What will the future of small-business entrepreneurship look like? Let’s take a look at a crystal factory’s success story, in a rural area of the Czech Republic.
The artisans of Rückl Crystal make fine leaded crystal using age-old techniques. Although they compete with mass-produced glassware from China and Poland, Rückl survives and thrives. How, you ask? It's simple: it sells 80% of its products outside of the Czech Republic, to outlets all over the world.
Many small businesses lag behind go-ahead companies like Rückl Crystal in getting their share of international sales opportunities because of a lack of knowledge about – and even a fear of approaching - other cultures and economies. So here are eight practical tips and tools to help you make sure you succeed in the global shipping marketplace:
- Gather intelligence - do your homework. Get facts on the people, history, government, economy, geography, communications and transportation systems from chambers of commerce, trade organisations, embassies, journals, reports, websites - such as the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the World Bank, and even the CIA's World Factbook, too, which is available online, completely free of charge*.
- Learn the lingo – even if you’re not fluent, using another language can help break down barriers and create a personal business relationship. For marketing-related insights from bloggers around the world — with topics ranging from social media to Web analytics — head to GlobalThoughts. And to further expand your global business lexicon, check out sites like globalEDGE, B2B International and the Global Small Business Blog.
- Watch, and always be aware of, exchange rates - fluctuations can eat up your profit margins – or even worse. For instance, check ExchangeRate for data feeds to keep you up to date, and use sites like Yahoo! Finance, x-rates and OANDA for currency conversion tools.
- Be a smart shipper – make sure you use the most cost-effective shipping routes to best meet your and your customers’ needs. Visit the FedEx International Resource Centre for detailed profiles on more than 200 countries with details of specific requirements that may affect your shipment.
- Become a social media butterfly - nothing has done more to open up global business relationships than the explosion of social media. Have a look at, e.g., MyVenturePad to learn about the most effective social media strategies for small businesses and to get tips to initiate international business-to-business collaboration.
- Track the trends - it's important to keep a close eye on the world economy, from budget deficits here to construction booms there. Trends can change fast, so keep on top of developments via blogs like Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis, Global Economy Matters and Global View Today.
- Know the rules - the laws and regulations governing business abroad are often very different from those in your country as well as being puzzling, to say the least. However, don't try to do it all yourself: make sure you use a lawyer experienced in international business law, preferably choosing one you’ve been recommended by another SME.
- See the world – make sure you yourself travel. There’s no substitute at all for hearing, seeing, experiencing and finding out in person how life and the business world works in another country and culture. So once you've decided to establish your business abroad, prepare to enter the frequent flyer zone!
* Please note, though, that we, FedEx, are not responsible for the content of any external website or webpage mentioned or linked in this eNews edition. The use or following of any external links contained in this edition is at your own risk and FedEx is not liable for any damages or losses incurred or suffered by you arising out of or in connection with your use or following of these links.