‘I always encourage my clients to think global.’

I always encourage my clients to ‘think global’.

Obviously.

Bland blog statement?

Possibly.

Here’s why it isn’t:

In my experience, most businesses do not truly ‘think’ global.  They might ‘describe’ global – which always helps with those TAMs and SOMs – but they do not have an international attitude.

Thinking global is not the same as planning for global, nor engaging globally.  It is, however, related.

The best businesses are those that can disrupt markets globally; those which establish fresh paradigms.  Some entrepreneurs start businesses because they feel passionate about something; many entrepreneurs start businesses because they want to make a lot of money.

Making a lot of money.  There’s two ways to do that: pay yourself a lot (so you need a vehicle that generates a lot of cash), or sell a vision to someone else that they are willing to pay handsomely for.  The best vision to sell is one of paradigm shifts, long term customer lock in, and huge competitive moats.  And global markets.

To sell that story effectively, the entrepreneur needs to be convincing – the statement ‘and international markets’ is not convincing to the cynic.  The cynic wants to see one of two things: ideally evidence, or at least understanding.

Hey Mr Trade Buyer, I may not have a global customer set – but I’ve been focussed on this, this, and this, and I know that we can replicate / adapt what we do with very little effort to spank the competition here, here and here, because this is the market dynamic and these are the competition’s short comings.  And it was similar in this market we entered last year.

This is all achieved through an attitude towards one’s business.  Okay, we are going UK and Ireland today – but I am thinking about how we can apply what we do outside of those markets.  I work with a company involved in legal information – the company started in the British Isles, which anyone familiar with law will tell you is based on common law.  But we know there are many legal systems in the world – there’s civil law, there’s religious law, there’s customary law, and of course there are plenty of hybrids.  In order for the company to address a global set, the approach to information could not be based on structuring data to be perfect to the common law system, and nor (importantly) could it assume publicly available legal documentation to support its service.

The CEO there thinks global: he builds a business knowing that things are different in different parts of the world – and makes his technology, and more importantly his information structures, flexible enough to cope.  In his market I have spoken to a number of competitors who started on the wrong foot, and cannot recover without rework that would most likely end their company profitability for several years. And what’s worse, it’d be hard!

So my advice:

  • Don’t be channelled by what you see in front of you
  • Seek to understand the rest of the world’s approaches and problems early
  • Seek to remain flexible with every decision you take