If You Don’t Know the Rules, Find Someone Who Does

12/1/14

First published on Natural Products Insider.

August 26, 2014

Working with multiple government agencies can be a challenge. While they all have virtually the same mission—to protect ourselves from ourselves—each one has its own policies. Frequently, these conflict with those across the border or ocean.

Obviously, the most relevant government agency for this blog is the FDA. Nearly every country has its own version. Australia has TGA.  Columbia’s version is called The Ministry of Health. Russia has its Federal Service on Surveillance in Healthcare and Social Development called Roszdravnadzor.

Whether you are importing or exporting, knowing the intricate laws upheld by these agencies is a critical factor in determining your success. What may be perfectly permissible in Columbia might be considered illegal in New Zealand. Operating ignorantly will cost you time and money.  

Even though we’re an analytical lab, we get questions like, ‘Hey, I’ve got this wonder product and I want to sell in the South American marketplace. Can you advise?’ To that we say, “No, we are an analytical testing lab and do not offer consulting in such matters.” We then direct our client to an appropriate consultant who specializes in such issues.

Unfortunately, these types of issues are not covered in chemistry class or in many other college classes. (Maybe international law would cover these vagaries.) This is why having a competent and knowledgeable staff is necessary as is finding the right consultant or legal advisory team. The good news is that this industry isn’t short of these qualified individuals. Avoid using them at your own peril.

One of the important things I have learned in my nearly two decades as a business owner is to effectively delegate. There is something called “The John Wayne Syndrome” where some poor soul thinks he or she is the only one who can do a task right. This is common thinking among small businesses, where owners try to protect their cash flow by taking on tasks they have no skill set to do effectively. As I write this I realize that I am a big hypocrite and need to reassess some of the things I do day to day, including delegating some tasks to experts.  

It’s not as though dealing with government agencies is a secret society. After all, most of the policies are clearly written out in 10,000 page documents.  Is that what we as business owners in the natural products industry are passionate about? The answer is no for me. That’s why I outsource such questions to those experts who are available and hungry.

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