Exclusive Report in the South Florida Business Journal

On mission, if it's Tuesday, then it must be Penang

Exporters are getting ready for eight days of flying, introductions, negotiations, buying, selling and partnering for type-A personalities.

Bernhard Schutte, already a globetrotter for his business, is leading a group of up to 40 Florida businessmen and women on a working trip to Malaysia, Feb. 25-March 6.

More than 15 have already signed up with a sampling including The Florida Space Authority, Pompano Beach-based Alpine Engineered Products, Naples-based EastWest Aircraft, Fort Lauderdale-based Cubic Corp., Medley-based B/E Aerospace, Orlando-based Fox Croft Trading, and Hollywood-based Lerner and Greenberg.

Cities to be visited include Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kulim.

It's not a typical trade mission, even though it has the multiple sponsorship of the Florida District Export Council, Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Commercial Service, a creature of the U.S. Commerce Department.

It's different because Schutte is a salesman, a dealmaker and head of Fort Lauderdale-based Digital Media Network - his own international technology company - and he knows Malaysia like the back of his American Express Platinum Card.

He's hosted a Malaysian trade delegation to the United States and been doing business there for four years. The South African-born businessman knows what win-win means in any language.

"Malaysia has a vibrant economy, an impressive infrastructure in its major cities and a government that is pro-business," Schutte said. "It's also the most efficient back-door entrance to do business in China, the rest of Asia and the Middle East."

Malaysia is made up of two major landmasses separated by the South China Sea. Nearby countries include the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and China.

Half the population is Muslim and the nation has close ties to other Muslim countries and easy access to their rich markets, according to The World Factbook, a CIA publication. Nearly one-third of the population is Chinese with direct ties to the mainland and its myriad businesses groups and exploding economy.

"IBM was in China for 17 years before it made a dime," Schutte said. "I've helped businesses open in China via Malaysia and they were profitable during the first year."

From Florida to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital is more than an arduous 24-hour trip. Why bother?

"Every business wants to get an edge on the competition - and sometimes it needs to go to extraordinary lengths," Schutte said. "Because the trip is difficult, not many do it. There are rich rewards for those who can accomplish the difficult."

E-mail staff writer Ed Duggan at eduggan (at) bizjournals.com.