Discover more in the Grow Global series

Developing Your First Global Business Strategy

Planning on expanding your business overseas? Having a strong and intentional global business strategy can help increase your odds of success.
April 11, 2018

Many business owners dream of taking a company overseas. You're capable of making such a potentially lucrative move—with the right global business strategy in place.

Tamara Nall, CEO of data consulting firm The Leading Niche, originally incorporated in the U.S. But she decided to go global as a result of a relationship map that plotted the strength of her most influential relationships against the need for her company's services.

"Glaringly, the map pointed to international markets and West Africa specifically," says Nall.

Kelly Gibbons, co-founder of personal branding firm Main and Rose, has a slightly different story. Her company, which helps socially-driven entrepreneurs and brands with communication services, received several inquiries from international clients every week.

"When the time came to expand, we decided to base our new office in a location that many consider the center of the world: the UAE," Gibbons says.

Consider Your Proposed Strategy From Top to Bottom

A global business strategy should include:

  • an overview of expansion plans, 
  • a description of the market, including size and competition, 
  • a description of planned overseas operations (including how products will be produced, distributed and marketed) and 
  • a description of how the international business will be led, managed, staffed and positioned for growth.

It sounds deceptively easy. But, according to Nall, developing an effective global business strategy requires careful consideration of a variety of factors.

Always know what your end goal is and how a given market will help you achieve a specific vision for your business.

—Kelly Gibbons, co-founder, Main and Rose

“We needed to assess if there was a real opportunity, if we could put together the right team and partners and whether we could assure we'd get paid," Nall says.

Gibbons also realized she needed a strategy backed by substantial research.

“We had to pursue markets that would advance rather than compromise our identity as a firm focused on the social good," she says.

Neither strategy was perfect to start. Looking back, Nall wishes she'd paid more attention to the currency exchange and pegged contracts to the U.S. dollar.

“The local currency devalued so our billable revenue decreased," she explains. “Had we signed our contracts in USD, then we would have been fine. We still did well, but it was painful to watch our revenue decline."

For her part, Gibbons learned about the importance of focusing in on the right partners.

“When we were creating our first global business strategy, we were contacted by potential partners from an array of regions," she recalls. "Exciting as this was, we quickly learned not to cast too wide a net, and to zero in on partners and markets that would be most beneficial for our business and our brand."

Learn About and Listen to Your Target Markets

Business owners seeking to build an effective global business strategy should proceed systematically.

Nall suggests first identifying your customer, or someone who has the budget to hire you. Then, consider finding local partners. Every country is different and has specific nuances when it comes to doing business that a partner can help navigate.

“For our first international contract," Nall says, "we beat out a large consulting firm because we committed to hire a third of our team locally, which was one of the decision maker's chief concerns."

A strong global business strategy must also take into account social norms in the target market.

“For our team to build trust, we had to go out and socialize after 10-hour work days because that was how our local clients established rapport," Nall says. “We may have been tired, but it was necessary and ultimately resulted in more business."

And, perhaps most importantly, a strong global business strategy is deliberate and intentional.

“Never expand for the sake of expanding," Gibbons advises. “Always know what your end goal is and how a given market will help you achieve a specific vision for your business."

Read more articles on strategy.

Photo: Getty Images