April 2014

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April 2014 | Construction Equipment Distribution | www.cedmag.com | 19 Executive Spotlight Israel and Lebanon, she ran into another kind of bias: anti-Israeli. A Syrian soldier stopped her at a border crossing because her pass- port showed she had been to Israel. She had to board a return flight to Moscow. "I am not a spy," she recalls saying with some exasperation in her voice. "I am a business person. I am bringing business, the good stuff. They should open doors for me." Tumanyan helped Hoffman make inroads in Russia, though she ran into legal roadblocks that were charac- teristic of those early post-Soviet years. European equipment makers had an easier time of it because of their longer-term sales relationships with Moscow and its satellite states. Though legal hurdles are fewer now, she says, the presence of European machinery is greater and Russian contractors are reluctant to switch to U.S. brands. The other drag on Russian sales is corruption. "I hear it is very corrupt. I was never directly approached, and if I had been, I would have stopped them right in their tracks. I walk away from business conducted that way. It is important we sleep at night and know things have been done properly. I don't regret losing any contracts to that, because if you do one…" she says, not finishing the thought. "There is no glory in that type of business." A small Hoffman sale to a contrac- tor in the African state of Cameroon later led to a 165-machine, $45 million sale to the government. At one point, the sale got hung up on the fact that some of the equipment was dual-purpose – that is, a water truck or bulldozer could be used by both civilian and military operators. Congressional committee members eventually approved the deal. Tumanyan says such sales as the Cameroon transaction are especially gratifying. "People were lined up to get to work on a road or a bridge. The first machine was immediately driven off to some job, rather than being parked in some contractor's equipment yard. All the equipment was for the good of the people of Cameroon. There is a lot of satisfac- tion in that." She scurried around more in the early days than she does now – six weeks here and six weeks there when the Russian market was opening up, for example. In May 2009, she was constantly flying between four coun- tries: Russian, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Italy. Now that business relationships have matured in some 40 countries served by Hoffman, she flies abroad less and relies more on her computer. "Skype, Internet, cell phones have changed tremendously how we do international business. Yes, face to face can be important, but communication works over Skype," she says, though modern technology hasn't entirely obviated the gender thing. "I worked long distance with a man from Pakistan who operated out of the Czech Republic and one day he Skyped me. I said hello and he hesitated and then said, 'I want to talk to Musya.' I said, 'This is Musya.'" The man ended up buying a couple of machines from her. Culture Shock When Musya Tumanyan landed in New York City, she says she experienced culture shock, mostly in respect to the abundance of goods for sale on shelves and tables. The late 1970s was a time of hyperinflation in the U.S. and of international tensions leading up to the U.S. embassy take-over in Iran. "It was bad here, but the difference was so dramatic," she says. "When U.S. immigrants compare new and old countries, even in the most difficult period it is much better here. Always. "No matter what anyone says, we have opportunity here in America. To say what you believe, the ability to achieve. If I want to do something for myself, I can. In Russia, I couldn't do anything. I had to follow the rules." The collapse of the Soviet Union changed that somewhat, but not for long, she says. "Fifteen, 20 years ago, the average Russian had hope. Today in Russia, the middle class is wiped out." Tumanyan is not pleased with the direction of politics in this country. Speaking with characteristic frankness, she says she is "petrified that we are going in the direction of Russia. I left a system that was controlling. I learned the best way to control someone is to reward him. The Russian system does not work. Me being here in the United States is proof that it does not work. All this talk about control and distri- bution is a change from the United States of 30 years ago. Such a system does not work." She has no family left in Moldova, where civil unrest periodically stirs the country. The last of her relatives there packed up and moved to the U.S. years ago. But her business vision is still global; she teaches students at Monmouth University the importance of exports, and is a strong advocate of companies looking for deals across borders. "Exports mean balance for a company, additional earnings. They are a very important part of the economy." It might be a tribute to her femi- nine perspective that she insists on couching global business in terms of men and women, rather than dollars and cents – or their equivalent in a foreign currency. "Sometimes I talk to management," she said, "and I tell them, 'When you talk about exports, this is not an accounting job. It is a business of people and of building relationships with people.'" n (see sidebar on page 22) Giles lamberTson is a retired journalist and freelance writer whose interest in the construction industry goes back to his carpen- try days. He can be reached at geepeela@ yahoo.com. 16_Hoffman_Export_feature_KP.indd 19 3/27/14 4:24 PM

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