Starting a Successful Aftercare Program

FDI Frontlines (pp. 16-17) conveys detailed advice via eight tips for launching a successful aftercare program.

1) Create an organizational mindset

Create an organizational mindset: Begin by accepting aftercare as a top organizational priority. Approach aftercare with as much passion as any other key activity, like marketing and recruitment. Begin by making a commitment to create an effective aftercare strategy.

2) Engage Top EDO leadership

Engage Top EDO leadership: Many traditional business support programs are afterthoughts to recruitment, but this organizational mindset is changing as more economic development organizations engage broader private-sector leadership in their governance. Just like an EDO’s board members may frequently join recruitment trips, these same executives should also be part of aftercare visits. Having top leadership support and engage in aftercare builds more credibility.

3) Conduct a globalization audit

Conduct a globalization audit: To anticipate aftercare needs, an EDO needs to understand the international footprint of its location – whether a state, region, metropolitan area or city. Start by performing a “globalization audit.” First, catalog the community’s existing global companies. Make it a goal to understand the intricacies and business needs of each global investor. Try to understand their products, supply chains, customers, workforce and infrastructure needs and relationships to other local businesses. Grasp how these firms interact with their parent companies and whether they have invested only locally or throughout the United States. Learn how frequently these firms’ foreign executives travel to the region and how many are permanently located in the community. Second, catalog every international asset in the region. Questions to consider include: Where is the closest international airport, port, or rail/freight system? Does the region have a sister city abroad? How many immigrants live in the region and where are they from? How many international tourists visit the region each year? How many international students study at nearby universities? What countries have consulates nearby? What bilateral business organizations exist specific to the region? What similarly-sized cities in other countries have a similar industry base? What countries are beneficiaries of the region’s exports and what countries lead in foreign direct investment to the region? Tailoring aftercare efforts for global companies is more productive only after undertaking a globalization audit. Otherwise, aftercare efforts could be implemented and funded for naught.

4) Ensure capacity and expertise

Ensure capacity and expertise: To demonstrate the community’s seriousness, staff that lead aftercare efforts with companies should be at a senior level. They should receive specialized training in multinational company issues and needs, be fully versed in explicating the region’s globalization audit findings, and understand relevant government programs and services offered to companies and their employees by the state, region and locality.

5) Offer a single point of contact to coordinate business needs

Offer a single point of contact to coordinate business needs: No single economic development organization is responsible for everything that a company needs. Often dozens of organizations are involved in permitting, job training and business assistance. Simply following the law is confusing for businesses and often requires untangling a daunting web of regulations. This is especially true for global companies unaccustomed to multiple layers of government in their home countries. Good aftercare provides a company with a single point of contact, or a dedicated team, capable of addressing any need or concern by linking the company to solutions. Become a “personal corporate concierge” to solve their issues. Additionally, great aftercare allows EDOs to address company needs that may emerge outside its direct control. A strike at a nearby port or a natural disaster impacting suppliers can devastate a business. Effective aftercare is having the aptitude to connect company executives to solution providers when these issues arise outside the control of the business.

6) Deliver value-added services

Deliver value-added services: Develop a suite of standard services and communicate it to companies. Initially, providing start-up assistance from permitting and licensing, to locating schools for executives’ children may be needed. Eventually, facilitating company leadership in legislative and community efforts is critical. Build this catalog of services within budget and capabilities, train staff, and communicate it to local businesses.

7) Engage continually

Engage continually: Aftercare cannot be episodic, but rather systematic and consistent. Regular communication between a company and an EDO establishes a platform to flag and address industry needs and concerns on a timely basis – a process important to ensuring an attractive business climate. This communication also ensures companies understand the full suite of services offered by the EDOs.

8) Measure return on investment

Measure return on investment: Dashboards dominate EDOs these days. Measurement is ubiquitous and aftercare efforts are no exception. Your EDO should set expectations for aftercare activities and for the results. Ultimately, most EDOs are judged by the quality and quantity of new or retained jobs. Jobs combined with investment are good starting points, but data demonstrate that global companies increase gross community product (output), raise productivity, pay higher wages, add to local innovation, grow supplier companies and even give more to charity than economy-wide norms. These factors are all important returns on investment and are seen regularly from global companies.