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The International Entrepreneur – Is your company still an Accidental Exporter?

Accidental exporter, international entrepreneur

Joe rolled his chair over to company founder, Mary’s desk with a quizzical wrinkle in his brow…

“Can we sell our security product to someone in Romania? We just got an email basically ordering 50 software licenses from somewhere called Timisoara”, said Joe as Mary looked up from her multiple computer monitors.

Mary was just as surprised as Joe. The company had launched only a few months ago. How could someone from Romania have heard about their product, much less have decided to buy it? Their small team of developers were focused on a few potential clients in the United States.

Mary hadn’t even considered when international would enter into the company’s plans. But 50 licenses was an order that was difficult to ignore… So Mary and her company became “Accidental Exporters” – taking orders from foreign clients without any real understanding yet of their global markets.

 

International Clients Always Arrive Before You Expect Them

A byproduct of the world’s Digital Revolution is that anyone anywhere can read your company website. As a consultant, I don’t travel to over 200 countries… but this article will. Businesses and consumers now have access to product options and pricing information allowing them to make more informed choices. If you have something of value like Mary’s security software product, then clients from other parts of the world will begin to make contact.

Mary and her team will likely weigh the revenue of 50 licenses against the risks of doing business with these Romanian clients. Will the clients pay in dollars? How much interaction is needed for software implementation and service?

If like much software today the delivery is a SaaS model, then allowing access is easy. But are there any regulations related to doing business with Romania in terms of taxes, data location requirements or other restrictions? Most companies ignore compliance issues at first and focus on the money. (Tip: Always know what you’re getting into before you just move forward.)

 

Timisoara, Romania (photo courtesy of wikipedia.org)

Timisoara, Romania (photo courtesy of wikipedia.org)

 

Accidental Exporting Becomes the New Normal

Mary and her company take on the Romanian client… then soon a Canadian client… and on it goes. The company figures out ways to serve these foreign clients in the same way that they serve the domestic base – home country language, home country currency, home country customer service hours, and home market expectations. In my experience, this directionless approach is the international growth path for about 98% of small and medium-sized companies.

The surprising part of reactionary-based international expansion is how long this phase typically lasts – for years and sometimes decades. Companies often seem content to continue on building their international client collection with little thought to the larger markets left untapped.

An extension of Accidental Exporting are overseas distributors who find your company through the website or a trade show; and offer to represent your product in their market. Now you have a distributor based in Australia who gets to build business for you in the APAC region for a 25% discount margin. Most companies just accept this new extension to the reactive model without any visit to the distributor’s offices or 3rd party background checks on their reputation. That’s just crazy and irresponsible.

 

What’s the Alternative to Accidental Exporting?

International expansion planning is the answer. And it needs to start almost as soon as your company initially opens its doors for business. In the start-up phase, a company needs to decide what it can and cannot handle in terms of orders from international clients. Can you convert foreign currency? Can you deliver your product compliantly using the Internet, air or ocean freight? Are there regulations for your product or industry that you should be aware of? For instance, you may decide that Canada is a market you can serve but that Germany’s laws regarding cloud data residing in servers located on German soil rule that market out for now.

Despite anecdotal evidence that startups can be “born global”, few are actually capable of true international market entry from Day 1. Instead, internationalization works best when a company plans for overseas market entry years before the first foreign subsidiary office is opened. Incorporate international considerations into:

  • Product development – Are there any additional product requirements to be compliant internationally (CE Marking, etc.)
  • Company talent recruitment– Are we looking for candidates who also have international and cross-cultural experience?
  • Key outside resources – Can our accountants, attorneys, bankers and PEO providers also advise on international tax, legal issues, foreign exchange and international payroll?
  • Financial capital – Are we budgeting for our initial global market research and first market expansions?

Preparing for that eventual international rollout will make the transition much smoother.

 

When Should We Get Serious About Internationalizing?

There is no specific milestone that marks when a company should proactively begin its international expansion. But here are some general guidelines:

  • If you have a profitable company providing value to your home market clients
  • If international clients have found you and you are able to successfully serve their needs
  • If your home market is a small one, then you will need to internationalize earlier than large home market companies
  • If you have 100+ employees (this can vary by industry, but IT companies should heed this criteria)
  • If you have earnings, loans or outside equity to fund early expansion efforts

 

My hope is that by writing about accidental exporting it will prompt business leaders to examine their own company’s approach to international markets. With luck a few more “accidental exporters” can reach their greater global potential.

 

Onward & upward

Becky DeStigter, The International Entrepreneur

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The International Entrepreneur – How to accelerate global expansion

accelerate global expansion, international entrepreneur, international business

It’s ironic. Anyone who has spent time and energy expanding their company into international markets can tell you that the process is anything but fast. Global expansions are notoriously slow, especially when compared to what American and Canadian companies are used to as their domestic time to establish a new business. Registering a new business in some American states can take 30 minutes online and US$50. In contrast, some business registrations overseas can take over 2 years and cost US$20,000+.

In North America, we build our business processes and expectations around speed. Speed to market. Speed up the sales cycle. Speed in product development. Anything that slows us down is the target of constant complaint. Ask anyone who has been through a U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process.

Despite frustrations, there are many compelling reasons why a company would still choose to expand internationally. There are new markets and customers overseas. The market may be global and market share requires doing business internationally. Global markets may balance out seasonal or economic cycles to keep the company’s revenue and growth on a steadier path. There may be strategic advantages for global talent, cost savings or a whole host of other reasons to go global.

 

REALITY CHECK: No matter how compelling the reasons to keep expanding into new global markets, you still need to expend the necessary time and resources to bring success. If you can’t commit to at least 2 years’ worth of work to get a new market off the ground, then I recommend that you don’t take your company global.

 

Here’s my advice for speeding up the international expansion process:

  1. Consistent Commitment. Nothing (and I mean nothing) will slow down your company’s global expansion more than the mixed messages of wavering leadership and financial support.
    This happened earlier this month to an international expansion director in the southwest United States. He had made all of the arrangements to meet with potential Middle East partners on a crucial trip. His company’s Board of Directors froze all travel and other international expenses for a short-term gain.  Now when this director can finally return to this high-potential market, he won’t find the same level of welcome or interest in doing business.
  1. Travel to Your Markets. If you truly want to expand quickly, then put your company leaders and expansion staff on planes to your chosen target markets. Face to face meetings with potential partners, clients and other influential stakeholders in country dramatically speed up the time taken to form these key relationships.
  2. Consider Strategic Partnerships or Mergers & Acquisitions. While partnerships and M&A take substantial time up front to establish the relationship and agreement terms, they can expedite market entry where they already have established client base. So for instance, let’s say my company wanted to enter the Thai market. I don’t speak Thai or know this culture which is quite different from my own. But if there were a compatible partner company, I could reach potential Thai customers by piggybacking on the partner’s products or services as a point of entry. I could learn from my Thai partner about the market and the best ways to sell my offering.
    On the M&A side, buying or merging with a company in a key market means that you buy their assets and also their internal processes and market knowledge. This, of course, is also dependent on keeping existing staff happy post-M&A so that the knowledge stays with the company. Obviously M&A requires support from your current and future financial resources.
  1. Laser Focus Normally Beats the Shotgun Approach to Market Entry. Many companies take the reactionary approach to international markets – they wait for foreign clients to find the company online and approach them with business. I am not saying that this is necessarily a bad starting point, but at some stage serving customers in 13 countries is less efficient than focusing on the 3 best markets and doing it at higher revenue and profit margins.
  2. Practice Agile Processes in Your International Expansion. Instead of starting and stopping every time there is a new challenge in a global market, I recommend using an agile process. Agile is a leading approach in software development where changes are made to code frequently to constantly improve the quality of the product. Marketing adopted agile because it allows for incremental performance evaluations and changes instead of annual reviews. I think this applies just as well to global expansion, where incremental changes can vastly improve results and speed up the process rather than waiting for a review from a large country roll-out.

While international expansion is an investment for companies with a longer investment time frame, there are definitely steps that can speed up the process. Consistency in support is a required foundation. Armchair expansion is much slower than sending staff into the field to meet and develop relationships with key in-country contacts. Focusing on key markets and partners is faster than waiting to see what drops in your lap. And always be ready to make changes based on the new insights you pick up during the new market entry.

I wish you all the best of success in all of your markets.

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The International Entrepreneur – The Globalization of American High Tech

international trade, information technology, globalization, international entrepreneur

This week I wrapped up a 3-week project researching American IT companies that expanded into international markets. Normally my clients hire me to focus on markets outside the U.S., so it was interesting to study the industry I serve.

Honestly, I thought I knew all about the American IT industry. I have spent the better part of the last 22 years working for American IT companies as an employee and contractor. What I learned about my home market and industry surprised me and I wanted to share it with my readers.

 

Market Insights from Studying American IT Firms

I identified 200 American IT companies that had less than 1,000 employees worldwide and were actively internationalizing into new foreign markets. Most of the companies picked for my study were recruiting staff both in the U.S. and in overseas offices. I did not choose any companies that were clearly locked in a 2-country model for outsourcing or similar purposes, with no plans for global domination. I did not target specific states or metro areas. I understand that this is not a study with full academic rigor, but still it was hard to ignore the trends.

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. Not all American IT industry clusters are producing internationalizing companies. Almost HALF of the internationalizing IT companies were based in 2 metro areas: Silicon Valley/Bay Area (68) and Boston (26).
    Then came Tier 2 Clusters of internationalizing tech companies: Los Angeles/San Diego (18), New York City (16), Seattle (8), and Chicago (6).
    What was just as interesting were the metro areas considered to be strong in IT companies that are disproportionately low in internationalization: Denver/Boulder, Phoenix, Portland (Oregon), Philadelphia, North Carolina, Twin Cities and Washington DC.
    Two notable additional bright spots were Manchester, NH and Salt Lake City, UT both coming in with 4 internationalizing IT companies apiece. Here is a map showing where the U.S. high-tech markets are. Clearly the internationalizing clusters are a subset of the whole.

  2. Internationalization seems to take place between 100 and 200 employee counts across a wide variety of IT markets. This includes companies doing everything from developing gaming platforms to offering SaaS business processes to security networks to storage technologies. There are 2 noteworthy exceptions: healthcare IT and B2G (business-to-government) industries. After reviewing dozens of both types of companies, neither internationalize until much later in their product cycles. It’s a shame, really, since both government and healthcare technologies are bought and sold all over the world.
  3. IT services offshoring companies rarely made the list of 200 companies even though their entire business model is based on globalization. The truth is that these companies may have Indian or Mexican operations, but they don’t sell into any market except the U.S. Opportunities are being missed.
  4. There is no standard international expansion market pattern. Companies literally had a patchwork of offices and operations around the world. While there are definitely popular overseas office locations: London, Singapore, Toronto, Sydney, Amsterdam; companies seem to be weighing options in various markets instead of following a predetermined step-by-step rollout. In my option, that’s proactive and positive.

What is internationalization?

For quick reference, here’s my practical definition of company internationalization:

  • A company that is PROACTIVELY entering new foreign markets to sell products and services. This also applies to the supply management side – sourcing materials and services from around the world.
  • A company that is actively engaged in understanding the market potential in various parts of the world.
  • While many companies begin their international expansion using in-country local representatives or distributors, I think true internationalization is when companies begin to expand directly to new markets with new offices and hiring in-country staff.

Why is internationalization important?

Globalization is a defining force of our time. Its momentum rides right along with the other primary drivers – technology and entrepreneurship – as changes that will affect our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

For companies, internationalization is a game changer. It means:

  • Having the choice to expand into international markets (“internationalize”) at much earlier stage than ever before.
  • Increasing your overall market size by somewhere between 100-500%.
  • Learning industry advances and operational efficiencies in one market that can be applied to the rest of the company’s markets (called “arbitrage”).
  • Access to investment funds and other resources not necessarily available in your home market.
  • Country portfolio risk reduction – not all markets go through downturns and upturns at the same time. Multiple markets balance out the risks.
  • Access to the global talent pool to help drive smarter decision making and better leadership and management.

As I often discuss with IT company leaders, internationalization is like your planet developing “warp drive technology” on the TV/movie series “Star Trek”. Pre-warp-drive planets have a single planet view of what is possible. But once the planet’s scientists and engineers develop this high-speed capacity for travel, Star Trek sends an envoy to meet your leaders and welcome you into the larger intergalactic realm. Internationalization in a similar way opens up the business environment to the other 95% of our planet’s population.

So if you are an IT company leader or someone invested in a local IT cluster’s success, what does all of this mean for you?

  • It means that clusters like Silicon Valley and Boston have investors/VCs who expect internationalization as a company’s “Warp Drive” when they reach their growth stage. These industry clusters cultivate available resources to help make that happen. This can be developed in other markets as well.
  • It means that if your company has a headcount of 200+ and you don’t yet have international operations in at least 2 foreign markets, you may be late to internationalization and should actively be researching the advantages and risks involved. To expedite this, hire outside international business expansion consultants.
  • It means there is no one best way to expand internationally. Use your own competitive advantages and market research to optimize this process.

Now, in the immortal words of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock: Live long and prosper!

Becky DeStigter, The International Entrepreneur

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The International Entrepreneur – The Growing War for Global Talent

global talent, global HR, international trade

I see it expanding every day…

  • Engineering teams sent to implement a project on the other side of the world.
  • A medical student from a developing country applying for residency after graduation to ensure a higher quality of life for herself and her family.
  • A multinational company offering a rising star employee the chance for an overseas assignment to gain key experience
  • Governments trying to either slow their “brain drain” effect or recruit talented foreign workers

Never before in the history of the world have so many people decided to live and work outside of their country of origin. This means that talented professionals can move to where the best jobs are. But at the same time, there’s a trend to search the world for the best talent and then employ locally – essentially moving the job to the talent. A quick view of heavy-hitting multinational, IBM’s career website shows this in full view. IBM and many of its peers are opening up to the wider talent pool by offering extraordinary numbers of remote-based positions.

It’s challenging to get worldwide numbers on immigration. But here’s an example: In the U.S. alone, immigration has reached 41.3 million people representing over 13% of U.S. residents. [source]  On a global level, the Economist reports the highest countries in 2014 losing talent aka the “Brain Drain” to immigration were:

1) Myanmar

2) Bulgaria, Serbia & Venezuela

5) Moldova & Yemen

7) Burundi

8) Croatia

9) Haiti & Kyrgyzstan

11) Algeria, Lebanon, Mauritania & Ukraine

15) Chad & Slovakia

 

Those doing best at keeping their talent home?

1) Switzerland & Qatar

3) United States

4) Finland & Norway

6) UAE

7) Hong Kong

8) Singapore

9) Germany & Malaysia

11) Luxembourg & United Kingdom

13) Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Netherlands and Sweden

 

All of this comes back to one basic question:

 

How do we come out on the winning side of this war for global talent?

 

I’m going to break it down to three levels: country, company and individual.

 

For countries…

Examples to follow:   If you want to win the war for global talent, first focus on your own citizenry. What will they need to compete with the world’s best minds? They’ll need a strong education foundation.

They’ll also need infrastructure like broadband, transportation and other foundations upon which to build new companies as entrepreneurs. Speaking of which, the 24 highest-rated countries for entrepreneurial activity – none of them are on the brain drain list. That’s no coincidence, especially some of their neighboring countries are hemorrhaging talent. Cultivating entrepreneurship can engage many smart homegrown talent. For the record, the U.S. doesn’t crack the top entrepreneurial activity list either.

Examples to avoid:     One of the worst mistakes to make is restricting smart, talented people from immigrating to your country. The United States, for instance, is a university destination for thousands of bright talent from around the globe. But instead of trying to engage those graduates to stay on and take jobs (or create startups) in our country, we often promote their return to their home countries. Australia and Canada are not making that mistake.

 

For companies…

Examples to follow: In the past few years smaller, agile companies can access talent from anywhere just like their larger competitors. Free communication and low-cost collaboration tools make virtual teams a common fixture in business.

Now SMEs can take it a step further and hire employees regardless of national boundaries. There is a new service called GEO – Global Employment Outsourcing that allows a service provider to be a company’s Employer of Record in country. This means that you pay to have your employee hired in Finland and that employee is paid in local currency, complies with all local employment laws and practices, and is billed back to you. It’s a game changer because it doesn’t require having a local subsidiary set up in Finland.

Examples to avoid: Those company leaders who assume that the best talent is locally grown will lose the global talent war. Xenophobia and closed market options tend to lead to a more limited geographic market too.

 

For individuals…

Examples to follow: To be a part of the global talent pool, you just need to keep options open. Nowadays you can search job listing sites for remote-based positions and jobs on the other side of the world. Jobs that directly involve trade and global markets tend to on average 10% more than jobs that are domestic only. And experience with international roles can pave the way to career advancement. We live in exciting times and you can be a part of it (if you’re not already).

Examples to avoid: If you want to work on the sidelines of the war for global talent, don’t update your skills to match what international employers need. Don’t network and for gosh sakes don’t learn any cross-cultural skills or languages.

 

We live in times of great global changes. Countries, companies and individual workers all have choices to embrace the shifts in world economic dynamics or resist them. I hope you’ll choose to see this as a tremendous opportunity for all!

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The International Entrepreneur – Are Your Outsourcing Resources Ready for International?

The International Entrepreneur Asks Are Your Outsourcing Resources Ready for International?
Today’s companies tend to be leaner and more agile than those in years past. They often have to be in order to grow at a rate fast enough to secure the next round of funding or attract the right acquiring firm. How we do business has fundamentally changed to where many company functions like legal, accounting, HR and marketing can be outsourced to a large degree. But what happens when a company decides to enter international markets? Are these BPOs ready to join you on your international business expansion?

Here are some questions to ask your company’s law firm, accounting firm, marketing agency, bank, payroll service and any other business process outsourcing (BPO) providers:

  • Do you have any offices or partners in the markets we are planning to enter?
    If your home market is small like Singapore or Luxembourg, then likely any outside resources are well connected to the rest of the world. They have to be. For larger markets like the U.S. or Brazil, your local bank may not have the international connections or in-house expertise international currency and finance that you’ll need.
  • Are you able to serve staff based overseas with sound advice and similar services in international markets?
    Payroll is a great example of where this applies. Most payroll outsourcing companies choose to serve only their home market. But there are a handful of international payroll companies that handle the complexities of payroll around the world to help keep your company in compliance.
  • Do the contacts that you work with have international experience?
    Sometimes a law firm or accounting firm has the ability to extend to other parts of the world through sister offices or partner firms. But often when a company shifts from one market to global markets, the staff who serve the company may need to change to the more internationally experienced resources.

For all of your company’s business functions directly affected by the international expansion, you can decide between two approaches: Centralized and Decentralized Outsourcing.

Centralized Outsourcing is when your BPO resource has an extensive network of staff or trusted partners in all of your markets. The largest accounting firms fall into this category. And it helps to have one cohesive approach to accounting that leverages the specialized knowledge that these firms typically have in areas like international taxation.

Decentralized Outsourcing makes sense when in-country resources have the best perspective. This is often the case with marketing agencies. If I’m going to concentrate on the German market because I know that German businesses desperately want and need my product, then I should hire a marketing agency based in Germany to spearhead my marketing program there.

Some additional advice:

  • Be sure to ask specific questions of your service providers to learn their fuller international capabilities.
  • Don’t contort around a business relationship to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Yes, the company founder’s best friend may have done the accounting for the last five years, but unless his firm can handle all of your transactions, currencies and tax reporting, it’s time to move to a fuller service firm.
  • Generally, companies keep all processes tied to their value chain in-house rather than outsourcing them. With keeping that in mind, some companies also choose to redefine their value chain altogether to fit what they actually do best. That’s at least food for thought!

I hope you found this article helpful. If you would like to receive additional tools and tips starting with a Market Entry Checklist, please click here.

The International Entrepreneur – Turning Foreign Currency Risk into Profits

currency, international trade, international business

 

A few months ago I was talking with the leaders of a small, innovative Canadian manufacturing firm. The company had grown from its successes in design, production, customer service and marketing… and now they were looking at how to proactively expand into their largest potential market: their neighbor to the south.

When I researched the company, I noted that they kept their prices in Canadian dollars for both sides of the border. I assumed that they wanted the simplicity of a single-currency business. As many of you know – currently Canadian companies have a foreign exchange advantage by charging in U.S. dollars because the Loonie is historically low to the American Buck.

But what the company leaders told me left me at a loss for words. (Those who know me understand that this is a rare occurrence.) They said that they would not charge a different price to the American market because it would be unethical.

Now there are indeed pricing methods that are unethical and oftentimes illegal – collusion, predatory pricing, kickbacks, etc. But international trade is actually built on the assumption that prices of materials and labor inputs, as well as final products are dissimilar in different markets. If all prices were the same, there would be no real reason to trade at all. Vietnam has a large supply of inexpensive labor that lends well to textile production. Saudi Arabian women put a higher value on beauty products (particularly perfume) than most other markets. And we all know that real estate value for the same building is radically different if it is located in downtown Tokyo vs. Omaha, Nebraska.

Currencies all fluctuate on world markets. What started as a profitable market can quickly turn to a loss as the Euro or Yen loses value. So how can a company take this risk and turn it into profits?

 

Understand that the pendulum swings both ways

Currency exchanges can fluctuate widely. That’s why it is important not to base business performance projections on today’s exchange rate only. I normally give a range of possible projections, knowing that over time the exchange rate will sometimes be favorable to sell product in a market and sometimes less or not at all.

This is why it is important for the Canadian manufacturer to sell their products in American dollars in the American market. Customers would pay the full price because of the value received. And the additional profits from producing products with Canadian materials and labor mean that when the American Buck drops to the Canadian Loonie, there will be some padding to cushion the profit squeeze.

 

Use the Lean Times to Build Operational Efficiencies

When your currency is too strong in international markets, profit margins will get pinched. This is an excellent opportunity to look closely at internal operations. Are there ways to gain efficiencies in production? Are all marketing channels delivering a strong return on investment? We do the same during an economic downturn. Periods when our currency is strong relative to our international markets can drive efficiencies that improve profits even more when the currency weakens again.

 

Consider Supply Chain Costs Too

A strong currency means that your company can buy materials at a lower price from weaker currency markets. It may make sense to keep several suppliers and increase the order size to those suppliers whose currency is currently weaker. This works best for materials that are similar quality between suppliers.

 

I hope you found this article helpful. For more advice and tips on international trade, please sign up here.

The International Entrepreneur – Improving Agile International Project Management

agile global project management, international trade,
This week I caught up top global IT project manager, Sean Hull. Sean leads global teams on enterprise system implementations. His latest project involved a U.S.-American company implementing a customized system for an Australian customer that was developed by a South Korean team. I wanted to hear Sean’s insights about how agile management practices are used in global project implementations.

Like Sean, I have spent much of my career in and around large-scale technology industries. I know that any company selling enterprise-level customized software or other technologies needs a high-performance professional implementation services team – the company’s competitive edge.

I recently worked with a tech company that did not yet have such a team. Projects lost money instead of providing much-needed profit margins. Fulfilling the contract meant commandeering product development resources away from core product (that was already late to market) in order to write custom code. It was a first-class mess. Any improvements to project management methods literally hit the bottom line for the company.

“Software is worthless until it is used by a customer.” ~ Sean Hull

Sean went on to say that, “in Agile Project Management, software is delivered in iterative code and documentation. Feedback from the customer is built into short “sprint” cycles. This requires vendor and customer staff to have instant contact. Tight delivery cycles and collaborative communications need to be exceptionally managed for all of this to be successful. One of the benefits of agile project management is that the customer helps to discover any issues much earlier in the implementation process. This saves time and resources overall.”

 

Here are some of Sean’s tips for effective global project management:

Tip 1: Enforce your project management processes and tools. A project manager can choose from any number of processes and online tools to manage the project. Enforcing that nothing happens on the project unless it is communicated and documented according to the project rules is especially critical when the team is spread out geographically. One of Sean’s favorite project collaboration tools is Basecamp, which scales from small to very large projects.

Tip 2: Get to know your team. Meet in person, if you can, even if that means traveling to the same location. Be sure to draw up a process that would work for all involved. It is extremely helpful to know how your team members currently approach their work. Together with his team Sean likes to define: “What does the baked pizza look like?” It’s also a great idea to look for ways to make life easier for all involved.

Tip 3: Know how to collaborate with all cultures involved. In some cultures, the boss tells his or her team exactly what to do. In others, team members are expected to take more initiative and share their expertise openly within the team. Incorporate the various styles into how you work with your team. Sean recommends using the SCARF Model.

Tip: 4: Take advantage of the tactical tools from Agile methodologies. This includes how to run meetings, monitoring progress, etc. These work well as long as you take into the variation needed for culture and personality.

As global project management competency grows as a critical factor for business success, these skills will be critical to securing profit margins and loyal customers. I hope you find these tips useful in your company and projects.

For more information about how to expand your company internationally, please contact me for a 30-minute complimentary consultation.

Becky DeStigter

The International Entrepreneur

The International Entrepreneur – My 2015 Top International Business Blog List

international trade, top blogs, international strategyHere are some of the best international business-focused blogs I’ve read this year:

Beyond Brazil Blog from Sunny Sky Solutions – editor & author: Gabriela Castro-Fontuora. Gaby has moved back from the north of England to her native Uruguay. She writes about all kinds of international trade and practice advice for doing business in Latin America.

Consilium Global Business Advisors – editor & primary author: Ed Marsh. Ed focuses on B2B international sales and marketing particularly for manufacturing and financial sectors. Ed cuts right to great practical information.

The Culture Mastery – editor & author: Christian Hoeferle. Christian does an excellent job bringing cross-cultural communications to the surface. His blog includes both articles and podcasts. Originally from southern Germany and now living in Tennessee U.S.A., Christian navigates effortlessly between many cultures.

GlobalEdge – editor: Michigan State University. MSU’s GlobalEdge program has been generating quality global business blogs on a variety of topics for many years. A search will find you almost anything.

Professor Michael Czinkota’s Blog. Dr. Czinkota is an international business professor at Georgetown University. A prolific writer, he has a strong focus on strategy. Dr. Czinkota is that rare academic who has a keen understanding of the business world.

Shipping Solutions International Trade Blog – editor: David Noah. David has assembled a great group of international trade experts, with special focus on trade logistics and finance. Pay particular attention to articles from Mr. Noah and also Roy Becker.

Trade Ready – editor: FITT marketing team. The Forum for International Trade Training based in Ottawa, Canada is quickly gaining its own international foothold in international trade certification and training. This blog has assembled a savvy group of international trade experts.

Tradeology – editor: International Trade Administration. If you’re an American doing business internationally, the ITA has a great site particularly for updated trade agreement information and opportunities. Use the search function to find your industry.

Now it’s your turn. If you feel that my list has missed an important blog that is worthy of mention, please tell us in a comment below. My only rule is that you cannot recommend your own blog (if it’s a good one, then others should be recommending it for you anyway). Happy reading!

The International Entrepreneur – Wanted: Higher Revenue Growth in Multinational Companies

Growth, Multinational Companies, International Trade

Have you ever started your own company? Many of us learned that to be successful in getting that fledgling firm to take flight we had to pour copious amounts of time, energy and resources into building its wings. We likely had to keep tweaking the wing design until we finally figured out the right business model and market niche. Many entrepreneurs experience failure in that process. Nothing teaches the lessons of mistakes quite as much as a fiery crash and failure.

When I talk with growth-stage and multinational companies, their operational risks have been minimized, but so have their revenue growth rates. It’s harder to produce double-digit growth in maturing markets and difficult to cultivate an innovative competitive edge with larger companies. Employees just get a little too comfortable with those steady automatic-deposit paychecks to risk it all on a crazy new product idea. Which all leads to the question:

What can be done to spur higher growth rates in maturing companies?

Reward Risk

A maturing company should establish programs and policies to encourage innovation and greater revenue creation. This probably sounds obvious. But then it needs to go steps further to specifically allow for failure without penalty. Some larger companies have already started. IBM and Apple are great examples of company culture being redefined to help the best ideas to take flight.

Investigate New Geographic Markets

Many younger companies are “accidental” exporters. They have international clients who found their website or booth at an industry trade show, researched the product, sold themselves on the product, and then came prepared with a sales order. Maybe the company even found their way into a neighboring same-language market.

But to spur serious growth, it may make sense to carefully investigate previously overlooked markets. For an example, I look to the beer industry. The U.S. beer market has been flat for years. At the same time the Chinese market has been growing at 20% market growth for decades. While the market is radically different, it’s still worth doing the calculations to see if there are profits to be made in quenching the thirst of the most populous market in the world.

Hire Talent with Entrepreneurial Skills

Company founders and early-stage employees have to be incredibly resourceful and dedicated. What’s more, the focus in young companies has to be on results over process or else the company won’t survive. That’s why the entrepreneurial skills can be so valuable.

I don’t mean that process isn’t important. I actually spend a fair amount of time in growing companies figuring which processes will streamline repeated operations. But at a recent growing company, I found that the motions of going through the process had taken 8 weeks to publish a single blog post instead of what should have taken under 2 weeks. Process steps became bureaucratic and filled staff’s hours instead of focusing on results. That sometimes means moving forward without perfect information or that fifth copy check.

Entrepreneurs can never lose sight of that end goals of the pipeline growth, product release, national account sale, and other make-or-break company or department milestones. Results can be best encouraged and measured in all employees through performance metrics.

 

These are just a few ideas. There are many more ways to get out of the multinational routine and spurn new growth. To find out what your growth accelerators might be to leverage your company’s assets and specific to your industry, contact me for a 30-minute consultation.

Wishing you all the best in your international efforts,

Becky DeStigter

The International Entrepreneur

The International Entrepreneur – Becky DeStigter receives Certified International Trade Professional Designation from FITT

IMG_2196For Immediate Release

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 (Scottsdale, USA) – Becky DeStigter, MBA, MS, has just been fully certified by the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) as a FITT International Business Professional (FIBP®). Becky chose to complete this certification on FITT’s Executive Path, using her 10 years of international trade experience and graduate education to form the basis of her application to be permitted to take the FITT Professional Exam and submit for final approval.

“I chose the FITT program certification because I wanted to join the growing global standard in international trade. There are many charlatans working in the industry who are not able to deliver substantive or reliable international business advice or outcomes. By earning this accreditation I join a group of well-trained professionals with a growing global footprint.

Working in a such a rapidly evolving field, I needed to know that my certifying organization had periodic content reviews to ensure that the international trade strategies and tactics reflected today and not ten or even two years ago. FITT stays on top of the international trade industry with frequent reviews,” said Becky.

FITT is a non-profit international trade training and professional certification organization based in Ottawa, Canada. The network of CITP®|FIBP® certified international trade professionals continues to grow and expand its influence. FITT is endorsed by the World Trade Centers Association.

 

About Becky DeStigter, FIBP

Becky and her company, The International Entrepreneur, helps business-to-business technology and professional services companies to realize their overseas potential.  To do this, she provides research insights on overseas markets, as well as ways to mitigate exposure to international trade risks. Becky works with companies from all over the world. She speaks English, Dutch, Spanish, German and is working on Mandarin Chinese.

Becky has an MBA, an MS in International Business and a graduate-level Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the University of Colorado Denver. The University of Colorado Denver is one of only 30 universities in the US and the only university in Colorado to receive the prestigious CIBER grant for international business research & education. Becky spent two years working under top international entrepreneurship scholar, Dr. Manuel Serapio.

For six years Becky owned a successful strategic marketing company. She served twice as Chief Operating Officer of start-up Software-as-a-Service technology companies, once as COO of a stem cell testing company and also spent 4 years working in various marketing and sales support roles in the healthcare software industry in growth-stage companies.

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