Has there ever been a more exciting time to be in business? The vast array of tools available make it easier than ever, and the ability to do business outside the confines of your local geographic area make it really unique and special. You can do things today that business people could only dream of even a generation ago.
Consider my old client Bill. Back in the day when I was still practicing law full time (before I came to my senses!), Bill was one of my favorite clients. A funny, smart, rambunctious man, Bill owned an antiques store and had run into some financial troubles.
The economy had turned, a deal went sour, and all of a sudden a few lawsuits landed on his doorstep. He didn’t know what to do. Eventually, via a bankruptcy, we re-structured his business. As we parted ways, Bill was slowly getting back on his feet, both professionally and financially. I hoped he was going to be okay.
About three years later, I ran into him at the international terminal at the airport in San Francisco. He looked and was dressed great, and held a business class ticket to Europe.
“Bill!” I exclaimed. “What’s going on?”
He explained that after restructuring his business, he decided to take his business global. Bill started selling his stuff on eBay. He started advertising using Google Adwords. He met new international partners at trade shows. And he was making the big bucks.
It’s a great strategy and one almost any small business can use. The Internet has made it so that going global is easier than ever, and the ubiquity and comfort of international flights make meeting face-to-face possible and affordable.
Here are a few tips to guide you:
1. Consider doing business in countries where English is the main language. Yes, most international business is done in English, but it is still easier, and you will encounter fewer cultural differences, in countries like Great Britain, New Zealand and Ireland.
2. Generate leads and contacts: A good place to start is online, either through advertising or social media. And if you are going to be relying on your own website to generate leads, then you also need to figure out where people in the new country go to search for information since many countries have local search solutions, other than Google, Bing, or whatever.
3. Translate your site: Consider translating your site into a language other than English if necessary.
4. Get some help: The U.S. Government wants to help you. Resources to check out include:
- Your local U.S. Trade office. Find yours here, or call 1-800-USA TRAD(E), or go to www.Trade.gov
- www.Export.gov *
- The Export-Import Bank of the U.S.
5. Make it legal. All countries have laws that regulate imports and exports. Make sure you know what they are and follow the regulations carefully. Check out the Trade Compliance Center: http://tcc.export.gov/.
Once you have a viable plan, your website’s ready, you know the laws, and have made contact, get out there and go global!