At FedEx, we like to say that any small business can be a global business. But what will decide the winners and losers of tomorrow is not size, but the agility, the adaptability and the mindset to think differently. That starts with thinking big.
The benefits of trading internationally can be enormous and not just for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but for the whole economy. Last year FedEx conducted research among British companies and found that exporting SMEs are helping to tackle the overall trade deficit. This highlights the importance of a global approach for sustained success.
The success of small businesses with global mindsets shouldn’t be surprising – they can take advantage of global supply chains, expand their customer base almost overnight, and trade in markets on the other side of the world.
Increasing global connectivity has also given small businesses an opportunity to compete with the big multi-nationals, across the world – through social media, trading platforms, e-commerce and other technology that was inconceivable a decade ago.
But what does it really take for SME entrepreneurs to step up and out onto the world stage in this digital age?
End domestic thinking – think global
All too frequently, we think in terms of local geography or economy – in fact research has shown that only a third of SMEs in Britain consider reaching new markets as critical to their success. Today’s entrepreneurs need to think differently and embrace a new mindset, one that is global.
Successful entrepreneurs will already have broken away from traditional ways of thinking – designing innovative products, creating new services, and reimagining the way we lead our lives – breaking out of traditional mindsets is inherently entrepreneurial, and embracing a new global mindset should come naturally.
Build the best team you can
We also need to do more to encourage a different kind of supply chain - one that recognizes that while nations might have borders, small businesses don’t. For instance, it’s a well-known fact that smartphones aren’t the product of any one country. They are the result of finely tuned global supply chains – involving an entire ecosystem of suppliers and reliable manufacturing partners in as many as 30 different countries.
Name almost any cross-border e-commerce challenge – from closing more website business, to sales service, to returns management – and there is today a virtual team or appropriate expert to fit. Outsourcing might not be a new trend, but global connectivity may mean that some small entrepreneurs are moving away from a “do-it-yourself” mentality to access the right service, resources and expertise – not just from around the corner, but all over the world.
Tailor your approach to each new market
Entering a new market should be approached carefully, and each one needs to be thoroughly researched – there is no such thing as a universal strategy to enter multiple overseas markets. Ensure that you are fully up to date on each nation’s regulations, customs controls and code of etiquette. Even in a globalised world, tailoring your approach to individual markets is crucial.
Ensure infrastructure is in place
International expansion is an exciting prospect for any business, but it is important to ensure your business’ infrastructure is well-prepared. If you are exporting products, ensure your logistics provider or distribution network is briefed for these international orders – it is also important to understand how long it will take for products to reach each international destination, and ensure this information is passed onto the customers there. Your logistics provider will also be able to offer valuable insight into new markets, such as customs and regulations.
See for yourself
New means of communication may have made international opportunities considerably easier to access, but there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. If you have the chance, travel to the markets you have expanded to and meet your suppliers, distributors, franchisees or clients – this will strengthen business relationships and give you a better understanding of the market.
By Martin Davidian, managing director of sales in UK & Ireland at FedEx Express