Now is not the time for business as usual. To survive and even grow in uncertain times, companies need to be creative and agile in searching out new opportunities around the world.
Small businesses have lots of advantages over big firms – they know their customers better, they’re more flexible, and they can customize their offerings quickly. With technology and communication advances, those small-business advantages can extend beyond any border.
Consider seven key ways to extend your global reach:
Expand Your View of the World. According to 2007 Census data, 97 percent of U.S. exporters were small- and medium-size companies with less than 500 employees. Consider whether you are reaching every customer you can. Remember 75 percent of the world’s buying power is outside the U.S. Are you ignoring a large number of potential users of your goods or services?
Think Big. You need to think beyond the horizon. Thinking big may mean finding new markets or developing new products. Or it may mean that you want to one day become a big business. Many huge companies started as small businesses with big ideas – launching into new markets and using new distribution models that were unheard of in their industries beforehand. But whatever your goals, a small businesses should never limit itself by thinking small.
Realize the Internet Makes You Global. Finding buyers around the world no longer requires expensive travel or experience in foreign markets. All types of companies are able to put up websites and connect to global customers.
A case in point: Tobago Wild offers fresh fish caught by 100 local fishermen working off a small island that served as the setting for “Robinson Crusoe,” a story of a man cut off from civilization. Today, the Internet makes no corner of the globe isolated. A New York restaurant can place an order on Tobago Wild’s web site and even watch a video of the fishing operations that begins with these unexpected words: “As the world becomes a smaller place, Tobago Wild delivers on a powerful concept: taking advantages of leaps in technology, communications and logistics using a unique distribution system.”
Michael Dimin, who founded Tobago Wild, worked with FedEx to develop an innovative shipping system that clears customs and FDA inspections quickly. The freshness of the fish has captured the palates – and business – of top restaurateurs. Because of technology and forward thinking, Tobago Wild has changed from a “one-town operation to an any-town operation,” Dimin says.
Get Intelligence Online. Vast amounts of how-to-guides and competitive intelligence about global markets can be easily acquired online. The net can give you all kinds of resources to take your pieces to new corners of the globe. For example, FedEx Global Trade Manager, a free online tool, provides a snapshot of country information including demographics, business information and statistics. The Small Business Administration, U.S. Commerce Department, and other free resources can assist both the novice and experienced global exporter.
Tap Into Social Networks. At one point a small business’s network was limited by their local community. Network is now endless with channels like Amex OPEN Forum and social media. These networks give you a platform to connect with customers, partners, suppliers, distributors, and new prospects anywhere. With the world wide open, success is limited only by creativity, marketing prowess, and how you differentiate yourself from the competition.
Forge New Alliances. Small companies are networking and forging alliances to launch joint initiatives worldwide. But you can also expect to see small businesspeople making new types of alliances with large companies, who want to leverage their spirit of innovation.
Head Off Your Competition. You need to think global because your competitors will – and that’s only going to increase. A recent study of students in 50 countries found that 55 percent plan to look for opportunities outside their native countries. The world is getting smaller. Every company will be affected by globalization, so you need to think about how you can benefit from the shrinking world – because your competitors surely will be.
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