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 International Distribution<br />Agreement  Channel Strategy  Channel Management

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Finding and Qualifying the Right Local Representatives and Tailoring Your Offer to Each Situation Are Key to International Distribution, Expansion, Development


Cencir consultants were operating and consulting internationally long before most US companies considered "global" part of their vocabulary. Some of us have been at the "receiving end" of US international distribution for generations. From Scandinavia to Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe to East Africa to the Middle East to Southeast and Far Asia to Australia to North, Central, and South America, we have lived, studied, or worked there since the 1950s -- and observed the international expansion of global brands (not just US brands) from every angle.

During the 1990s, the founder of Cencir lead the international development of a US-branded franchise consulting practice on almost every continent, training and supporting more than 20 international franchise consultants. At the same time, he consulted directly with international franchise companies, attended conventions, and appeared as a franchise expert in various media around the world.

For most US-headquartered consultants, international distribution is synonymous with licensing US technology or brands abroad. For Cencir, international development involves two main practice areas:

  1. Distribution within each country, which we perform either directly, using our extensive experience in several countries, or through our network of local representatives, and
  2. Exporting from one country into another, in which case we represent either companies exporting or companies importing brands or technology, usually in the form of master franchise or licensing agreements. Not only does this involve either structuring or restructuring the international transaction, but also due diligence investigations similar to that performed during mergers and acquisitions, which is covered in more detail elsewhere on this Web site (see Efficiency Audits).

Your international expansion strategy may range from setting up operating subsidiaries to selling off whole countries or regions to third party representatives. In most instances, you will want some kind of alignment with a local representative who can assist with adaptation to the local culture and building and supervising the local distribution network. Our primary functions are to help you to prepare the offer to make to such local representatives and to help you to find them, qualify them, negotiate with them, and monitor them.


Although our methodology is similar to what we provide as part of a domestic distribution program (see Efficiency Audits, Market, Competitor Surveys, Pro Forma Testing, Strategy, Structure, etc.), international channels of distribution are more complex, more flexible, and require a greater degree of creativity, both intitially and on-going.

One important difference between international distribution and domestic is the degree of uniformity among operations: foreign operations must take into account local values, but not necessarity local traditions. Often, being foreign is one of your main selling propositions, and you don't want to change that. The challenge is to strike the right balance between maintaining your uniqueness and accommodating local needs, and that requires both a good understanding of local sensitivities and expertise in chain and brand management is general.


Although domestic recruitment is somewhat different from standard consumer marketing, it is still akin to consumer sales. International recruitment is completely separate from consumer sales. It wholly resembles industrial sales. We are typically evaluating companies, not individuals -- although exceptions occur, especially when we display your offering at trade shows abroad.

We may often use a trade show abroad as a convenient platform for visits to particular countries or regions, but the preparations for such visits are all-important. Our main purpose is always to pre-arrange meetings with the best prospects ahead of the show and meet with them during the show, but at a different location. Our booth at the show may promote several offers -- and some of our clients participate just for the exposure at the show -- but the more effective approach is to use the occasion to close sales apart from the show, using the show simply as a base of operations. (Of course, having several clients with different target markets join the show helps defray the cost of attending the show, and the reduced cost for each client makes it possible for many to "test the waters" in new markets. As such, this approach is a win-win solution for all involved.)

The real work, however, takes place before we leave for the show. This work is not dissimilar to that of assisting with mergers and acquisitions. We are looking for the right strategic partners, and our contacting them is more on the basis of equals joining forces than our selling them on our product, although there is always some selling to do.

We always prefer to have a few suitable candidates in the running at the same time, and our tactics may differ for each of them, as they may need us and we them for different reasons. Obviously, in order to reach the best candidates, we need to research each market before contacting the candidates. This pro-active approach is designed both to eliminate interested, but inappropriate partners, and to learn who would be most suitable and what they need. Simply "taking orders" at a trade show does not even start to provide these advantages.

Finding the right candidates is as much art as science. The science side is rather obvious and similar to the domestic scene, in which a company like Pepsico acquires franchised food chains (later spun off as a separate company) to gain dedicated channels of distribution.

The art side has more to do with understanding the "movers and shakers" of the local economy, and especially, whom to avoid. Here, we use both our own network of international contacts, commercial media, and available foreign commercial affairs organizations. On occasion, it may even be appropriate to hire a local country investigator to verify some information.

Our initial research is not meant to be exhaustive, however, but just sufficient to gain an understanding of suitable candidates for our international distribution. Our subsequent one-on-one discussions with the same might reveal a need for further investigation, but any controversy or uncertainty may simply lead us to concentrate on other candidates.

Because the approach and cost may vary greatly, we tailor each search assignment to the needs of our clients. You may prefer some strategic advice or complete outsourcing of your international operations, and we are prepared to assist at any level.

News... A recent US Supreme Court decision reversed a long-standing precedent and declared it not necessarily illegal for chains to set minimum prices. The same had been said earlier for maximum prices. The legality of price fixing is, therefore, now fully based on the effect it may have on the markets. READ MORE

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"Due to your outstanding work, we have gained 42 new locations in 23 states within two years of expanding. I highly recommend Cencir for strategic planning and all aspects of channels of distribution development."
-Allen Hager, President, Right At Home, Omaha, NE

Our consultants have advised hundreds of companies of all sizes in most industries worldwide, including such brands as Commerce Clearing House, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, 3M, Pacific Bell, SealMaster, SkyTel, Sears, Henchy Industries, Hyatt Hotels, Ace Hardware, Beard & Warner, CBS, Stewart Warner, United Airlines, Northwest Orient, Coldwell Banker, Fidelity, Freuhauf Trailer, Buffalo Wild Wings, Budget Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, Ryder Truck Rental, Chevron, Getty Oil, BP/Amoco, Mobil, Shell, Texaco Europe (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), St-Hubert BBQ (Canada), Pollo Campero (Guatemala), Helados Bon (Dominican Republic), Max’s (the Philippines), Nestle (Switzerland, Italy), Sonae Group/Orbitur Campgrounds (Portugal), The International Investor (Kuwait, England, Switzerland), Sushi Parties (Japan), L.O.G. (Norway).

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"Cencir's franchising experts made the difference in transforming C&O [Beard Papa's master franchisee] into a successful master franchisee. The principals at Cencir are seasoned veterans in a league of their own, high and above everyone else in their franchise expertise. They walked us through the franchise disclosure documents and difficult and sensitive negotiations that had little room for error. We accomplished more than our objectives."
-Luigi Cruz, Founder & CEO, C&O, Foster City, CA
"We always want this ultimate business professional on our team." -Vic Koppang, President and CEO, Koppang Franchise Development Company (Modernistic Carpet Cleaning)

Free Seminar Outline and Consultation

of our channels of distribution seminar. A seminar enrollment form is available at Seminars. Want immediate attention? Call +1(708)672-3957 or drop us an Email for a no-obligation discussion of your international distribution situation. If you are abroad and want to call us, you may want to keep in mind that we are in the Central Time Zone of the US (GMT-6 hours) and calculate the time difference using the following timezone map:

International Distribution Across All Timezones