Posted by: changholt | October 24, 2011

Seven tips to growing your business

Seven tips for growing your business in tough economic times — grow your business internationally.

Just a few years ago the sky was the limit, and the streets were paved with gold. Things changed and they have changed for the worse. We live in less certain times, and given today’s difficult economic environment, everyone should take the opportunity to reevaluate their respective business model.

The current economy does provide opportunities for anyone who can take advantage of international markets. In the US, we are most likely in a full-blown recession; therefore, companies need to find new ways to grow business. We believe companies should consider import export opportunities internationally — new clients, new markets and new efficiencies for their supply chain. International trade among large corporations has existed for eons, but doing business internationally has never been easier for smaller organizations.

Seven (7) simple tips for expanding your business internationally:

1. Do your research. International business is more difficult and complex then domestic business. Therefore, understand it will be challenging, but market research will help level the playing field. Since its difficult there are barriers to competition, which can be your advantage. Read as much as possible about your target market (history, culture, customs, politics and business practices).
2. Don’t follow the heard. All too often companies follow their competitors to foreign markets for all the wrong reasons. Make sure you have the right people on your team to make sure you make the right decisions Plan, Plan and plan some more.
3. Communication – Learn a few words and cultural nuances of the host county to show you are interested in being a good partner. Remember, in communication the words we chose only represent ~ 7% of the impact on any communication. Pay attention to body language and tone. Make sure you have professional help (translators, agents or consultants) that can help you navigate your new marketplace. Nothing is worse than seeing a company do it themselves with a local partner just because the partner speaks good English. In the end, you need business skills first and not an English degree.
4. Find the right partner (Direct local staff, agents, distributors , joint venture, or licensing). Its better to take your time finding the right partner otherwise you will spending most of your time regretting your decision and trying to get out or a legal arrangement. Each of the aforementioned options have their strengths and weaknesses. Make sure the one you chose fits your long term strategy.
5. Devils in the details. You have competed your research and are prepared to do business internationally (the sky’s the limit). All that you need to do now is send it to the local port and the money will roll in right …. NOT so fast. In international business logistics and your supply chain is much more complex than domestic operations.
6. Leadership’s commitment to international sales. Don’t see this as a short term solution. International markets can provide stable and sustainable growth opportunities. When the market condition change all to often companies forget international customers in favor of domestic ones . Once you begin exporting, it’s important to treat your international and domestic customers with the same level of focus and support. It’s tempting to favor your domestic customers a little more since (in the back of your mind) they are still the bread and butter customer base you can rely on if your foreign ventures go badly. However, if you do that, you are setting yourself up for failure internationally because your overseas customers will be missing out on the service that has made your company a success at home. The world is a smaller place and nothing travels faster than bad news!
7. Just do it! It’s time to execute your plan. Don’t let indecision or fear stop you from entering your new found marketplace. Remember, though you must be aware of local customs and market conditions be careful not to change you business model too much. Otherwise you will be moving away from your company’s core competency. Rather adapt to the new market and make slight adjustments. Now it’s time to let the money start rolling in.

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