As a small country (population wise), Canada needs to drive exports to support its economic engine.
While not every business is looking at the global market as part of its business strategy, I believe that every entrepreneur and leader should be aware of what's going on outside of their community, their city, and their country.I have the good fortune of being a dual Canadian and European citizen which has allowed me extended travel throughout most of western Europe. The vision for SME Strategy is to be a global strategy consulting firm, but I don't know if I would have thought that way had I not been able to travel and live abroad. Due to this mindset, we have become strategy partners with organizations throughout North America and Europe, and have helped teams around the globe with our remote offerings.
There is a great article from Ruby on rails creator, David Heinemeier Hansson, on his involvement with Basecamp and about how they never wanted to become the NEXT big thing. They didn't want to become a "unicorn" with billions of users and thousands of employees. Instead, they wanted to build a good product that solved a problem in the marketplace and to have a personal life outside of that. He didn't set up an office in San Francisco because that was the thing to do. Rather, his strategy was set with his vision in mind.
The reason I bring up Basecamp is because they have evolved into a great company, with great products, that started in a small country (Denmark) where exporting was needed to evolve and grow.Now headquartered in Chicago, Basecamp has remote workers from all over the word, and they truly have built a world-class product and company.
In Vancouver and in Canada, we have many great companies developing great products and services, but I wonder if they will ever get to the same level as Basecamp without a greater view of the world outside of Vancouver. I know that Vancouver is a multicultural city, but immersing yourself in different cultures for both personal and for business gives you a different perspective on what's out there, what people want, and ultimately how you can incorporate their needs and consumer preferences it into your business strategy.
An example of this is group of business associates returned to Vancouver from Los Angeles after mobile gaming conference. When we spoke, they were excited about all the things that are going on and how much possibility US expansion can offer a Canadian company. We're not just talking venture capital, but also greater market size, risk tolerance, desire for growth, and urgency in moving things forward. Of course there are challenges that come with a different environments, such as higher competition and a more litigious society, but you have to weigh the good against the bad.
What if US expansion doesn't interest your Canadian organization?
Europe is a fantastic option for international growth and expansion.
There are 52 different countries in Europe with a multitude of different cultures and business needs, so this makes it a great place to both learn and grow. If you travel to Europe to learn about opportunities, make sure you network with local entrepreneurs and business leaders, visit the local chamber of commerce, or reach out to people on LinkedIn. People want to connect with people, and if you're doing it with genuine intentions, most people will take the time to communicate with others.
What about other markets?
With growth potential in BRIC Countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), more established companies are looking to these emerging markets to hit a home run. Again, with benefits comes risk, and I would caution organizations to hold off on going to an emerging market until they have a really good partner and a really good reason to do so.
If you're at a stage where you're ready to expand, make sure to research the best ways to launch into the global market.
You might not want your company to be a trillion dollar company and you might not want to be on the cover of Forbes, but you might want to take a page from the team over at Basecamp and put a dent in the universe in your own way. In true strategy form, if you want to impact the universe, you need to get out there and know the terrain you're playing in.
One of my favourite quotes is: "If all you have is a hammer, everything you see is a nail." If you've only stayed in one place or have only spent time in one or two cities, then how can you know that you're in the best environment for your business success?
Are you starting the strategic planning process?
Working with a facilitator can help you maximize the benefits of your strategy session: