Buy to make sales comparable to Amazon’s price slashes.

To ensure the customers are being served properly, Best Buy also started an In Home Advisor program, where consultants are sent to customers homes to help them make decisions on what to purchase. These advisors are paid a salary and are instructed to not get discouraged when they don’t make a sale right away. In fact, their main mission is to foster a relationship with the person that they’re consulting, making sure to provide them with honest information about what products they may need, so that their consultees become lifelong customers.

Overall, complacency in rising changes is an easy but ineffective choice for your business. If you want continued success, you MUST adapt to the times.

It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

The Nuances of Segmentation: The Crucial Step Our Clients Always Glaze Over

You’ve started fleshing out the business idea you believe will be the next hottest seller. But before you quit your day job in aspirational hopes of joining the ranks of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, you must know if your offering provides value to a specific customer.

Will a certain type of person or group of people be interested in what you have to sell? Not all customers are created equal; some will be more interested in your offering than others. Not everyone needs a high-tech trash can, not everyone needs the latest social media platform, and not every company needs to buy professional grade hair clippers.

Your goal is to figure out which groups of customers are going to have the highest interest in your product or service. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, this is called customer segmentation, and this is the step most of our clients glaze over time and time again. It’s also the first of three phases in the customer identification process:

  1. Segmenting

  2. Targeting

  3. Positioning

This sounds important (It is). How do I do it?

Segmentation occurs in four specific forms: geographic segmentation, demographic segmentation, psychographic segmentation, and behavior segmentation.

When considering geography, look at different boundaries such as the region, country, population or climate of an area that you are targeting. Demographics are specific qualities of your ideal consumer, so age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, occupation, income and education should be considered. Psychographics include personality, lifestyle, and motivation of the consumer. Behavioral factors will include usage, benefits sought, or loyalty.

Following the defined segmentation process of dividing the market into homogeneous groups, you can move on to targeting: identifying the right segment to pursue. The last step of the process is positioning, which is the process of building a conceptual brand focus around the targeted customer segment.

Strategic segmentation is a pivotal component of strategic planning as it sets the company up for long-term success. When market segmentation is analyzed and communicated, resources can be distributed more effectively through research-backed marketing decisions.

Let’s put it to practice…

1. Segmentation


B2C Segmentation (Business to Consumer)

An example we like to use to illustrate the entire B2C process is with Rolex. First, we break the general watch market into three segments:

I. Segment 1: Functionality focused - this group will buy a cheap watch simply so they can have the time on their wrist.

II. Segment 2: Fashion focused - these people want a watch for the purpose of looking suave and making a fashion statement.

III. Segment 3: Status watch wearers - People who want to wear the best brands because they can afford it and flaunt it.

2. Targeting

Great! We identified the market segments. Now, which segments make the most sense for Rolex specifically to target? Segment 1 fits more for the Timex brand - a cost-conscious product focused on functionality. Segment 2 could fit Rolex, however, many consumers who want a fashionable watch don’t necessarily want an expensive, artisanally-made watch, but rather a colorful wardrobe accessory. The best, most realistic segment for the Rolex product is Segment 3 - those who want to boldly flaunt the fact that they’ve arrived at the top level of wild success.

3. Positioning

Now, let’s take a look at the current positioning that Rolex promotes:

  • Tagline: The Benchmark for Excellence.

  • Disclaimer at the top of their website reads: Only official Rolex retailers are allowed to sell and maintain a Rolex. They guarantee the authenticity of each and every part of your Rolex, not to mention its reliability over time, helping you make the choice that will last a lifetime.

  • Slogan: Timeless style, recognizable at a glance.

The intentional messaging that Rolex promotes appeals to Segment 3 - their ideal purchaser. In their marketing, they encourage exclusivity, high standards, class differentiation, and style.

B2B Segmentation (Business to Business)

Business-to-business segmentation differs due to a few key factors:

  • Buyers are more “rational” in comparison to B2C

  • Target audiences are smaller than consumer target audiences

  • Markets have fewer behavioral and needs-based segments

That being said, we recommend B2B organizations segment by 3 different measurements: Firmographics, Value, and Needs.

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 8.24.12 AM.png

We rank these three identifications from simplest to most difficult to identify. Firmographics are relatively inexpensive to collect and use. Firmographics can identify meaningful market segments for businesses, nonprofits and governmental entities. The downfall? Conclusions either can’t be drawn or are very limited if you’re ONLY focusing on firmographics for your B2B segmentation.

The next step to enriching your segmentation is to move onto the “value” stage. This approach is forward-thinking because it ranks the importance of a customer/lead based on the most important factor - how much that customer can potentially bring in terms of value. Although value may be an important complement to firmographics, it is still important to move forward to the “needs” stage. Stopping at value and expecting success is unrealistic, as you can’t assume the needs of all customers are the same.

Needs, while they may be the most difficult to identify, are the most fruitful for your business. Have you ever heard of the quote, “Nothing worth having comes easy?” Needs of your customers may be difficult to determine or define, but once this piece is complete, your segmentation strategy becomes highly scalable. Why? Because the marketing and sales team can designate as many needs-based segments as they desire. Whether you are a B2C air freshener company or a B2B manufacturer, understanding your audience is fundamental to the success of your business.

Segmentation is one of the most crucial steps in the strategic planning process, especially when entering new global markets. If you would like an objective eye for your business’ segmentation, please contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

Pittsburgh’s Top Tech Leaders Come Together to Serve on Panel about Global Expansion

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Email: hello@castusglobal.com

April 2, 2019


Pittsburgh’s Top Tech Leaders Come Together to Serve on Panel about Global Expansion

Leaders from Uber ATG, Duolingo, Google, KAARTA and the U.S. Commercial Service will participate in the panel led by Pittsburgh Global Consulting Firm, CASTUS

PITTSBURGH -- The inaugural “Scaling Globally” panel with some of the World’s Top Tech Leaders will be taking place on Thursday, June 6 from 5pm-8pm at a to be announced venue in Pittsburgh.

Serving on the panel will be Head of Supply Chain and Business Operations at Uber Advanced Technology Group, Sameer Kshirsagar, Head of Finance at Duolingo, Denis Meinert,  Product Manager at Google, Mary Koes, CEO of KAARTA, Kevin Dowling and Senior International Trade Specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service, Steven Murray.

The panel will be facilitated by CASTUS CEO, Damon Claus, to centralize the discussion on global expansion for Pittsburgh tech companies. The panelists will be offering insight on the global business climate, what it means to scale your business globally and important lessons they’ve learned as they’ve scaled with their respective companies.

“Now more than ever, companies need to be thinking about the entire world as a potential marketplace for their products and services. Companies like Duolingo, Uber, Kaarta and Google have shown how being ‘globally minded’ can be a catalyst for growth and development,” says Claus. “We’re thrilled that these world-leading organizations call Pittsburgh home and are willing to share insights that can benefit companies of all life-stages.”

Tickets to the event are rolling out on April 2nd at an exclusive early-bird price of $30. The ticket includes the cocktail hour [5-6pm] with two free drink tickets, panel discussion [6-7pm] and a Q+A and Networking hour with Hors d'oeuvres [7-8pm]. Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite and will be on sale until they sell out.

CASTUS is a consulting firm that helps companies navigate the complexities of global business development through years of expertise and proven strategic approach. Damon, founder and CEO, is a manager and motivator with more than 17 years of experience in Client Services. Prior to founding CASTUS in 2016, Damon worked at the world's most innovative juvenile products manufacturer, 4moms, where he managed a network of distribution partners responsible for selling product in more than 50 countries and led a team of sales professionals located around the world.

Today, CASTUS partners with Petco, Prinsel, Spand-Ice, The Motherhood, Milly Button and many more companies, sharing expertise in strategic planning, business development, and product launch to grow them globally. As a company that got its start in the Steel City, we understand the tremendous global talent that calls Pittsburgh home and are proud to sit among their ranks.


A Conversation With Our CEO, Damon Claus

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Get to know our CEO, Damon Claus!

What is your role at Castus?

I am the Chief Executive Officer at CASTUS. I have been in this role since founding the company in 2016, but my responsibilities have changed over time. When founding the company, I literally had to do everything (like all entrepreneurs). I was responsible for business development, account management, branding, marketing, accounting, website maintenance, and IT. Now with a larger team, I am able to focus my efforts on Business Development and Strategic Growth for CASTUS. This is better for everyone, because I am a terrible accountant!

What is your experience with consulting?

I would argue that I have been a consultant my whole career. From my first job as salesperson with a sound company while in High School, I have been in Client Service. And I have always been focused on solving problems for my clients and customers, acting as a trusted advisor.  This means I have 17+ years of experience, but more recently, I have worked in the Juvenile Products industry as VP of Sales with 4moms and in the Pet Care industry as a Strategic Consultant for Petco. 

What lead you to become a consultant? 

Simply put – I love helping others solve complex problems and identifying growth opportunities. I am truly most satisfied when I’m able to experience a shared “win” with a close partner. I also love fostering new relationships with people all over the world. Differences in culture and worldview can be bridged with thoughtful and honest communication. 

What is your most memorable experience from traveling for a client? 

This is a difficult question. I have visited more countries than I ever imagined. From Moscow, to Sydney, and from Hong Kong to Sao Paulo – I have been very fortunate to see a lot of world markets. But my most memorable travel experience was likely Moscow. It is such a unique market with so many dynamics. The people are fascinating, and the places are breathtaking.

What was the most rewarding ROI you’ve seen from your work with a client? 

We have generated significant value for Petco in the form of new market entry and top line sales growth. This is obviously important and measurable, but CASTUS has also delivered strategic growth plans to many clients which have led to fundraising, increased sales, and new growth opportunities. As mentioned, the most rewarding experiences are when we get to celebrate success alongside our partners. 

Describe a time where the data lead to a strategic decision in your plan? 

We try to keep data at the center of our decision-making process because it is such a powerful tool. As a result, we start every partnership with a Strategic Planning Project and each project is initiated with data mining. If you allow data to “speak to you” your decisions will be less biased and less emotional. They’ll be based in fact and therefore be more strategic-minded. 

It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

3 Ways to Identify a Global Opportunity for Your Business

The global trade market is constantly evolving with trends rapidly making their way to the table. Keeping track of perpetual shifts in the global climate can be difficult and time consuming. If you’re responsible for recommending the global markets for your company to enter, it is necessary to be able to find the needle in the haystack of opportunities. These tips will ensure you’re determining the markets with the greatest opportunity for growth. Here are the 3 areas you should invest in when identifying global opportunity:

Identify Complementary Business Models

First, consider existing businesses and how yours could complement them or fill a need that currently isn’t provided. For example, if your business manufactures packaging, look at the businesses in that market that require packaging - such as a coffee roaster (maybe you’ll even get some free beans).

Also, be sure to take a look at trends in complementary markets. Is there evidence of an upward trajectory of growth? If complementary businesses exist but aren’t performing well, there will be a greater risk. It is important to make that distinction when you are narrowing down options for expansion. An advisor can assist you in analyzing the market(s) you are interested in and can determine if it is the right fit for your business.

Who Do You Want to Sell To?

It seems like an obvious step, but thorough market analysis is critical when considering new world markets. Look at consumer trends. Thinking outside of the box to adjust your model for new markets will give your business a leg up when entering the global scene. Offer something unique to entice customers and gain their trust.

Take Dunkin: they managed to steal the hearts and fill the bellies of consumers in 36 countries. We think of them as an inherently American business - after all, “America runs on Dunkin.” However, they have adjusted their donuts to suit diverse groups of customers all over the globe.

On National Donut Day, people in the States were running into their local franchises to grab Boston Cremes, whereas Bangkok Dunkin lovers picked up dry pork and seaweed donuts. Seaweed donuts would (most likely) never be sold in America - but Dunkin did their research when they went global. This was no mistake. They knew that success meant adjusting recipes and messaging to attract global consumers. Your company can do this too, with the help of an expert.

What Are the Limiting Factors?

When considering new global markets, it is important to identify limiting factors, and understand how they could be used to your advantage. All countries have regulatory frameworks that will need to be taken into account when determining how your business will integrate. We’ve identified a few factors you may want to take a look at.

Product Labels

Many countries have laws surrounding the labeling of products.  For example, Chile requires that companies put extra labels on products that are high in calories, sodium, sugar, and saturated fats. This creates an advantage for brands that are healthier: no junk, no extra label. In fact, market research expects that product sales will increase and decrease dependent upon those labels, with the healthier, unlabeled options experiencing market growth.

Environmental Considerations

If a market has strict regulations regarding product waste, think about how your product will fit into the greener system. Is your product already environmentally friendly? How can you adjust your processes to meet regulations and the consumer-driven desire to go green?

Foreign Policy

If a market is heavily impacted by the current state of foreign policy, it is important to consider those implications and how they would affect any sales you make, as well as the likelihood of that market accepting your business. Duties and tariffs can have a significant impact on the viability of your product in a new market.

It’s Time. Go Global.

There is no better time than now to consider global expansion. Our years of experience entering global markets can ensure you have the research to support the decision, along with a strategy to successfully implement. For more information on our global business development services, contact us via email (hello@castusglobal.com) or submit a form on our contact page.

Why Your Small Business is Perfect for the Global Market

Many small business owners have never approached the conversation of expanding to international markets. Why? They might not think it’s feasible or realistic. However, many small businesses are perfect for global markets and are missing out on extremely valuable opportunities abroad.

Michael Evans, a Forbes contributor and Managing Director of Newport Board Group, explains in his article titled: “10 Key Steps To Expanding Your Business Globally

“Going global’ is defined as the worldwide movement toward economic, financial, trade, and communications integration. The concept of globalization can be traced back as far as the Roman Empire.’ More recently, the concept was popularized by Thomas L. Friedman in his book The World Is Flat, in which he argued that the pace of globalized trade, outsourcing, and supply-chaining was speeding up and that its impact on business organizations and business practices would continue to grow in the 21st century.”

The global market is growing and becoming more accessible to small businesses in today’s world. It is key to position your small business for success and recognize this climate as an opportunity for your small business to ensure longevity.

Small is Just a Word  

Don’t let the term “small business” niche you and your company. Small businesses are categorized by the U.S. Small Business Administration by the size standards in average revenue and average number of employees. The definition and characteristics of a “small business” even varies from industry to industry and can be quite vague. There is no reason that you should let the word “small” hold you back from big opportunities.

Once you escape the confines of the term “small business,” then you can open your mind to the possibility of global growth.

Characteristics of a Small Business Ready for Global Growth

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There are a few questions that you can ask yourself to identify whether your small business is ready for global expansion:

Is Your Small Business Financially Stable?

For the global growth strategy and execution, you may need to evaluate whether or not your current resources can hold up without you. This choice will require time and attention, so you and the internal team tasked with this goal will need to be focused. The remaining employees and infrastructure will need to be financially and operationally solid before making the decision to move forward.

Is There a Demand for Your Product?

This is critical. Your answer should rely on information derived from thorough research in the form of a competitor analysis, target market analysis and a review of distribution options.

Will Your Small Business’ Brand Adapt to New Cultures?

This may seem trivial, but when you enter new markets you have to be aware of how your logo, tagline and messaging will be perceived.  You will need to determine if your existing brand translates positively in the native language and the overarching culture. It is also very important, when analyzing potential cultural shifts, that you nail down the appropriate trademarks, licenses and copyrights to keep your intellectual property protected and legally up-to-par.

What Markets are Easiest for You to Enter?

There are two ways to answer this question. First, if you already have international customers of some caliber, the natural progression of expanding to that market may make the most sense. If you don’t have any existing international customers, then it is time to dive into the research.  In 2018, the U.S. News & World Report ranked Luxemburg, Switzerland, Panama, Denmark and Sweden as the most business-friendly countries. Other great sources to pull market research from are Euromonitor International and Google Trends.

Where Can You Get Help to Take Your Small Business Global?

We understand that this opportunity may feel monumental, however, the outcome of taking your small business global may serve as the catalyst to your longevity, enhanced brand recognition, and ultimately - more sales.

Once you make your judgement call, we will guide you through the necessary steps of strategic planning and execution.

Before going global, it is crucial to exercise due diligence by researching and creating the perfect strategy for success. This process should center around critical data gathering in the form of a market segmentation analysis, gap analysis, SWOT analysis and an overall strategic global growth plan. This may sound daunting and like a huge time commitment for your teams - this is how you know it is time to bring in a Trusted Advisor.

With our extensive global experience and connections, we can help you identify what new markets make the most sense for your small business. We will provide valuable consultation based on our first-hand experiences in various markets and in similar growth situations with other companies so the process is executed seamlessly.

If the thought of expanding your small business internationally excites you and you want to discuss in more detail, please contact Castus via email (hello@castusglobal.com). If you’re interested in reading more articles about global business development, we invite you to read our previous article titled “Emerging Markets Have A Strong Outlook For The First Time In A Long Time.”

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