The ability to expand into multiple markets on an international stage can help SMEs grow exponentially, although there are numerous challenges which make global expansion a very daunting prospect. Today’s small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy and play a vital role in the country’s economic development. Although dealing with the practical realities of globalisation is key to running a successful business, many companies are not taking full advantage of the technology which can connect their business operations to markets far beyond the UK and Europe.
Having the right tools to support collaboration
Collaboration has been an incredibly popular buzzword over the last couple of years. But although this topic has received that much attention, companies are still struggling to create a collaborative working environment. We’re currently facing a clash of two developments: On the one hand, more and more companies see spatial proximity as a way to strengthen collaboration, for example by sharing office space with other companies or creating open concept offices. On the other hand, today’s workforce is increasingly mobile and connected and, thanks to technology, has the ability to work from anywhere.
For SMEs to successfully develop and maintain relationships on a global scale, a lot depends on tools that enable communication. Traditional video conferencing solutions and their often complex and complicated handling are a somewhat outdated concept in today’s connected society. There are a lot of more modern solutions out there – Skype comes to mind. Even more user-friendly are tools such as join.me which even allows you to have video conferences on the go from a laptop or mobile phone, without the need to download anything, making them ideal for today’s mobile workforce.
The most important step for any SME is to not simply choose tools that replace a certain processes, but to ask how a certain tool could integrate and improve processes and thus improve the business. Could this customer service tool also improve my customer insights? Could this collaboration platform cut out some steps of the communication chain and bring my network to the next level? The benefit of having such a wide range of different solutions today is the fact that any business can put together a custom set of apps and service that really fit their needs.
Managing a geographically dispersed team
With such a wide range of collaboration technologies available, SMEs need to make a beeline towards the technologies that work best for them and their global partners. Mobile devices and apps offer great flexibility as they allows dispersed teams to instantaneously and effectively collaborate with one another wherever they happen to be. This can only be a positive step for any small or medium sized business looking to enhance growth, improve the efficiency of their communications and reduce the escalating costs of holding and attending meetings.
Forming an international network
To gain a global competitive edge, SME’s are increasingly seeking out international business partners. However it’s important for companies to choose partners which complement their offering – for example it could be beneficial for a manufacturer to partner up with a software developer or a service provider so that clients are offered a customised package. Building a network takes time and effort, though, you need to do it one partner at a time to make sure it’s right.
It’s important to carry out due diligence before committing to a partnership, the key to success is research, so check out potential partners and get as much information about them as possible. For instance we’ve seen some cases of companies withdrawing from international business because it became apparent that what they were saving in terms of money, they were losing in terms of quality. But even with all the risks involved, going international has never been as easy as today, thanks to technology.
As SMEs build up a global network, companies need solutions that are going to make their partners more agile and better connected. This improves communications, productivity and ultimately makes for better business decisions.
Stephen Duignan, VP International Marketing at LogMeIn