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Are experts FREE? What is the real VALUE of a Global Trade Professional?

Arne Mielken of Customs Manager Ltd. reflects on what makes a modern customs manager and global trade professional a real SUPERSTAR worth paying for.

It all started with this tweet from my good friend and colleague, Lesley Bachelor. She asked if experts should give out advice for free?

For many years, I was asking myself this exact same question over and over again - it is the one question that never went away. What is the value of a modern customs manager and global trade professional? In business, in consultancy, in advocacy and advice? Are we mere form fillers?


Video Discussion amongst Global Trade Professionals Lesley and Arne: Are we supposed to give our services away for free?


A Customs Manager and Global Trade Professional is a SUPERSTAR

There is no other way to put it. When I became a Customs Manager many years ago, I was told that the job would be demanding, and ever-changing.

So, I was aware of the long list of skills the hiring manager was asking me to have. The ability to multitask and fire-fight was a given.

But now that I work with customs managers and global trade professionals as a consultant and expert in customs, trade agreements and export controls, and I see their work, I can understand their frustration:

"I am still wondering why there are no more hours in the day to get all the tasks expected of me done, and how on earth can I catch up with the latest regulatory changes and upskill myself on the newest compliance requirements. Oh, and I should not forget to kick-start the AEO project this week, train my staff on the new US trade agreement and apply for an export control licence with BIS".

So, I began making a list of all the skills that are now routinely requested from a Customs Manager and Global Trade Professional. That was pretty easy, but also mind-blowing how many tasks there were:

Top 30 SKILLS and KNOWLEDGE, a Customs and Global Trade Professional needs

An effective and efficient customs manager and global trade professional should have good working knowledge in customs and the ability to apply this knowledge competently. In job descriptions, you read that "The successful candidate should be able to demonstrate that they can work independently in standard situations covering these topics":

  1. How Customs fits into wider business objectives

  2. Customs valuation

  3. How to identify and mitigate risk to the business related to customs operations

  4. Customs and supply chain operation

  5. Customs legislation & regulation

  6. Authorisation management

  7. Customs compliance assurance

  8. Customs IT systems & applications

  9. Assistance with customs clearance

  10. Knowledge of customs and global trade aspects of Brexit, e.g. if in EU or UK

  11. Entry of goods process

  12. (optional) Excise related to import and export

  13. Financial customs payment procedures

  14. Global environment and trends

  15. Release for free circulation process

  16. EAR, ITAR, EU Dual-use etc

​But soon I realised that that was not enough. Being a customs and global trade expert geek probably does not get things done. There are also general management skills that are essential to bring the "dark art" of Customs and export control to life and make change happen in a business.


Join our next Customs and Global Trade Update Briefing


Top 20 GENERAL MANAGEMENT Skills, a Customs and Global Trade Professional needs

Here is what I came up with my top 20:

  1. Managing and guiding the day-to-day activities of the customs team department

  2. Carrying out internal customs audit,

  3. Supporting recruitment and training of staff

  4. Providing regular status update reports to Board level

  5. Maintaining strong relationships with internal stakeholders (including buying and finance), and externally with suppliers

  6. Undertaking continuous analysis of the regulatory environment, with particular regard to trade tariffs/duties and trade restrictions/requirements, and communicating them in a clear and concise way to other departments within the company

  7. Managing the liaison between regulatory bodies, trade partners and relevant internal departments

  8. Planning and managing multiple complex projects in a deadline-driven environment

  9. Understanding the objectives and the impact of projects on the business and driving solutions to business-critical issues

  10. Escalating key issues to leadership proactively and in a timely manner

  11. Developing, implementing, and optimising departmental strategy, processes, systems, policies and standards.

  12. Powerful influencing and communication skills with the ability to liaise effectively with employees across all levels of the business

  13. Strong project management skills to be able to work collaboratively with a range of business departments to complete a project successfully

  14. Comfortable working with a variety of stakeholders and suppliers at all levels

  15. Previous management experience including recruiting and developing a team

  16. Ability to understand and present complex issues clearly and concisely

  17. Solid presentation skills

  18. Process focused with attention to detail

  19. Ability to deal with a broad range of international customs and trade issues

  20. All of these above at once

50 skills needed but a lack of support system

The additional problem to solve was that these topics were based on a complex set of rules that constantly changed on a daily basis.

  • How can a customs manager develop these skills and this much knowledge continuously?

  • How can trade processional be upskilled successfully, and how can I best upskill my team without neglecting my day-to-day tasks?

  • Where is the ability to network, exchange, learn continuously, get support when the going gets tough?

  • Is there a way to make sure Customs Managers and Global Trade Professionals are not accidentally missing any relevant legislative update?

  • How can synergies be created to monitor customs & global trade legislation?

  • Which customs geek to turn to get a helping hand on one or two of your projects.

I looked for solutions...

And found

  • endless newsletters, blog entries and alerts as well as complimentary webinars - except they rarely told me what I really needed to know in my business and came with sales strings attached. They quickly flooded my inbox, so I lost more time than I gained, in search of relevance.

  • eight-hour, full-day face-to-face training, which bombarded me with information that I could not retain. Also, it kept me out of the office for too long.

  • that the skilled experts I needed to support me in my projects were way too expensive and came with up-and cross-sales projects, which soon started to annoy me. Was there no way to get first-class support without a hefty price tag?

​Support Network

So, we have designed Customs Manager as that network, as that place where dedicated customs professionals from all over the work go to exchange in specialist groups, learn live and online and have someone to turn to when the going gets tough. We would welcome you to join us and be a part of this support network.


About Customs Manager Ltd.

We are on a mission to empower people with import, export and transport responsibilities with helpful advice, insightful training and relevant trade intelligence services. We offer consultancy and expert advice, training (live, in-house and on-demand), support for your import and export business and customs clearance/broker services into the UK (Great Britain) and Northern Ireland. We devote all our passion and energy to helping businesses grow faster cross-border. Working with us means having your own multilingual Customs Manager on standby to help you trade effectively, efficiently and, of course, compliantly, wherever you want to go in the world. We even file customs declarations for you.

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Hey, I got told I need to subscribe and pay to ready your expert blogs! Where is my free stuff?

Well, remember the old saying, there is no such thing as a free lunch! Expert content creation takes time and effort, not even mentioning the years of learning and studying the geeky subjects of customs, export controls and free trade agreements. So, if you like what we are doing, please help out and subscribe to our annual plan, allowing you to access expert content for a low price affordable to any business and any customs manager / global trade professional.

As a Premium Subscriber, you get VIP treatment and access to new, fresh content every week. You also get access to the entire library of advice, more than 400 blog entries and counting. We also monitor legislation for you and let you know of all the changes, so you never miss an important legal change. At the same time, you save valuable time by engaging our dedicated trade specialists to carry the monitoring out for them. Premium subscribers also unlock all other content on the Customs Manager’s Ltd. website, including our hubs and resources helping you to stay compliant in daily tasks. Being a paying subscriber provides you with vital thought leadership development to empower you to trade effectively, efficiently and, of course, compliantly, across borders. And if you want us to cover other countries than the EU, UK and a bit of the US, then just ask. Reach out in the chat or by email.

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