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Repositioning is a term used by the cruise industry when it moves a ship from one region to another, usually in conjunction with the changing seasons. Usually, it is a longer voyage with fewer stops. As all of us navigate the uncharted waters of COVID, we can use this time to reposition ourselves and our businesses.
Here are five ideas for you to consider on how to reposition your business during the pandemic:
Even the best prognosticators admit the outlook is murky. Will the market rebound in the 4th quarter or maybe not fully recover until 2022? The best strategy in the face of uncertainty is to trim your sails and be nimble.
That means that cash is king. It may be tempting to take on debt with close to zero interest rates but consider your ability to service the debt if the economy remains flat or goes through a series of short boom/bust cycles. Large fixed investments such as real estate should be closely reviewed in light of this possibility.
In terms of expenses, this certainly is a time to reduce expenses. Do you really need as much (or any) office space? However, you should be careful not to reduce funding to activities that generate revenue. The question is by reducing an expense, will it reduce income? For example, reducing sales staff or customer service may save money in the short run, but will reduce income in the long run.
Finally, if an opportunity to grow markets and sales presents itself, this is a good time to make a strategic move (particularly if you have been prudent with your cash and expenses).
In every company, the most important asset is your team. Layoffs may be necessary but consider how you do it since you want to keep the remaining workforce from becoming demoralized. You also may want to hire back trained workers as the economy recovers. For example, you might want to have employee initiatives to support those who were laid off. For the remaining staff, invest in their futures through training and by listening to their concerns. Loyalty downward will be rewarded with loyalty upward when you need it most – when the economy starts to turn around.
Now is the time to build networks and to strengthen existing friendships and relationships. You can call up existing clients and just listen to what they say. It shouldn’t be a sales call, but it might lead to future sales. One effective message that I have seen is to offer to be a bridge between those looking for jobs and your networks. That applies not only to those in your industry but also to friends, alumni, church members, etc. Finally, there are many volunteer opportunities in your community. Find one that is right for you.
Now is the time to find new ways of doing business, to put in place the new process or to install new technology. You don’t have to make wholesale changes to your operation. Instead try out small experiments to see what works. We don’t know what the future will look like on the other end of this tunnel, but how we do business will be different. At the International Business Accelerator, we added to our existing acceleration model by adding an online platform. Now, we are doing business with companies around the globe that would not have been possible pre-COVID.
This pandemic has forced businesses and individuals to interact virtually in ways that were possible, but not widely used before. Everyone is currently much more comfortable in the online world and that opens new businesses and markets around the world. Reaching out to new customers and cultures is exciting but it requires a disciplined approach. The unexpected payoff is that in the process of expanding overseas, fresh thinking flows into your business. It’s not surprising that studies have found that companies that do cross-border business grow faster, are more innovative and ultimately more profitable.
In early March, Chris and Michael joined Nigerian startup specialist and maven Glory from Kleos for a discussion of what it takes to enter the US market.
When we announced the IBA@LAX Coastal Chamber at the beginning of May, we weren’t sure how many companies would be interested in the West LA location. We’ve done a lot of outreach and have received an amazing response. We met our minimum goal of applications this week and so we received the go-ahead to add four additional slots. To allow additional companies to apply, we are extending the application cut-off date to June 30. For additional information about the IBA@LAX program and the link to the application, go the IBA@LAX page (http://www.iba.io/iba-at-lax)
The due date for applications for the IBA@LAX Cohort is rapidly approaching. This exciting program gives companies the tools to expand into international markets and one-on-one business coaching to translate those tools into sales and profits. For more at about the IBA@LAX go to http://bit.ly/IBAioLAX
To answer questions, we have scheduled two info sessions:
June 19 :12:30 to 1:00 pm. Online webinar. Register at firstname.lastname@example.org
June 19: 6:00 to 7:00 pm. LAX Coastal Chamber (9100 S Sepulveda Blvd #210, Los Angeles, CA 90045). Register at email@example.com As an added bonus, we will be available for consultations on international business issues following the presentation.
Civic 180 is proud to announce its partnership with the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce to expand the International Business Accelerator (IBA) program to the Silicon Beach and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) area. This dynamic region in west LA is home t0 hundreds of small manufacturers and more than 500 tech startups. The IBA uses proven business acceleration techniques with those kinds of existing small businesses and start-up companies to successfully launch into global markets.
The IBA was started in 2014 as a joint venture between K5Launch and Civic 180 with support from the Santa Ana district office of the SBA. The IBA, as a cohort-based training and mentoring program, was launched with Long Beach City College (IBA@LBCC) in 2016.
IBA@LAX is accepting applications from now until June 23 for the first cohort-based training and management program at the LAX Coastal Chamber. The first IBA@LAX cohort will run from August 12 to September 13.
Interested in how the IBA works? The Long Beach City College news letter has put together a great overview:
Our next cohort starts on April 26.
The Community Vitalization is excited about the second cohort for the International Business Accelerator (IBA). Civic 180 teamed up with K5 Partners in 2014 to launch an accelerator to help startup and early stage companies successfully enter global markets. Starting last September, the IBA has had a brick and mortar location in Long Beach, CA at Long Beach Community College.
Participants in the program receive:
- six workshops on the nuts and bolts of international business covering everything from cross-cultural issues to market development to financing,
- one-on-one business coaching that help companies implement business practices based on what they learned in the workshops, and
- company specific assistance drawing on experts from the Los Angeles Regional Small Business Development network (SBDC).
Applications are open until March 17. Here is detailed information about the program. Spread the word to companies you may think would qualify.
There has always been great interest by philanthropists in donating to community parks, particularly as memorials. Cities, on the other hand, have often been resistant to such proposals, leaving many donors upset and critical of local officials. Officials respond that they have to comply with a series of regulations (and staff is often reluctant to speed up/change the process for one applicant). Cities rightly cite concerns that in receiving the one-time donation, that the city will incur on-going maintenance costs.
I recently saw firsthand in Sarasota, FL a public-private partnership to rebuild a community park that is truly a win-win solution. I attended on a blustery February day the dedication of the Dr. Eloise Werlin park. I came because Eloise was my sister but left impressed by the cooperative work between my brother-in-law, Ernest (Doc) Werlin, the City of Sarasota and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. It’s a model that other communities can and should follow.
Eloise and Ernest lived most of their professional lives in the New York City area but retired to Sarasota. She developed a chemo-resistant strain of breast cancer (ironic because as a psychologist, she worked with breast cancer patients). While undergoing treatment, she would walk along the causeway from Sarasota to St. Armand’s Key.
After her passing in 2011, Doc wanted to find a suitable memorial and focused on a neglected pocket park at the beginning of the bridge. He initially approached City staff about the project and was met with usual objections – planning process and future maintenance costs. Doc is a very persistent man and he eventually was introduced to Scott Anderson of The Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Together, they worked with City Manager Tom Barwin and City of Sarasota Public Works General Manager Todd Kucharski. Both Barwin and Kucharski were very supportive about the park project and helped Doc explain his ideas to the City Commissioners. Once Doc explained his commitment to not only initially enhance the park but establish an endowment, he received overwhelming support from Sarasota’s commissioners.
Doc had a solid concept for the park but was willing to accept input from City staff on design and materials (such as for the kid’s playground equipment). Mayor Willie Shaw led the effort to waive a number of requirements. Public Works Department Director — found money to repair a metal gazebo. Doc and friends contributed to a fund, initially funded at $50,000, for ongoing maintenance. The Gulf Coast Foundation will administer that endowment for the next 55 years.
This is really an example of individuals, cities and nonprofits working together for the betterment of the community. The result is a bright airy space where children play and adults contemplate the sail boats passing by. I can see my sister sitting on a bench, reading a book and watching the setting sun. Eloise would have been pleased.
One of the common misperceptions is that a business needs to be test launched in the US market before it can go global. Many companies start transacting internationally only when they receive inquiries via their websites and most advisors consider international expansion a second-level priority. The problem is that critical parts of the business (website, marketing, finance, IP protection and even mundane issues like product size and packaging) are set up for the US market and have to be redone to work internationally.
My experience in working with start-up and early stage companies over the past decade is that it never too early to start building an international business. In today’s global economy, as soon as you put up a website, you are involved with global commerce, even if you don’t import or export anything at that time.
The key to all of this is planning for international business from day one of operations. It means identifying a team of international trade experts (finance, legal, logistics, marketing etc.) that you can call on as needed (and not spend weeks or months trying to find the right answers) .Here are seven tips that I would recommend to every entrepreneur with a potential for international business:
- You need to define yourself as a global company. Take a look at your organization chart – it shouldn’t list international operations as a side box. Your company should have a global purpose with strategies for selling into specific markets.
- Your market development efforts should be global. That starts off with expert market research – the US government website www.export.gov is a treasure trove of reliable information. Your website should welcome international inquiries. If you are targeting specific areas, think about having selected webpage professionally translated into other languages. (Google translations are still embarrassingly bad).
- Your manufacturing and packaging processes should be acceptable outside the US. The simplest issue is using metric measurements, instead of English. Do you need international standards – for example ISO or CE? You might want to design packaging or labels to allow for a sticker to comply with local regulations.
- You should identify one or more logistics companies that can help you with the paperwork and shipping. All of them can advise you on potential issues (paperwork, certificates of origin, tariff levels etc. A good logistics partner can prevent disasters.
- You should have reliable and knowledgeable international finance and insurance partners. There are many government or private sector options so the customer really is in the driver’s seat. Just remember that it is frequently easier to get financing for an international shipment than a domestic order. Properly sequenced, there can be less risk in shipping to a remote third world country than shipping to the next town. Good banking, finance and insurance partners will be able to guide you along the right path, even startups.
- You similarly need a good legal team to support you. Notice I said having a team – not just one attorney. A good contract attorney will help prevent or easily settle disputes. On the other hand, if you have intellectual property issues (patents, trademarks or industrial secrets), you will need to find an IP lawyer specialized in international practice and ideally with experience in the markets in which you want to operate.
- You need to build international into your company processes. That means everything from manufacturing to invoicing. Management should reinforce the message to all employees that the company perspective is global. Your employees need to be trained to think globally and to be sensitive to how business is done is other cultures. The best way to achieve that is to build a staff with multi-cultural backgrounds.
CiViC 180, in partnership with K5 Launch (a business accelerator founded by members of the Tech Coast Angels), has started the International Business Accelerator (IBA) which works with startup and early stage companies to guide them through the growth process. The IBA has two physical locations: Long Beach and LAX. Applications are currently being accepted for the LAX location until June 27.
Orange County is expected to export nearly $25 billion in 2014, led by $7 billion from the tech sector alone. So how does a new company enter the complicated global market while at the same time facing all of the other challenges of starting a business? Enovant Foundation, the Community Vitalization Council and the Small Business Administration (SBA) have teamed up in support the launch of the International Business Accelerator (IBA). The IBA is the first program of its kind program in the US to combine the techniques of early-stage business acceleration with the tools to develop global markets. The three organizations signed a Strategic Alliance Memorandum on August 29 in Irvine to launch the initiative.
In its current pilot phase, IBA is working with two start ups. The IBA plans to enter full operations in early 2015 and looks to replicate its program at other locations across the US. International business is frequently thought of as a second step in the launch process, but research has shown that a successful launch requires that international business be thoroughly integrated into business processes from the beginning.
The IBA is a joint venture of Enovant (Foundation for Everyday Innovation) and the Community Vitalization Council (CiViC 180), and supported by K5Launch, a Southern California accelerator. The IBA will work with companies to identify appropriate international markets, find distributors or customers and to access financing to support the launch and international shipments.
SBA is an independent agency of the federal government whose mission is to help Americans start, build, and grow businesses. Among the agency’s programs are several aimed at providing assistance to exporting small businesses. “The IBA is an exciting concept and one that fits well with the export-oriented economy in Southern California,” remarked J. Adalberto Quijada, Director of SBA’s Santa Ana District Office. “We view it as essential that every manufacturing and service company think in global terms.”
Amir Banifatemi, managing partner at K5 Ventures business accelerator (www.k5launch.com) and past President of the Tech Coast Angels (Orange County), notes that “We know that the process of business acceleration works. Working intensively over a period of months to prepare companies for launch has a high success rate and we have worked with more than 120 such start ups for which we have accelerated about 45 and we can note the difference in their performance and market readiness. What we have found is that companies that have the ability to go international need to think global from the initial phases of their product and service design, even if they first implement in the US.”
Christopher Lynch, President of CiViC 180 (www.civic180.org) and adjunct professor of International Business at Golden Gate University, adds “The entrepreneur needs to understand how international trade works and we teach them that. In today’s global marketplace, you can’t have a main company and an international appendage. We work with the start ups to integrate the global business approach into the DNA of the company.”
For further information on the IBA and its services, please visit www.iba.io