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States, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. They have implemented imaginative strategies to launch and expand their firms, including going global. According to the 2005 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report on Women and Entrepreneurship, published by Babson College, London Business School, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, there are over 30 million women entrepreneurs in the world. These businesswomen are seeking new opportunities, taking risks, sharpening their business skills and crossing borders faster than you can say “worldwide.”
My observations, garnered from running a successful global business and serving as a consultant to countless global women business owners, indicate that women entrepreneurs – and, in fact, all -entrepreneurs must condition themselves to be Risk-oriented, Innovative and Proactive (RIP) in order to achieve any reasonable level of success in the global e-marketplace. They must also have several elements of education and experience in play before venturing out beyond their current borders, including mental and operational readiness, successful business ownership, the ability to utilize modern technology, and a business with global potential. How, then, can local entrepreneurs grow global and find success in the worldwide e-marketplace? Some of the world’s best and brightest businesswomen share their top 10 tips with us here: 1. Develop trust on a global scale. Nobody knows this better than Dr. Marsha Firestone, founder and president of Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), an 11-year-old nonprofit membership organization of women presidents running multimillion-dollar businesses. “Recently, we celebrated five very successful years in Canada, and in those five years, we have grown four chapters and are looking forward to launching a fifth,” she proudly states. “Our rapidly effective expansion could never have happened without a basis of leadership, trust and commitment.” How did she do it? She connected with an influential leader in the Canadian women’s business community. After numerous conversations, they established trust because both parties conveyed a clear dedication to their causes. “To further validate the WPO as an effective organization, we put our Canadian potential members in touch with our USA members. Our WPO-USA members were knowledgeable ambassadors for the organization and supported our claims with concrete examples from their experience. That’s how we launched our first chapter in Canada,” she adds. Lesson Learned? Show your future partners that you support them. Also show them that you have support. Have clients, members and
partners who can validate your claims and speak on your behalf. Referrals from happy clients are the best entry into the global market. 2. Think globally. Before going global, you must develop the right mindset. That’s exactly what Giselle Rufer, founder and president of Delance SA, did before she launched her Swiss watch company. She thought globally. Famous for successfully launching the children’s watch called Flik Flak during her tenure with The Swatch Group, Rufer says it is time for women everywhere to join forces and make the world a better place. Once Rufer refined her design concept and target market, she identified the pros and cons of embarking on a global venture. The pros: She is an engineer and artist and speaks three languages fluently. The cons: She was a woman over 50 with limited capital in a country where men between the ages of 35 and 40 are responsible for most new business start-ups. She overcame her weaknesses and leveraged her strengths by turning her cons into pros. “First, I had to bridge an internal psychological barrier by refraining from feeling that my femininity and my age were both impediments to making progress professionally. They are and continue to be advantages for me,” Rufer says. “I began to flaunt my maturity, experience, and well-established name in the watch industry in new and powerful ways. To combat the financing problem, I became more creative, used synergy and captured opportunity whenever it came knocking at my door.” Lessons Learned? “Use a universal language that everyone can understand. Create your own international network. Concentrate on common values for your product and your company. Find a unique selling proposition. And choose a brand you can live with forever,” advises Rufer. 3. Build a global brand that works locally. Great brands transcend geography. But to build a great global brand, you must understand the vital role that your company’s electronic face plays in your success, says Marilynn Mobley, senior vice president of Edelman, the worldrenowned PR firm.
“People all over the globe turn first to the Internet to learn more about brands and companies. Your website should be as helpful, insightful and appealing to someone in Asia as it is to someone in Arizona. Scrub your promotional material and web copy to ensure that it isn’t too locally focused.” Mobley adds that a strong brand must be backed by more than an international website. She warns that a business can’t talk its way out of something that it behaved its way into. In other words, a strong, positive brand must be supported by matching positive behavior. And don’t assume that throwing more money into PR and advertising will resolve challenging issues with your brand, she says. Fix the fundamental problems first. Then use PR and advertising to bring awareness to how – and why – things are better. “Your best brand ambassadors are right under your nose. Enlist your employees and other stakeholders, such as business partners and alliance relationships to take your messages global,” Mobley advises. “Don’t release information or key messages externally until you are certain your own employees can tell your story as well as your PR firm. Increasingly, blogs are playing an important role in improving brand visibility and loyalty. “Encourage employees to share their enthusiasm about your brand in their own words through blogs and message boards. Research shows that ‘people like me’ are seen as more credible than even the CEO of a company.” Lesson Learned? “Taking a brand global isn’t a matter of doing what you have always done on a larger scale. Public relations strategies that work in the United States won’t always work in other countries. Seek the advice and counsel of PR experts who have experience and relationships with the media in the marketplaces you are entering. “Missteps early on can be hard to overcome. You aren’t just entering a new marketplace; you are integrating into a new community. And each community has its own personality and loyalties.” Debra Guzov of Guzov Ofsink LLC, a New York-based international law firm, takes the personality of each new marketplace into account when building the company’s global brand.
“To establish our brand overseas, we selectively market by going to conferences domestically and overseas where we will be able to target particular audiences,” she says. Guzov also knows that another important step in building a global brand that works on a local level is using experts who can connect different cultures. “To develop the Chinese market, we use native Chinese-speaking attorneys who are licensed in the U.S. and China,” she explains. “This facilitates a natural bridge between our clients in China and the U.S. corporate and securities market.” Lesson Learned? Effective branding is a big part of building a positive reputation, making it the most important asset a company can have, especially abroad. The brand must be at the center of everything you do to promote your products around the world. 4. Educate your customers. Go beyond simply selling to your overseas customers and build real relationships with them. For example, Debra Guzov of Guzov Ofsink LLC, a New York-based international law firm, says, “We are truly counselors to our clients because not only do we offer legal services, but also we believe an integral part of our business is education. “From explaining the intricacies of our securities regulations to our clients, to explaining the procedures and requirements for litigating in the courts of the United States, no question should go unanswered.” Lesson Learned? “Make it your duty to educate your clients by allowing them to enter any market with ease,” Guzov says. 5. Outsource to grow your business. To be competitive in the global marketplace, companies must continually reduce costs. “Any non-core function such as IT, accounting or marketing can be outsourced, enabling a business owner to focus on core capabilities and competencies,” says Reena Batra, founder and CEO of Texasbased SPI, a global provider of IT solutions. Batra suggests visiting the outsource facility at least annually, chatting weekly, reporting at least monthly, and evaluating everything
quarterly. This allows you to tweak the process to meet the needs of both parties. Lesson Learned? Take time to develop a relationship with the outsource company. Patience is crucial. Communication is essential. And, rhythm, once established, allows you to reap many benefits. 6. Connect and collaborate with local markets on foreign ground. Your local chamber of commerce, the Internet and local companies in the United States that have an offshore capability are willing and able to help,” adds Batra. Technology has made it much easier to do things better, faster or cheaper and connect everyone on the planet. There is a huge pool of talent that can now participate in the world economy. But with every connection you make, you must first develop cultural sense and sensibility in order to take you closer to your global goal. Lesson Learned? Adapt to local culture and tastes. Set up partnerships abroad to grow faster. Allow locals to do the work. 7. Find cross-border customers. Before you can do business overseas, you must first locate customers. Start with your own government’s information resources. In the U.S., try the Department of Commerce (www.ita.doc.gov/index.html), The U.S. Commercial Service (www.buyusa.gov) or the U.S. Small Business Administration (www.sbaonline.sba.gov/OIT), advises Tess Morrison, former director of the International Trade Center at University of Illinois, UrbanaChampaign. “In other parts of the world, do a search using your country’s top search engine. We use Google.” Lesson Learned? Don’t go it alone when going global. Tap into the resources available to you and the world can become your oyster. 8. Hire the best from around the world. UPS is one of the biggest movers, shakers and globalizers in the world. The company has achieved great global success through the astute management of the organization’s most valuable asset: its employees.
“UPS has had a history of a very strong promote-from-within culture – it’s really part of our company’s DNA,” says Karen Cole, spokesperson for UPS International. “Most of our company leaders have had operations experience and held a variety of management positions. The same holds true for women in senior positions at UPS – they have been promoted within.” Lesson Learned? Build your culture from within and cultivate your talent pool from the ground up. Encourage senior management to play active roles in the local community so they can connect with promising people who might be a fit for potential entry-level positions. 9. Establish payment methods. Many young global companies fear dealing with how to get paid or how to finance their transactions, says Morrison. Overcome these concerns by agreeing on terms of payment in advance. If you choose to forego the consultation of your banker or trade specialist, PayPal (www.paypal.com) is a safe bet for advance payment on transactions less than U.S. $10,000. Beyond PayPal, there are other viable online collection methods that may work better for you. VeriSign’s CyberCash (www.cybercash.com) or Worldpay (www.worldpay.com) both accept multi-currency payments and offer specialized options. For larger transactions, Ec-Finance.com or AVG Letter of Credit Management, LLC (www.avgtsg.com) are two reputable companies offering Letters of Credit that guarantee payment. Lesson Learned? Never, ever sell on open account to a brand new customer. No ifs, ands, or buts. Just don’t. There are plenty of ways to safely collect payment in advance. 10. Navigate through – not around – bureaucracy and red tape. Complying with global regulations can be a daunting process. For example, take the rising economic giant of China, which has a culture, history, and political system significantly different from countries in the West. “China’s Foreign Exchange Regulation facilities are so strictly controlled by the government that currency and business exchanges can have
numerous complications,” says Linda Bi, President of Illinois-based Chicago Expert Importers, a leader in the axle component industry. “We once exported a sample of sporting good knives to China. We supplied all the proper documents,” explains Bi, adding that they used a reputable air carrier. “Surprisingly, our suppliers in China had difficulty retrieving the shipment. Apparently, they were supposed to inform the Import Licensing Department, Foreign Exchange Regulator, Overseas Banks, and other facilities ahead of time. Our suppliers had to pay an extra licensing and processing fee, and this consumed a lot of additional time.” Lesson Learned? “Be careful, be aware, and be sure to communicate extensively with business associates overseas before taking any action,” says Bi. Global entrepreneurship, particularly by women, is diverse and pervasive worldwide. To succeed worldwide, companies must use best practices such as the above, present something new, be the best at something, and offer it everywhere with the heart and will to succeed. You can make the world your business. Laurel Delaney runs GlobeTrade.com, a Chicago-based firm that specializes in international entrepreneurship. She is also the creator of The Global Small Business Blog (http://borderbuster.blogspot.com) and Women Entrepreneurs GROW Global (http://www.womenentrepreneursGROWglobal.org). Laurel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-381-1700. Copyright ©2009 Laurel J. Delaney. All rights reserved.
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