“It is a time of global transformation and change made possible by logistics innovation. A time when the smallest companies can compete with the largest ones—sometimes with the advantage of being more nimble and quicker to seize opportunities.” – Dr. Lucius Riccio, Columbia Business School
Over the years I’ve written many blog posts about the merits of global expansion. And there are many publications that also extol the benefits of having a plan that extends beyond your borders; a quick read is a Thomson Reuters-published article on the topic, specifically citing the need to keep up with your competition as well as accessing a broader swath of buyers. But before getting into action perhaps it’s time to at least start thinking global.
I’ll share with you a personal experience for our company as we grow through the various phases of maturity. We’re a professional services business at the core so considerations about traditional import/export of goods aren’t part of our story; rather we think about people, supporting global clients, and diversifying revenue streams.
When we first launched we determined that US clients were our primary targets. For that reason, our sales efforts and client support resources were centralized in friendly time zones. But as the volume of transactions increased it became clear that supporting the world from just a few close time zones wouldn’t be sufficient. And in the “people” business that means hiring resources around the globe.
Fortunately, we’ve been in the international space long enough to recognize that the old concept of going and setting up legal entities across the globe was NOT a logical next step. As such we began hiring using a light footprint model that ensured we could hire in a market quickly at a fraction of the cost… it also kept our focus on running the business rather than spending countless man-hours managing the compliance efforts associated with legal entities.
The next step was to seriously think about what our future global footprint should look like. Where can we start creating operational centers? What markets are key targets for potential new clients? We were purposeful about ensuring these thoughts and conversations don’t happen in a bubble, we engaged all sides of the business in these plans: marketing, sales, operations, legal and finance. Just because sales thinks a particular country in Asia could be a hot sales market doesn’t mean that the same country is the best place to source the type of client support candidates we need to meet our objective of being an incredible client service experience. Along those same lines, you don’t want to overly burden your finance and legal teams by entering an arduous corporate compliance environment if the country next door is more business-friendly.
It’s that thinking before acting that saved us from waking up one day with an unwieldy global footprint. By starting with a modest investment and then growing based on objective and subjective metrics we’ve set ourselves up for the next phase of growth. And in the immediate term, we’ve gained major advantages over the competition by limiting distractions, keeping our costs in check, and reducing dependence on singular markets.
But we shouldn’t be too quick to take all of the credit for making the right moves at the right time to the right places. While our core business is helping companies succeed globally we also surround ourselves with an extended support team. Trade and investment agencies, outside legal counsel, our Advisory Board, and on-the-ground relationships across countries and regions have played a major part in our education and decision-making. With their help, we have been fortunate to set a path that will serve us well today and for the foreseeable future.
So if you’re starting to consider how to improve your competitive angle, diversify revenue streams, support clients across time zones and cultures, and generally take your business to the next level, then it’s time to start thinking globally. If we can be of any assistance as one of those trusted sources of knowledge through your exploration please contact us.