If your business is considering going global, it is easy to have “stars in your eyes” about what that expansion can mean: lucrative profits, a more prominent image, the prestige of being “multinational.” I am here to tell you, those positive outcomes won’t happen without thorough, deliberate planning.
Don’t go global if…
IF Your Management Team Hasn’t Traveled
If your management team has not traveled to the locations where you have market opportunities, your decision to “go global” is premature. It is critical that executive and management teams are briefed not only on the market potential but also on the reality of life in the country where you plan to expand. They need to see it, touch it, feel it to internalize a deeper level of knowledge. They need to explore a dimension beyond “number crunching” and the analysis that brought this country onto the radar screen to begin with. They need to hear what the people in the country think about your product. You need to know if you have allies, foes, or neutral parties.
Don’t go global if…
If People Aren’t Connected
One of the more daunting challenges of a global expansion is the creation of an “us” out of an “us” and a “them.” When you speak different languages, have different customs, and span multiple time zones, what can bring you together? When I recommended “decorating with geographical themes,” I wasn’t intending to imply that a map on the wall would make everyone globally savvy immediately. However, I travel frequently and continue to be mystified that global organizations don’t even have different clocks on the wall to represent what time it is in their various offices.
Recognize the value of people meeting one another face to face. As Alex “Sandy” Pentland stated in this post, “35% of the variation in a team’s performance can be accounted for simply by the number of face-to-face exchanges among team members.” I also recommend taking a note from Dr. Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto: find a way to create an “activation phenomenon” in your new global organization. (The “activation phenomenon” means a team feels more interdependent and connected, and therefore more jointly responsible for outcomes.) Dr. Gawande includes in his checklist for successful surgery making sure every member of the surgical team introduces themselves in order to know each other by name. He notes, “When introductions were made before a surgery, the average number of complications dipped by 35 percent.”
Don’t go global if…
If You Aren’t Willing to Invest
Once the decision has been made, your organization must strategize. John M Hamalian, speaking of effective strategies, said, “A good strategy will both zoom out to the big picture and zoom in to the specifics needed to achieve it. A strategy skewed too far to either side will be unbalanced.” Appoint a team to be responsible for balancing the ambitious goals of your global expansion with the fact that someone (or many “someones”) in the process has to be fastidious about the details.
It is tempting to say “we need to commit our funding to expenses like buildings, land, and equipment.” Don’t leave training out of your budget. An investment in training now can reap big benefits later. Consider the power of a relatively small investment in components like materials, trainer fees, and training facilities to exponentially increase profits through improved communication leading to optimal productivity and efficiency.
IF you go global without taking these steps, you may find yourself and your organization on a “return trip.” Many organizations have abandoned the effort after spending valuable organizational resources. (This article profiles some notable failures of American businesses overseas.)
Don’t be one of those failures. Get past “Don’t go global if” and work toward “Go global when.”
I make it possible for organizations to prepare for successful global expansion. An important part of this program is the creation of a “Global Expansion Toolkit” that your organization can use during the planning, implementation, and evaluation phases of your expansion. Visit my website at www.lamsonconsulting.com for details.