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Start-up Locally, Expand Globally: Why Your Startup Should Always be an International Business.

Posted in Business Transactions, Corporate Governance, international business, International Employment, International Investments, international law, international trade

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I represent several start-up businesses here in Miami.

From the get-go these companies have wisely targeted international markets.

At least for me, going international is a no-brainer.

After all, there’s no better way for a start-up to dramatically accelerate growth.

For example, one company I work with has already branched out to Brazil and China.

The company barely existed one year ago.

I mention all this because there’s an excellent post over at the Harvard Business Review blog, by Michael Fertik, serial entrepreneur and founder of Reputation.com.

In his article, Go International, Young Startup, Michael lays out 4 strategies of how start-ups can implement an international game plan.

He then follows it up with succinct examples of how others  have successfully implemented these strategies:

Get international. When you focus only on customers in your backyard, you’re effectively slamming the door in the faces of international consumers who might be very interested in what you’re offering. There are few legitimate arguments for keeping your customer base to one-third its potential size. How can you really say no to expanding by 67 percent? After SurveyMonkey really committed to its international strategy, Goldberg says organic growth accelerated dramatically.

Speak their language. Sales and profits generally increase when companies pursue smart localization. Why? It’s the same reason the late Tim Russert secured an incredibly hard-to-get interview with Pope John Paul II. He followed advice from his beloved father, known as Big Russ, to literally speak the pope’s language. Russert’s earnest letter, written in the pope’s native Polish, made the critical difference. The point? Using the right language conveys respect for others — you’re meeting them on their terms. It’s also proof of a thoughtful commitment to convenience, making it easy for consumers to engage with you.

Don’t be unreasonably constrained by cost concerns. Goldberg says the costs to launch a new language for SurveyMonkey are very reasonable, with the tab for annual maintenance even less. They work with a small company that handles the change management associated with multiple languages, and just one full-time employee is responsible for the workflow of these language sites and associated teams. The lesson is clear: Don’t just assume international growth will be too expensive. Really do the research and think creatively to see if and how it can be done.

Consider an acquisition. Inorganic growth still very much “counts” as growth and purchasing another company is often an excellent part of a global expansion strategy. Even a small acquisition can open the door to rich opportunities in a new market, expansion of native capabilities, use of patented technologies, etc. Over time, these can contribute mightily to the bottom line.

They are all excellent points. I would add one additional strategy:

Globalize the Boardroom: Any start-up that fills board positions with several foreign-born members will add a key multicultural dimension that a purely domestic board cannot.

I previously covered this in the post, Globalizing the Boardroom. Why U.S. Corporations Should Consider Hiring Foreign-Based Directors. In the post, I wrote that foreign-based directors can utilize their international experience and knowledge to enhance the firm’s plans for overseas expansion. The same goes for start-ups.

For any emerging start-up, there’s no better way to accelerate growth and opportunities than to implement an international strategy.

As Michael Fertik puts it, every start-up should “get aggressive, get purposeful and get global.”