Even small businesses have a global reach these days, thanks to the Internet. Thus every entrepreneur and business owner needs to see their market in that context, understanding the global forces that will impact them sooner or later. This impact can be positive, as a huge untapped opportunity, or negative, as a global competitor invades your local space.
According to Small Business Trends, over half of the existing small businesses in the US already have international customers. I can assure you that percentages of foreign companies looking here is even higher. It’s more than competing with giants like Amazon and Alibaba; your business in downtown mid-America can easily be crushed by a similar company on the Internet in Europe.
In this fast-paced world economy, it’s time for every entrepreneur to pay attention every day to some key forces in the world, outside of their own business, which can present huge challenges, as well as huge opportunities. These include the following:
- New generation gaps and demographics emerge. The needs of Millennials (Gen Y) and the new, Gen Z, are changing needs as well as Luxury goods can easily flow into or out of emerging nations, changing cost factors as well as demand. Every business, small or large, needs to focus on agility and their ability to innovate.
- Technological innovations disrupt stable markets. I was just recently reading about the emergence of passenger drones for people commuting in China. This has the potential for disrupting every auto-related business anywhere in the world. This kind of disruption used to happen only a few times per century, but now it is commonplace
- Customer and employee power trumps stakeholders. In the new world economy, the power is shifting in many parts of the world from shareholders and owners to customers and employees. New business models may be required, new team benefits considered, and a new focus on customer relationships implemented. Use two-way communication.
- World economic and political connections evolve. No nation or local business is an island. Today’s hyper connected people through social media, and linked economies through global finance, cause even tiny country woes to ripple quickly through businesses around the world. These ripples can be opportunities or catastrophes for any business.
- Sustainability and environments become critical. Global warming and renewable resource considerations are major opportunities for a new business, or forces which can kill your existing business. Going green is not an automatic qualification for funding and growth, but a focus, or sharing of your profits, can easily be a competitive advantage.
- Cultural movements and a societal focus emerges. Eliminating poverty, improving education, and financial literacy, are issues that can no longer be separated from business. Culture changes can increase or decrease demand for existing products and services quickly. Interact on social media to sense trend impacts on your business early.
- Translation and localization become highly valuable. We now more often see “reverse innovation,” where customers in developing countries adopt new technologies first. Examples include smart card adoption where there were no credit cards, and cell phone coverage emerging before land lines. Translation costs go down every day.
To address any or all of these on a timely basis, you need a team that is flexible, innovative, and resilient. Such a team can best be built from the start – it’s hard to retrofit the required culture into a company staffed by people who are not looking to change, and remember how things have always been done. The team has to really believe in listening to the customer, and responding quickly.
Smart business leaders accept these challenges as the new facts of life, and are energized by the potential, rather than overwhelmed by the implications. They envision their business as part of the global stage, even if their focus is only on a niche business. How familiar are you with the global implications around your business, and how ready is your team to playon that stage?