Online auction site eBay is one of the world’s best-known firms, boasting 167 million active buyers and more than $2 billion in annual revenue. Yet when it first tried to launch in China, it failed within just two years. The difficulty of competing with local rivals forced eBay to shut down its main website in the country. Later, it formed a successful joint venture with a local partner to help operate an online auction business in the country. The lesson learned was this: Just because you have a strong U.S. brand doesn’t automatically translate to success in another country.
Ask any NAWBO member who has taken their business global and they’ll tell you it definitely presents a unique set of challenges. From language and cultural barriers to local rivals to legal issues like new laws and additional taxes, the list of things to know and consider is long. But the rewards are just as ample for those who do their research and do it right: You’re opening your business up to a whole new “world” of potential business opportunity. In addition to increased sales, there’s also the potential for improved margins. You might even receive payments sooner, since a lot of overseas customers pay upfront.
Since so many of our NAWBO members have either just begun the process of moving to the global stage or are considering it, we have dedicated this issue of NAWBO ONE to “Going Global.” In it, one member offers expert advice for small- to medium-sized companies looking to export or expand from just one country to many. This includes questions to ask before considering exporting, plus several important first steps to take. This issue’s book review also helps to answer the question, “How do I go international with my business?”
We all know that women business owners are the fastest growing sector in today’s economy so why shouldn’t that growth take us beyond our nation’s borders into countries overseas, when and where it makes the most sense? After all, there’s tremendous growth potential outside the U.S. According to recent statistics, the size of the global economy is growing rapidly, as measured by the combined GDP of all countries. In 1970, the world produced about $19 trillion worth of goods and services. By 2015, world production reached $75 trillion. That means global GDP has increased almost four times in four decades.
Additionally, a recent McKinsey Global Institute study indicates that by 2025, almost half of the world’s biggest companies will be based in emerging markets, profoundly altering global competitive dynamics. Emerging markets are changing where and how the world does business. For the last three decades, they have been a source of low-cost but increasingly skilled labor. Their fast-growing cities are filled with millions of new and increasingly prosperous consumers, who provide a new growth market for companies at a time when much of the developed world faces slower growth as a result of aging.
If you have successfully taken your woman-owned business global and have valuable insights to share, I’d love to hear from you! Post your best advice in the comments section below and we’ll be sure to share it through NAWBO National’s social media channels.
—Teresa Meares, 2016-2017 National Board Chair