In today’s globally competitive environment, any business – large or small, that is not thinking and acting strategically is extremely vulnerable. Every business is exposed to the forces of a rapidly changing competitive environment, and in the future, small business executives can expect even greater change and uncertainty.
From sweeping political changes around the planet, rapid technological advances to more intense competition, and newly emerging global markets, the business environment has become more turbulent and challenging to business owners. Although this market turbulence creates many challenges for small businesses, it also creates opportunities for those companies that have in place strategies to capitalize on them.
To remain competitive, small businesses must assume a global posture. Global effectiveness requires entrepreneurs to be able to leverage workers’ skills and company resources and know-how across borders and cultures across the world. They also must concentrate on maintaining competitive cost structures, and a focus on the core of every business – the customer! Although there are no surefire rules for going global, small businesses that want to become successful international competitors should observe the following;
- Develop new products for the world market. Make sure your products and services measure up to world-class quality standards.
- Recruit and retain multicultural workers, who can give your company meaningful insights into the intricacies of global markets.
- Train employees to think globally, send them on international trips, and equip them with state-of-the-art communication gadgets.
- Hire local managers to staff foreign offices and branches.
- If you have never conducted international business, consider hiring a trade intermediary or finding a local partner to help you.
- Take time to learn about doing business globally, before jumping in. Avoiding mistakes is easier and less expensive than cleaning up the results of a mistake.
- Make yourself at home in all of the world’s key markets: North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. This triad of regions is forgoing a new world order in a trade that will dominate global markets for years to come.
- Appeal to the similarities within the various regions in which you operate, but recognize the differences in their specific cultures. Although, the European Union is a single trading bloc composed of 26 countries, smart entrepreneurs know that each country has its own cultural uniqueness, and do not treat almost half-billion people in them as a unified market.
- Familiarize yourself with foreign customs and languages; constantly scan, clip, and build a file on other cultures: their lifestyles, values, customs, and business practices.
- “Globalize”. Make global decisions about products, markets, and management, but allow local employees to make tactical decisions about packaging, advertising, and service. Always remember that in business, you can’t have it all, and you can’t know it all. Engaging the strength and opinion of others for your businesses will go a long way in building a cutting-edge organization.
- Learn to understand your customers from the perspective of their culture, not your own. Bridge cultural gaps by adapting your business practices to suit their preferences and customs.
- Consider using partners and joint ventures to break into foreign markets you cannot penetrate on your own.
Companies lacking clear strategies may achieve some success in the short run, but as soon as competitive conditions stiffen or an unanticipated threat arises, they usually “hit the wall” and fold. Without a basis of differentiating itself from a pack of similar competitors, the best a company can hope for is mediocrity in the market. The goal of developing a strategic plan is to create for the small company a competitive advantage – the aggregation of factors that sets a small business apart from its competitors, and gives it a unique position in the market that is superior to its competitors.
To be successful, entrepreneurs can no longer do things in the way they’ve always done them.
Becoming a global entrepreneur requires a different mindset. To be successful, entrepreneurs must see their companies from a global perspective and must instill a global culture throughout their companies, that permeates everything the business does. To these entrepreneurs and their companies, national boundaries are irrelevant; they see the world as a market opportunity. Learning to think globally may be the first, and most challenging obstacle an entrepreneur must overcome, on the way to creating a truly global business. The ability to appreciate, understand and respect the different beliefs, values, behavior, and business practices of companies and people in different cultures and countries, is known as Global thinking. Entrepreneurs are expected to “do their homework” in order to learn about the people, places, business techniques, potential customers, and culture of the countries in which they tend to do business.
Going global can be a frightening experience. Most entrepreneurs who have already made the jump, however, have found that the benefits outweigh the risks and that their companies are much stronger because of this decision.
Chukwuma Aguwa is a Lawyer