‘Going global’ not for just large corporations anymore

Struggling in your local market, or your state market? Have you considered competing in the global marketplace?

Let's begin by framing the opportunity. There are 193 independent countries on this big blue marble in space, and the latest estimates peg the current world population at 6.6 billion people. That's 6.6 billion homosapiens potentially needing or wanting your goods and services. And, looking at the international trade ledger, on the export side of the ledger, the United States exported $123.62 billion worth of goods and services in March 2009, and we imported $151.20 billion. Clearly, either way, we are talking about a significant amount of global trade taking place – with or without your company.

Companies everywhere cannot ignore the reality that the world continues to get smaller every day, and that we truly live in a global economy. Certainly the rapid advancement of science and technology (i.e., BlackBerrys, NetMeetings, etc.) over the last two centuries has made the world smaller and the ability to trade and conduct business globally much easier.

Today, "going global" is not reserved for just large multi-national corporations any more. Rather, small, medium, and large "globally savvy" companies everywhere are promoting their goods and services throughout all four corners of the world. An example of this is the two-person Gayle Warwick Fine Linen company whose high-end, handmade bed and table linens are woven in Europe, embroidered in Vietnam, and sold in Britain and the United States.

Want to get your piece of the global pie, but scared about how to enter the global marketplace? There are numerous resources out there to help you enter the global arena. First, The Federation of International Trade Associations (www.fita.org) is an excellent resource for helping introduce companies to the world of international trade and the beginnings of exporting and importing.

Secondly, as you might expect, there are unique requirements in terms of licenses, certificates of origin, inspection reports, custom entries, packaging, and insurance when it comes to exporting or importing, and that is why it's a good idea to contract with a seasoned broker or agent to assist you through these unique requirements. Many brokers specialize in certain product segments, or specific regions of the world, so it is best to do a little research to find one that is best for you. The U.S. Export Assistance Center in Detroit also can be of assistance.

Wade Worldwide Wholesale in Birmingham, Mich. is also an example of a firm that helps U.S. companies prosper by finding the best manufacturer in China for the product they wish to import and market in the States. Over the years they have assisted with the importation of everything from scooters, specialty cabinets, to white-water rafts, all at approximately a 30 percent product cost savings. And once the manufacturing source has been identified, they will also assist with ensuring the proper documentation is in place to get the product successfully "landed" in the States.

Retaining the service of an international business consultant is also an excellent idea – especially if you are new to doing business globally. These individuals can help you better understand the very important aspects of such things as cultural differences, religions, political structures, legal systems, currency exchanges, taxes and tariffs, and the risks/opportunities with doing business in different regions of the world.

And lastly, depending upon your product offerings and your internet savviness, there are internet sites – like Alibaba.com – that are geared to marry buyers with sellers, and vice versa, all over the world.

Whether you're a one-person business working out of your house in northern Michigan, a mid-size company in New Zealand, or a large corporation in Germany, the opportunity to "go global" has never been more achievable then it is today. The international marketplace is not for every company, but it should at least be part of their strategic evaluation process – regardless of company size or geographic location.

Jon L. Brief is an Adjunct Professor of International Business at Ferris State University. BN