Why should you consider taking your business global? A better question might be, “Why wouldn’t you?” “Technology has erased boundaries and made it convenient to conduct business globally,” says Laurel Delaney, president of GlobeTrade, a U.S.-based management consulting and marketing company that helps entrepreneurs do business globally.
DWEN members are reaping the benefits of a global approach to business. “When we launched in 2003, the use of the mobile Internet was just beginning, so we had to go global to reach as many people as possible,” explains DWEN member Sabine Irrgang, cofounder of German company Gofresh, which operates the mobile social game community itsmy world.
DWEN member and serial entrepreneur Joana Picq believes increasing competition for customers makes expanding to a global audience essential, especially for technology-based businesses. “Being local means you’re not scaling, and scale has become a priority for profits,” explains Picq, whose latest venture, Voyage Prive, is a members-only club that offers luxury travel deals via flash sales.
What does it take to succeed outside your native land?
- Know your options. “Look at high-growth markets for your industry,” advises Picq. “Once you have a small list of countries in mind, start looking for connections, see where your network takes you, and look for the country where you can build the most connections.”
- Don’t rule out emerging markets. “Emerging markets sound scarier to European and North American entrepreneurs,” says Picq, “but the truth is that Brazilians are culturally closer to Americans than Europeans will ever be, and doing business in China has become easier than doing business in Europe. These are markets of high growth and opportunity, and the barriers are no longer what they used to be.”
- Familiarize yourself with operational differences. Understanding each country’s legal and financial particulars is critical, says Picq. “Also understand what channels to use and with what players to partner. Localize your product and your market strategy to make sure you can attract local customers.”
- Appreciate cultural quirks. “People are different in each country—how they communicate, how they do business, their understanding of time and due dates, and many other things,” Irrgang says.
- Immerse yourself. “You can’t start a business in a foreign country from behind your desk,” warns Irrgang. “Go to the city where potential partners are and absorb life and the mentality there.”
- Hire help. “People are the biggest asset a company can have,” says Picq. A lawyer and accountant with experience in your industry and the countries to which you are expanding are essential. If you’re not fluent in the language, you’ll also need an interpreter (“a person, not a device!” adds Irrgang).
- Use public resources. “We try to get as much information as possible from public authorities,” says Irrgang. “This is often free of cost, which is important to a new company.” In the U.S., Delaney notes, the government is putting a huge push behind exports. President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) and pilot State Trade and Export Promotion Program (STEP) aim to help small and midsize businesses increase exports. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of International Trade can provide more information and assistance to U.S. companies going global.
Both Irrgang and Picq have found great success by expanding their markets globally. Today, 60 percent of Gofresh’s user base is outside Europe. Voyage Prive, which launched in France in 2006, has members in Spain, the U.K., Italy and the U.S., and is currently launching in Brazil and Germany. Would you like to enjoy the same results? “Go out into the world, keep your eyes open and grow your business,” says Irrgang. “It’s exciting!”