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Tag Archives: Best Practices
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.
According to a McKinsey & Company study, more than half the world’s inhabitants – 3.6 billion people – live in cities. The proportion is the highest in mankind’s history, and it is growing fast. The ways in which cities develop and cope with such rapid urbanization are of huge importance to its citizens. Cities are the main sources of economic growth and productivity. With that said, to make the most of the available resources, both human and financial, effective city leaders need to rigorously assess and manage expenses, explore private partnerships, introduce investment accountability, and embrace technology.
The formidable task of managing growing cities in ways that support and drive economic growth will help the public, social, and private sectors in making informed decisions about city and community development strategies, and to help build the skills to implement those strategies. This need for community revitalization is a primary reason we formed CiViC 180 as a non-profit – to help communities and cities grow their local business community, embrace technology and viral marketing, connect globally, build entrepreneurship and sustainable funding to drive business acquisition and retention.
This growth in city inhabitants begs the question – “How do you make a city great?”
Through analysis, case studies, and interviews, we all seek to learn what cities and their leaders do to make their cities great, their communities better places in which to live, work and establish a business. Our findings, as I am sure you have found, make it clear there is no single method. Research suggests that successful cities find a balance between three primary areas. Cities need to achieve smart growth, which means securing the best growth opportunities to ensure prosperity. They need to do more with less. And, they need to win support for change by delivering results swiftly. It is a simple process, but sometimes difficult to execute:
1. Make Planning an Inclusive Process – city and community audit
2. Improve existing infrastructure
3. Innovation – develop opportunities for all
4. Achieve smart growth – nurture the best opportunities
5. Do more with less – make the most of available resources and community partners
6. Embrace technology and viral marketing
7. Win support for change – craft a personal vision for the city
City and community leaders need to understand their tenure will be limited. When long-term plans are articulated – and gain popular support because of short-term success – leaders can start a virtuous cycle that sustains and encourages a great city environment. As I mentioned earlier, for a leader to make important strides in improving their cities must do three things really well:
1. They must achieve smart growth. Smart growth identifies and nurtures the very best opportunities for growth in the community, develops a plan to cope with its demands, integrate innovative thinking, and ensures all citizens enjoy a prosperous city. An important element is to think about regional growth because as a metropolis expands, you will need the cooperation of surrounding municipalities and regional service providers. Integrating a business environment into economic decision making is vital to smart growth: cities must invest in developing infrastructure to grow and attract emerging growth companies in building high-density communities.
2. You need to do more with less. To be a great city, you need to secure all revenues due, explore investment partnerships, embrace technology, make organizational changes that eliminate overlapping roles, and manage expenses. Successful leaders realize their weaknesses and bring talented consultants who can achieve immediate results. Smart leaders bring in consultants to help them understand, if they design and executed well, they can deliver on private-public partnerships that will be an essential element of smart growth, delivering lower-cost, and higher-quality economic infrastructure.
3. Winning support for change is essential. Every city needs to change, it scares the team and the board, which can slow the momentum and even attract opposition. It creates fear, uncertainty and doubt. Successful cities will build a high-performing team of civil servants and talented consultants, to create a working environment where everyone is accountable for their actions, and take every opportunity to forge a consensus with the local population and business community. Building consensus with the local population and the business community through transparency and two-way communications is key to defining the city’s vision. The first step is to recruit and retain top talent, emphasize collaboration, and train civil servants in the advantages of using technology.
Every city has different priorities. Those priorities will be shaped by their own passions and vision, and by their city’s needs. City leaders will find themselves at different starting points in their quest to make their cities great, so each will have a different mandate. Many will find a strong consulting group to complement their team to get results quickly in kick-starting economic growth and delivering results. CiViC 180 has stepped in and assisted communities in making a difference. Everything CiViC 180 does is driven by the deepest and most profound understanding of how businesses’ need to interact with the community.
A city willing to take these steps will achieve smart growth, do more with less, and win support for change – the three hallmarks of any journey on the road to greatness. It is a journey to our future that needs to begin today.
We’re excited to launch CiViC 180. Traditional practice in economic development has been turned on its head with the Great Recession. In California, funding streams from Redevelopment Agencies were eliminated. Elsewhere, state and local revenues were battered by sinking property values. The use of incentives has also fallen under intense scrutiny as the long run ROI of incentives is being questioned.
At CiViC 180, we’re going back to basics — real economic vitality comes from a healthy local business community. We believe that communities need to focus on retaining existing businesses, support the growth of small and emerging growth companies and help business be successful in a global economy. Based on our experience, we offer a series of programs to address those needs. We support those with viral marketing and fundraising strategies.
We will use this blog to highlight best practices. We look forward to having a dialogue with you, so please add your comments!
Bob Maples and Chris Lynch