For small businesses, the World Wide Web has created an abundance of opportunities for growth. Now you can expand and compete favourably with bigger businesses on an international playing field. Entry to the market may be easier if you are providing a service, as all manner of transactions can be conducted online. If you are hoping to import or export goods, or set up a bricks and mortar business, however, it could prove more difficult to get started. But, with thorough planning, your business can be readied to take advantage of global trading and the opportunities it has to offer.
The internet has seen a revolution in small business start-ups providing services in technology, including Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions that enable business owners to manage their businesses more efficiently. Sales and Marketing software, Bookkeeping apps, and even face-to-face services, such as Business Coaching and Life Coaching (via Skype, for example), can be accessed over the internet. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has become big business – where businesses can now track how effective their marketing is by tracking their ROI and lead conversion rates, among other things. There is no end to the possibilities of going global for these types of service providers. One of the main things to consider, though, is obtaining proof of the credibility of those you deal with – check references or you may not get paid.
Goods Providers (and Bricks & Mortar Businesses)
For small businesses selling products, or setting up shop in a new country, things can get a little trickier when entering into the global market. Market research and rigorous planning are imperative. However, branching out into new markets could give you incredible reach in acquiring new customers and giving you access to cheaper supplies.
Market Research – things to consider:
- Costs – pricing, transport, different currencies, potential tariffs, etc. What, if any, barriers are there regarding transportation of goods – importing and exporting? Are roads accessible in remote places, for example? How long will it take to deliver or receive goods? What about shipping costs? Are there trade tariffs to consider? What about fluctuating exchange rates in currencies? Be sure to factor these into your costs.
- Language barriers and cultural differences – how do you propose to overcome these? You won’t want to get caught out by misunderstanding a subtle difference in language or tone – it could prove costly if it’s a mistake in pricing. Also, be aware of cultural differences as you could cause offence without meaning to, perhaps losing out on a great deal.
- Distributors – consider using a local distributor to take charge of delivery and transportation of goods; local and cultural knowledge could be worth paying for. Having someone trustworthy at the other end could save you time and money in the long run.
- Location – if setting up a shop front, it’s advisable to travel to and stay in the place you’re hoping to do business, so you can get to know the footfall potential firsthand. By doing this, you will also learn about the local culture and who your customers are likely to be. Also consider: What are the local business rates and taxes, legal systems and procedures that might impact your business? You don’t want to get caught up in legal loopholes so be thorough in your research.
- Joint ventures – it may be worth your while securing a joint venture with another business owner. You could save quite a bit of time and money by sharing costs and experience. They might also bring market expertise to the table, and open up new avenues of business that you hadn’t previously imagined.
Of course, you may not want to expand into the global marketplace. You may enjoy the fact that you are providing a real service to your local community. You may also already be operating a profitable and thriving business and don’t want the added ‘hassle’ of expanding internationally. Bear in mind, though, domestic markets can fluctuate and depreciate, so it may be in your business’ interest to ‘spread your wings’ to achieve greater stability. Overcoming the challenges of expansion can result in massive business growth and profitability.
Moreover, going global doesn’t mean you have to stop ‘supporting local’. You can still support your local community by providing sponsorship to a local cause, mentoring other business owners, getting involved in local community events, volunteering and participating in business networking opportunities. So, you can have the best of both worlds – literally.