GOING INTERNATIONAL: A PRACTICAL, COMPREHENSIVE TEMPLATE FOR ESTABLISHING A FOOTPRINT IN FOREIGN MARKETS

Executives, entrepreneurs and managers who want to expand to international markets, but are hesitant, should be able to move forward and abroad after reading this article. It contains a detailed, dynamic blueprint that informs, educates and convinces leaders that they can expand to and succeed in international markets.

The success abroad of companies like Research In Motion, Magna International and McCain Foods is a convincing argument that Canadian companies can indeed go global. Widely recognized brands such as Roots and Lululemon have also established footprints in foreign markets. Yet, there are still too many Canadian companies content to stay at home, or at best, to do nothing further than eye expansion to the United States.

The implications are significant. In its study, Profile of Growth Firms, Industry Canada found that while exporters accounted for just 5.5 percent of the total firms surveyed, they created 47 percent of jobs. The report also found that, in addition to being extraordinary job creators, exporters were more likely to be hyper or strong growth firms.

It’s hardly a secret that going global tops the list of great business opportunities today. The most dramatic exhibition that I have witnessed of globalization’s sweeping effect on an economy is the city of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. A micro-city much smaller than Toronto and, by comparison, which just a couple of decades ago was a village, is today the world’s third-largest re-export center, after Singapore and Hong Kong.

The next several decades will see one billion people in Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRIC countries) become part of the middle class. These one billion consumers will have tremendous spending power and a deep hunger for western labels, tastes and concepts. Canada must capitalize on this opportunity. For businesses, it provides the solution to one of their most pressing needs. It delivers growth. For government, it addresses what lies at the heart of our economic recovery. It creates jobs.

However, given the small number of Canadian firms that compete and are known around the world, it’s reasonable to ask what is holding Canadian business back. As a long-time practitioner in international markets, and one who regularly counsels Canadian executives, I have found that there is a fear of failure that makes management think twice about expanding abroad. This is understandable. Having spent much of their lives in North America, many Canadian leaders can find that doing business in foreign countries is out of their comfort zone. Countries like India and China, for example, offer a unique set of challenges that they are not equipped to handle. The reality is that an enormous knowledge gap exists that paralyzes management, builds resistance to change and promotes inertia. Nevertheless, I sense that Canadian leaders believe that they are missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There exists a pent up demand in management suites to tap new markets. I am convinced that these same executives would seize the opportunity, if only they knew how.

This article will describe a practical, comprehensive framework that I believe will equip Canadian leaders with the know-how they need to establish a footprint in foreign markets. Equally crucial, it will equip leaders with the discipline that will enable them to produce a measured, yet expedient response to the international opportunity. I call the framework iSMARTE, or Informed and Structured Market Acquisition Route to Transcontinental Expansion. Five years in making, the framework was conceived after retracing my own experience in international markets, which has taken me to thirty-plus countries, across three continents.

The iSMARTE Framework for going international

Venturing abroad offers a compelling growth proposition, but only if it’s done right. And the key to getting it right is know-how, not knowledge. The distinction is appreciable. Knowledge is a higher order of awareness that tells you why. Know-how is a higher order of knowledge that tells you how…how the international opportunity applies to you, and how you can capitalize on it.

iSMARTE creates this know-how. It provides lessons that are simplified, customized and real world, so that they can be applied, and it ensures that the decision to expand internationally is an educated and informed one.

iSMARTE chart

What makes it different?

iSMARTE was conceived to enable experiential learning and produce real, tangible results. The structured framework wires businesses with four categories of cognizance that help them bridge the knowledge divide comprehensively, in four stages and ten systematic steps. If followed carefully, success in a foreign market can be achieved in 12-20 months.

How it works

Businesses are paired with a veteran international coach who administers the four-stage framework on company premises, working shoulder to shoulder with the CEO and his senior team. A full-time team member, the coach tackles international complexities by providing a turnkey, customized solution; he or she establishes the approach, crafts a vision, maps out strategy and navigates the execution speed bumps. As well, the coach provides a deep reservoir of investor and professional contacts.

The four stages of expansion are Conceptualize, Embrace, Construct, and Commercialize.

Stage One (three steps): Conceptualize international business

The first stage, arguably, is the most consequential. It shows how the international opportunity applies to you and helps conceptualize international business development by providing fundamental knowledge in an uncomplicated way. This is crucial, as it establishes a positive mindset. And mindset shapes approach, which in turn determines results. Simply stated, if transcontinental expansion is undertaken with a conservative predisposition, it will most likely yield a modest outcome. Conversely, if international plans are pursued with drive, it is likely to produce meaningful, extraordinary results, as we have seen with the likes of Research in Motion, McCain Foods and others.

Steps 1 to 3 help develop the right approach:

  1. Business size-up:Venturing abroad starts at home. Companies must first determine their core competence, as all successful international initiatives are built on exporting expertise, not products. The majority stumbles on this first step by developing international strategies that are divorced from their core business. Besides competence, all other aspects of business, such as goals, products, positioning and others need to be adapted to local market needs. Gillette’s core competence was delivering a quality shave, which it ably exported to markets like China, India and Mexico. But it also tailored its product line to income levels and shaving requirements of those markets by marketing double-edge and disposable razors at a lower price point.

  2. Define international business:Albert Einstein said that the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible. The same applies to international business. Below are ten facts that define international business in a comprehensible way.
    1. Globalization is reality. McKinsey and Company estimates that global trade could account for 80 percent of all trading activity in the next two decades, up from just 20 percent in the 1970’s. The late economist, Paul Erdman, paraphrased it best when he asserted that, “What we are experiencing today is a process of globalization that is as irreversible as it is inevitable. That we now live in an age when goods, capital, technology, people are free, and able to move from continent to continent on a scale and at a speed unimaginable just a couple of decades ago. It is those who take advantage of these realities who will be the prime producers of wealth in the 21st century.”
    2. Globalization is an entree to growing markets. Emerging markets are expanding at impressive levels, but many still don’t realize the magnitude and speed at which growth is occurring. Kishore Mahbubani, a prominent writer and thinker, helps provide perspective. “Today, Asia is experiencing what the West did in its Industrial Revolution. Back then, Western societies enjoyed an impressive improvement in living standards of 50 percent in a lifetime. Larry Summers has calculated that the comparable figure for Asia today is 10,000 percent. This one statistic illustrates how dramatic Asia’s growth is.”
    3. Globalization is access to eager consumers. Good times have created wealth in emerging economies, unlike in developed nations, where it has created debt. This has sparked an apparently insatiable desire for and consumption of foreign merchandise, from Pepsi cans to Porsche cars. China is set to become Porsche’s second-biggest car market in the world by 2012, surpassing Germany.
    4. Globalization makes strategic sense. The test of any good strategy is its ability to deliver growth. Globalization achieves this in magnitude and in speed, especially when combined with innovation. Apple has skillfully demonstrated how companies can pursue this balanced approach. It continues to crank up sales by introducing new products (iPhone), entering new segments (servers, digital music sales) and venturing into new markets (international sales comprise nearly 60 percent of revenues). It’s a question worth pondering: If it had been sold just in the United States, would the iPhone have enjoyed such success? Without new markets, the success of new product innovations is severely limited.
    5. Globalization makes financial sense. Substantial anecdotal evidence suggests this to be true. Gillette doubled razor shipments to 2 million units in only 4 years upon undertaking international expansion. Coca-Cola more than quadrupled servings to 6 million per day in just 6 years, and Research in Motion tripled revenues in three years, helped by its push into new countries. Of the 25 worlds’ largest companies listed by Forbes, all have crossed borders.
    6. Globalization makes operational sense. Trade and investment barriers are coming down, making globalization more achievable today than ever before. In 1950 there were 50 regional trade agreements. By 2005 there were 250. In its Top Trends To Watch report, McKinsey noted that, “Perhaps for the first time in history, geography is not the primary constraint on the limits of social and economic organization.”
    7. Globalization is getting local. To get global, one needs to get local. Winning international strategies transcend the barriers of distance, culture and language. In China, Kentucky Fried Chicken has transformed its menu to suit local tastes. People visit the American chain, famous for its fried chicken, to eat fish, porridge and egg tarts, three or four times a week.
    8. Globalization is big (visionary) thinking. CEO’s need to provide the energy and vision to get global. Globalization is an executive decision, not a managerial one. No one illustrated this better than JFK, who in 1961, famously declared, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” His vision inspired a generation and opened new avenues for an entire nation.
    9. Globalization is smart planning. Nothing significant was ever achieved without it. I have been fortunate to witness smart planning at its best. In 1997, Gillette unveiled its MACH3 razor to thirty-plus countries around the globe, simultaneously, in one year. Within 18 months, sales of the razor topped one billion dollars. I realized then that smart planning in international business doesn’t require genius. It requires discipline. The iSMARTE framework is modeled on this discipline.
    10. Globalization is effective implementation. Colin Powell has said that planning without execution is hallucination. Though this is a universally accepted fact, it is astonishing to see how so many companies fail to build a capacity to execute. The most common mistake companies make, time and again, is to under-estimate the importance of putting a local, on-the-ground team – the most crucial link that delivers the intended strategy – in place.

    I have found that the ten facts above, when customized to company needs, create a new level of reckoning of the international opportunity. However, I have also found that misunderstandings run very deep. One needs to take this newly found appreciation one notch higher. This is the raison d’être for step 3.

  3. De-mystify international business: Einstein believed that education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. If international education is to happen, executives will need to rid themselves of the mental barriers and stereotypes developed over time, and that just aren’t true. Let’s examine a few.
      
    1. Myth 1: International markets are risky. This is the biggest myth of all. If we can get to see international markets the way they actually are, and not the way we think they are, we will realize that new markets actually offer a favorable risk-reward ratio to new products, a popular management calling for delivering growth. It seems that misconceptions are coloring the decision-making process.Consider that it costs on average of (U.S.) $50 million to introduce a new product (or in MACH3’s case, one billion dollars). By comparison, new-market investments, which often are shared in a joint venture or partnership, can run substantially lower, at around 10 percent of that amount. Matter of fact, it is possible to achieve foreign expansion for under one million dollars. Recently, we helped a large Canadian food client establish a Middle East beachhead in Dubai for a total investment of (U.S.) $750,000. For this, our client, through its JV partner, got a dedicated sales-and-management team, technical service staff, office and warehouse space, and a nationwide distribution-and-logistics setup. Furthermore, its first two orders totaled more than (U.S.) $500,000, producing quick results on the investment outlay.Expanding by investing in new markets compared to introducing new products requires not just a considerably smaller investment but a considerably less financial leap of faith, as investments can be staggered and tied to revenues. This makes it easier to assess and react to unforeseen market developments. Companies can cut losses and save part of the investment if a new-market experiment fails. New products, however, require the entire commitment upfront, forcing businesses to take on significantly more risk, even before the first dollar in sales has been generated.New-market investments, unlike new products, can be self-financing as well. As already seen, it is not uncommon to recover part of an investment in the initial orders. And often, one can turn a bigger profit on overseas orders than on local ones. To its surprise, one client found that it could market its product for double the price than it could at home, in Canada. There are many reasons why this can happen. One reason is that emerging markets, though developing fast, can still have fewer quality players as compared to developed ones, thus making the former a suppliers’ market.Perhaps the most potent argument in favor of expanding to new markets is that they provide companies with a unique opportunity to build a customer base incrementally. New products, on the other hand, can cannibalize existing sales. As a result, new market return-on-investment projections are not burdened by the need to compensate for cannibalization with higher product margins and/or competitive user migration.In addition to providing an accretive impact on a business, new markets can also provide access to a sizable customer base, especially in Asia, with its large population. This is an important factor, as it helps build size and creates economies of scale – the Holy Grail of business that enables cost effectiveness and improves margins. This is a competitive edge China always seems to have.Finally, new-market investment models produce a lifelong revenue stream that compounds exponentially. In stark contrast, new products produce a cash-flow stream that is limited to the lifecycle of the product, usually five to seven years.I hasten to add that the underlying assumption in all the arguments above is that new-market expansion needs to be done right, as is, of course, the case with new products. All things being equal, a careful analysis reveals that new markets indeed can offer companies a better risk-reward ratio than new products. This does not mean companies should not focus on new product development, just to say they need to follow a more balanced approach.
    2. Myth 2: International expansion requires size. Though size helps, it certainly is not a pre-requisite for going overseas. In fact, in some cases it can hinder progress, as large companies can be less agile and more set in their ways, making it harder to react and adapt. McCain Foods, based in Florenceville, New Brunswick, expanded to the U.K., France, Australia, Netherlands and the U.S. in 1965, while its sales were still modest. Today it’s the number one French Fry manufacturer in the world, with sales of over (U.S.) $8 billion and operations in over 110 countries. The food giant ventured abroad early, while it was still young. Today, it processes over one million pounds of French Fries and other potato products per hour!
    3. Myth 3: You become international one market at a time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as innovative companies have several products in the pipeline in any given year, successful international businesses make it a point to expand to multiple geographies simultaneously. McDonalds ventured into 11 countries in five years in the 1970’s. Research in Motion introduced its Blackberry in more than 20 markets in just four years, Second Cup has built a foreign presence in 11 markets in five years, and Tim Hortons has just announced that it is considering expanding to 3-5 foreign markets.

Stage Two (two steps): Embrace new markets

By this time, companies usually have acquired a firm understanding of how the international opportunity applies to them. They are now ready to learn how that understanding applies to the international opportunity. Or put another way, how they can make a meaningful difference if they can successfully export their core competence to new international markets. This serves as a defining moment that helps them embrace new markets.

In this stage, market intelligence is provided in a manner that brings countries and consumers from afar, up-close, ably figured out, according to the domain of company. This creates an international awakening of sorts. In the 1930s, Robert Woodruff, Coca Cola’s Business Hall of Fame leader, and the architect of its geographic expansion, realized how his syrup could “provide that simple moment of pleasure” to billions in every corner of the globe. This realization sparked a vision, or big thinking, that was essential in building Coke as a global brand, and Woodruff into a Coke legend.

Steps 4 and 5 are designed to generate visionary thinking:

  1. Assess the international opportunity. This step involves ranking a hierarchy of needs against a set of market offerings to determine if there are any needs currently going un-served. Hence, a marketplace gap. However, this is not enough, as not every gap is an opportunity. The mark of a savvy international operator is to assess if the gap identified is synergistic with the firm’s core competence. If it is, then the gap represents a viable opportunity. This is a fine assessment many fail to make. It ensures that the company is not chasing after opportunities in which it doesn’t have expertise. Ratan Tata envisioned the opportunity for the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, once he discerned that there was an unmet need of millions of Indian motorcycle owners who yearned to own a car and wanted to take part in the boom of urban prosperity. This market gap fit nicely with the company’s core competence, as it already was the low-cost vehicle manufacturer in India. Launched in India, the Nano will be available in the U.K. in 2011 and in the U.S. in three years.
  2. Outline the international opportunity: Once an opportunity has been identified and further qualified, it is then articulated in a vision statement and communicated throughout the organization. It is worth noting that this is not just a feel-good statement, but a clear, purposeful expression of, ‘What could be.’ For the Nano, the vision was, “To be the world’s first peoples’ car.” Microsoft had a similar vision in the 1980s, “To have a computer in every home, running Microsoft software.” More than ambitious statements, these visions helped create organizational readiness, fuelled a relentless pursuit to seize the opportunity and achieve a lofty goal. As well, the visions provided management with a framework for strategic planning, decision-making and resource allocation.

Stage Three (two steps): Construct the plan

By now companies are several months into the process and have overcome their biggest barrier in going international, a paralyzing uneasiness. At this stage, management is in an eager, go-get-’em state of readiness. They have an informed opinion of how the international opportunity applies to them and how they relate to it. The task now becomes one of constructing a plan.

At this point, the international coach delivers analytical expertise that is visible and tangible, as well as insights and experiences that are deep-rooted and harder to pin down. The task at hand is to construct a 5-year International Strategic Business Plan (ISBP) that delivers on a key measure — achieve market penetration, not just market presence. The plan is built with a purpose — to dominate and make a meaningful contribution to corporate performance.

Steps 6 and 7 enable smart planning:

  1. Lay out strategic principles.Einstein said, “I want to know God’s thoughts; the rest are just details.” Well, within the confines of international business, the principles shared herewith can certainly be taken as gospel. These are the absolute must-haves of planning.
    1. Focus and prioritize: The world is a big place. Which markets does one enter first? This is an important question that needs to be addressed upfront. Many factors are taken into consideration here; industry trends, competitive landscape, management preferences and the likes. An equally important factor is economic growth. Emerging markets are in the midst of an economic expansion, the likes of which have never been seen before. But which emerging markets should one focus on first? Brazil? China?Adopting a bird’s eye view helps here. Scanning the six major regions of the globe — North and South America, Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia (which comprises the Middle East, China and Far East, Indian subcontinent and Russia) — Asia’s growth immediately stands out. As does the fact it has size (60 percent of the world’s population), wealth (50 million people entering middle class every day – yes every day!) and productivity (40 percent of the world economy, humming at 5.6 percent annually). Every business must have an Asia plan. The region is the growth engine of the world economy.
    2. Classify markets:Size, wealth and productivity are useful benchmarks that can be used to understand countries, as well to classify them into three groups; opportunistic, emerging and mature. As can be seen in the chart below, opportunistic countries are the ones on the left that currently are lacking wealth and productivity, but may have size. Pakistan or Bangladesh, for instance. At the opposite end of the spectrum, situated on the right, are mature markets that have wealth and/or size, but are wanting in productivity. United States and many European countries fall into this category. Emerging markets, sitting in the middle, which once were opportunistic, are the ones that usually have all three; size, wealth and productivity. India and China are the most notable examples.

    3. Define the strategic approach:Where a country sits on the classification grid dictates its strategic approach. For opportunistic markets, where consumer needs tend to be basic, the recommended strategy is one of germination. The objective is to seed market presence and reap the rewards as the country develops. KFC first moved into China in 1987, when it was still an opportunistic market. Since then, Yum (the parent company) has become the biggest restaurant chain there, with $2-plus billion in annual sales and over 2,500 KFC and Pizza Hut stores.


      In mature markets, the strategic exercise revolves around creating differentiation, as most customer needs are already being met, and not by one but by multiple competitors. These are what I like to refer as “fortress markets,” for their high entry barriers. To compete effectively, companies must make use of sophisticated segmentation analysis that identifies profitable market niches that are not being addressed. The objective is to break through competitive clutter and gain share of mind. IKEA has done this artfully by entering a crowded Canadian retail space and emphasizing its Swedish origin and design. Tim Hortons is refining its U.S. consumer proposition to achieve competitive separation as a café and bake shop.When it comes to emerging markets, business stratagems must focus on gaining share as fast as possible. This is because, comparatively, these markets are not as densely populated by competitors and are still accessible. Nigel Travis, Chief Executive of Dunkin’ Brands is expanding into Russia, deeming that, “The market has a relative lack of competition.” Invariably, consumer choices in developing economies remain limited as customer needs continue to evolve. For example, in China, Diet Coke is still not widely available.The company that is the first to garner a lion’s share of emerging markets will enjoy a huge competitive advantage for years to come. In the 1940’s, as Unilever entered India, it moved aggressively to establish a grass roots level reach. Today, it has 40 factories, 2,000 suppliers, a distribution network of 4,000 agents, covers 6.3 million retail outlets, reaches the entire urban population and about 250 million rural consumers. The company moved swiftly to establish an enviable leadership position, one which even a formidable competitor like Procter & Gamble is finding hard to contest.

    4. Anchor your strategy: So how does one attain deep market penetration? Anchor your strategy with three essential components; reach, affordability and conversion. As we have seen in Unilever’s case in India, establishing reach is crucially important. Birla Sun Life, Canada’s largest company in India, has 130,000 agents spread across the nation. Coca Cola in China is available to more than 80 percent of the population. Tim Hortons’ accessibility has helped it become an icon in Canada.The second important element of strategy is affordability. For consumer goods, this can be defined as providing customers a chance to enjoy your offering over and over, not just once. In emerging markets, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to divide price points by at least half or a third. This is because customer visits can often happen in groups, such as a family, where one person pays for four or five. As such, smaller portions that make group purchasing possible and keep the cash ring manageable are advisable. For instance, in India, Brazil and Mexico, Unilever serves products in affordable sachets, better suited for consumers in developing economies, as opposed to bulky goods designed for consumers in North America, Western Europe or Japan. The aspect of affordability is equally applicable to non-durables and even luxury items. Marketers of high-end merchandise can often discover a significant hidden demand, even with a slight downward maneuver in price. Perhaps Porsche has conducted this demand sensitivity as it heavily advertises its price reduction and Canadian currency credits.If you have reach and affordability, chances are you have trial, but not necessarily conversion. Conversion, which can be defined as capturing customers, only happens if your product is satisfying an unmet marketplace need. For instance, in developing markets, there continues to be a need to associate with the West. This is an area where foreign companies enjoy a natural, competitive advantage, especially Canadian firms, which have a strong image abroad compared to our U.S. and European counterparts. This is important as it translates directly into dollars and cents and makes it easier to charge a premium, while not compromising consumer conversion. In Russia, there is a long waiting list for higher-priced General Motors cars, while the locally produced Lada sits on dealers’ lots. In China, shoppers are shelling out money for higher-priced Levis jeans compared to less expensive local options.A text book example of a company that has achieved reach, affordability and conversion is Tim Hortons in Canada. Its restaurants are accessible from anywhere, its reasonable pricing enables repeat purchases and its promise of consistent service and quality, flawlessly served in every cup captures customers and builds loyalty.
    5. Differentiate markets vs. beachheads: The final principle to keep in mind when constructing an international plan is to distinguish between markets and beachheads. The former is a geographic location, while the latter is the geographic headquarters that serves as the company’s command post in that region. Many factors go into the selection of a beachhead, such as political stability, safety for staff, living standards, schooling for children, and the likes. For instance, before the opening up of China, Singapore and Hong Kong often served as beachheads for regional expansion to neighboring Pacific-Rim countries.
  2. Design the architecture. Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler, said Einstein. It seems that many international players today have not heeded this advice. It’s amazing how many plans I come across that are built on “me-too” strategies. ‘Me-too’ strategies in fact are not strategies at all. It’s a situation where the planning process has not only been overly simplified, but I reckon, completely ignored. I will refrain from providing specific examples, but there are many. The world is not short of McDonalds and Starbucks wannabes, who derive a fraction of their revenues from abroad. As explained earlier, these are the companies that have achieved market presence, not penetration.To be effective, international plans need not be complex or over-engineered, just well thought-out. With the principles above as guidelines, there are six areas of the plan that need careful consideration; business goals, product and/or segment focus, core activities and markets, competitive positioning, target market and core competence. The first five, as alluded to earlier in this article, must be tailored to local market requirements. Core competence on the other hand, needs to be exported, as it’s the one attribute that provides the company its unique competitive edge.

Stage Four (three steps): Commercialize the international opportunity

This is the final stage, and personally speaking, the most exciting, as the moment of reckoning has arrived. Having installed the right approach, specified a guiding vision and crafted a smart plan, businesses are now poised to reap the real, tangible benefits of their planning. Here, companies learn how they can commercialize the international opportunity. The aim is to nail down effective implementation, providing management with operative nuts-and-bolts know-how to avoid costly mistakes and cut time to market that otherwise would not be possible.

Steps 8 through 10 enable effective implementation:

  1. Get local: To execute on an international scale companies will need to invest in getting local. This means addressing three core organizational areas; people, process and structure. Of the three, “people” is the most important. After all, it’s the people who get things done and translate strategies into operational realities. I have always struggled to understand why so many companies have a problem with this. On countless occasions I have witnessed companies hesitate to make the required investment for an effective grounding of operations abroad. Hence, this step can become quite decisive in determining success. Without proper international bench strength, companies can never fulfill their vision of getting global. It is vital to develop and deploy top-level talent on international assignments. Today, this remains a key source of competitive advantage for companies such as Coca Cola, Nestle and Procter & GambHaving the right processes in place is also critical. Processes such as long-range plans, annual budgets and quarterly forecasts must be developed and aligned in order to achieve the desired strategy across multiple markets. The Market Entry Plan, covered below, is a key aspect in this process.Organizational structure is the third aspect. As businesses begin to add more and more markets to their operational mix, a new structure to coordinate and communicate becomes essential. There are many ways this can be done. A matrix structure, where product line and geographic responsibilities are shared across a cross-section of staff, is one method that has gained popularity.At its core, successful localization hinges on the three core factors mentioned above. It’s fair to say that companies often have struggled with all three.
  2. Lower the microscope: Here, the panoramic view, presented in the 5-year ISBP is translated to a close-up, in the form of a local Market Entry Plan (MEP). This is to make sure country-specific realities are taken into account, such as pricing strategies, product selection and design, financial projections and conformance with local legislation. This is an important process that requires not only skill and savvy, but also local market contacts. The role of the international coach comes in handy here, as he or she can supply quality contacts in business and government. The coach can also help provide references in other areas, for instance to fill staff needs, identify reliable market suppliers, and of course potential joint venture partners.
  3. Gain a local foothold: Armed with an all-encompassing MEP and an experienced, on-the-ground management team, the company is now ready to launch in the marketplace. If the MEP calls for a joint venture, this is the step where a suitable partner is selected and secured. Waiting until the final step to sign a partnership deal is strongly advisable as it ensures companies can choose partners that best suit their plan. This also creates a positive impression on the local partner, as it shows that the international company has come to the table with a thoroughly vetted blueprint for success. In return, this creates a positive willingness by the partner to do its share, such as providing investment, sharing resources, and streamlining government approvals and permits.

I hope that the lessons in this article will inspire policy makers who are looking for ways to create jobs, build exports and shape a strong economy, as well as business executives who are seeking alternative approaches to growth, especially in these difficult times.

International markets are closer than we think. Twelve hours away, Asia is rising. One country, China, has 1.4 billion people; a population five times the size of the United States and 44 times larger than Canada. This is an opportunity that cannot be missed, and should not be missed. The iSMARTE™ framework, steeped in a strong practical bias, offers leaders a steady hand and comprehensive response to the opportunities in international markets. In all my experience on any scale, what has become abundantly clear is that globalization, if done right, is a surefire strategy that delivers growth.