Other Voices: Going Global?

More companies than ever are looking beyond their shores for growth. Here are three strategies from a CEO to take your business global.

November 11, 2013 - MMH Editorial

Editor’s Note: The following column by Russell Fleischer, CEO of HighJump Software, is part of Modern’s Other Voices column. The series features ideas, opinions and insights from end users, analysts, systems integraters and OEMs. Click on the link to learn about submitting a column for consideration.

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In the race to go global, the roadmap for companies wanting to get there is unclear. Many are plagued by uncertainty over nuanced consumer demands, unclear government regulations and the general trepidation that comes with a completely new business environment. Although some degree of these challenges are nearly unavoidable whenever a company ventures into an expansion, I believe there is a greater chance of success if company leadership prioritizes three key areas: Product innovation, creating a cohesive and passionate company culture and strategically examining ways that new markets can strengthen the business back home. Let’s look at each of these in detail.

Product innovation: Oftentimes, companies try to take a product that does well in the U.S. and squeeze it into a foreign market. This can be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Market challenges, cultural or language differences and consumer trends all come into play when a company enters a new geography. Taking the time to ensure that what you are offering makes sense for the customer will pay off in the long run. Your company will have a greater chance of success if your product is flexible enough to adapt to the unique needs of your new consumers and of course, delivering your solutions in the local language will go a long way towards establishing your commitment to these markets as if you were a local provider. In many instances this is a de-facto price of an admission conversation.

A cohesive and passionate culture: Team cohesiveness and passion are understood in any culture. Lots of companies talk about culture, but few take the time to ensure their teams are working together and creating a can-do atmosphere to overcome the inevitable challenges and headaches that go hand-in-hand with entering a new market. For example, establishing a very flat organization without layer after layer of bureaucracy empowers employees to make decisions that best help customers and take ownership of those relationships. And of course, everyone has a life outside of work: Respecting that and fostering a healthy work-life balance keeps employees energized, engaged and passionate. That can translate into happier customers and drive bottom-line success.

Global expansion also creates excitement at your domestic headquarters and may open up career opportunities for others. The ability to give more opportunities to your domestic team members is a wonderful byproduct of growth.

Strengthen the business at home: Growing internationally should not come at the price of your domestic business or the weakening of the values and strategies that allowed you to grow in the first place. Instead, look for opportunities abroad that translate into success across your enterprise. When considering new markets, also consider the potential for acquisitions with which to fill your company’s white space, bring in more talent that can help you thrive, or help you offer a new solution to your domestic market. Seek out opportunities for employees to share their experiences and success stories across the business. In short, going global is never a one-way street: The technology and approaches found in other markets may translate to your business at home.

Entering foreign markets isn’t easy; there’s no 10-step plan for success. But as more companies make the leap to having an on-the-ground presence in markets abroad, your product innovation, team passion and a strategic approach will help you thrive.



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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. Contact Bob Trebilcock.

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