Most U.S. entrepreneurs with global ambitions start at home and then expand abroad. New York native Chris Fussner ’82 did the opposite. “He’s like a fish swimming upstream,” said Brian O’Leary ’96, another T-bird who has worked closely with Fussner since February 2012. “He found himself out there at the right time and seized the opportunity.”

When Fussner got laid off from his overseas job in 1989, he decided to stay overseas and launch Trans-Tec, a high technology equipment supplier. “I got pushed off the plank into entrepreneurship,” Fussner said. “It was either succeed or swim home.” Trans-Tec spread from its base in Singapore to China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Business slowed in 2008 amidst a global economic downturn, but Fussner made a strategic decision not to reduce staff. “We’ll keep everybody on the payroll,” he said in 2009. “So once the wave comes back and people buy again, we’ll be in full force and ready to go.”

The gamble has paid off in recent months, allowing Trans-Tec to expand into Japan, Mexico and the United States through a partnership with Yamaha. Fussner hired O’Leary to manage the North American business from a new office in Chandler, Arizona. The proximity to Thunderbird is no accident. A large Thunderbird logo painted on the ceiling of the Chandler office shows Fussner’s loyalty to his MBA alma mater. “Chris likes to come back here,” O’Leary said. “He likes the area.”

Republican abroad: Chris Fussner stays active politically as global chairman of Republicans Abroad. He spoke on behalf of the group during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Watch the video: