Everyone talks about “going global” which is easier said than done. But it’s also done a lot by independent consultants. Here are a dozen overlapping issues—many of which you may already do quite well—that will get you on a jet rather than the slow boat to China.
1. Ensure your intellectual property is phrased in a culturally acceptable manner.
Remove jargon and references to national sporting events. Don’t use phrases that are confusing or worse in other languages. “Napkin,” for example, means significantly different things in American English and England English.
2. Internationalize your materials.
When I consulted with State Street Bank and visited global sites, I found local management seething because the promotional materials suggested that the reader call a local Boston phone number for more information! Change photos, reference points, and contact options as appropriate.
3. Don’t be modest in your planning.
Think big. Don’t act like a stranger in a strange land. Focus on the great value you bring to clients. Don’t be afraid to state when you’ll be present (see point #6) and set up advance meetings and events. The farther you travel, the less timid you can be.
4. Begin with low hanging fruit.
Americans would be best off seeking other English-speaking countries, or those with which they share language capabilities. Spanish is spoken in large parts of the world. Look for these easier entry points. Also (see point #10) seek extensions of businesses with which you currently consult.
5. Investigate logical multilingual opportunities.
You may be able to expand on point #4 if you can create an alliance with a partner who can help with local translation and acculturation of materials. You may be able to teach multilingual local professionals your approaches, which they can then use in the vernacular.
The Internet is fine, but it’s a black and white film compared to the high definition color of being present. If you’re serious about a given locale, due it the justice of making a visit. This is very important for future references in conversations and remote dealings. When I visited Kuala Lumpur I found that the heat and humidity were going to affect the way I dressed, traveled, and even worked with clients. That was important to know in advance.
7. Begin with the most logical products and services.
You need an effective ski trail not an avalanche. What are the greatest local needs that you can address, create, or anticipate? Not all domestic products and services are readily exportable.
8. Seek local alliances.
As in point #5, you may be able to accelerate your penetration of new markets with synergistic partnerships. You needn’t make these legal, though in some countries local representation greatly enhances your ability to operate. Start slowly. This is a great reason to engage in early visits (point #6).
9. Maximize technology.
Everyone has a cell phone these days, and a computer, and a host of other gizmos. Technology is becoming smaller, cheaper, and ubiquitous. Use it to offset time zone changes, hold virtual meetings, provide support, and be accessible despite the actual distances.
10. Use domestic leads and connections.
Find your current client contacts who can help introduce you to counterparts overseas. I always encourage visiting managers to spend time with me on client sites because I can suggest to them aspects of current projects which may make sense in their own operations.
11. Consider local production sources.
Utilize local printing, video, audio, travel, and whatever else makes sense to create a local presence (and, ethically, to reinvest in your market). I’ve always found it appalling to ship in vast materials from outside a country that could just as easily have been created locally.
12. Conform with local regulation and financial rationale.
Make sure you understand taxes, exchange rates, export and import limits, and so forth. Have your bank’s “SWIFT” numbers for wire transfers memorized! I once saw a company principal forced to take a $50,000 payment in the form of local baskets from a Philippine island, since he could not legally export the currency at the time. Unfortunately, his plan to resell the baskets in the U.S. failed, since he lived in Arizona, adjacent to a huge Native American tribe whose baskets were well known and quite popular, and undersold his!
© Alan Weiss 2010. All rights reserved.