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SCORE ExpertAnswers 

September 2011
Get Started in the Global Marketplace
Bill Cairns
President, BCM Group
Expert Advice for Small Business Startups

This month, international business consultant Bill Cairns, President of BCM Group, shares expert advice on finding your niche in the global marketplace.  

 Expert Tips: Finding a Niche in the Global Marketplace


Q: We hear so much about the global nature of today's economy. Do small businesses have a place in it?

  

A: Absolutely. They are more flexible to adapt to market demands, and to different regional and cultural needs. Also, close relationships are as important - and sometimes more so - in certain countries as in the US. A small business is better able to cultivate that kind of relationship than a large company.  


Q: What are three common misperceptions about doing business overseas?

  

Myth: The decision-making process is the same as in the US. 

Fact: A lot of Americans assume everyone else in the world looks at things the same way. That's not true.

 

Myth: Technology will win the day over everything else.

Fact: Again, it's about relationships. People want to do business with companies they can trust and are familiar with.

 

Myth: You can do business with international partners without personal contact. 

Fact: You can't do everything by email or telephone. Some kind of regular face-to-face contact is a must.  


Q: Many small businesses benefit from having a local partner in the countries or regions where they want to do business. What are some reliable resources for finding such expertise?

  

A: Having a local partner is often very important when doing business overseas.  One way to find potential partners is to get references from customers (or potential customers) you may have in that area. Referrals can also be obtained from suppliers of a related product or service in the region.  You may also be able to get good recommendations from local trade organizations.  


Q: Do Americans have an inherent advantage when starting or running a small business overseas?

  

A: It's hard to generalize, but my clients in Asia and Europe think highly of the US entrepreneurial spirit. They admire our positive attitude and can-do spirit. These are qualities they don't always see from businesses in their country or from elsewhere in the world.  


Q: In general, will small businesses find it easier to do business overseas in the coming years?

  

A: Yes. As the market grows, we will see the emergence and growth of a middle class in more and more countries. That will create more opportunities that small businesses can fill.  


Q: Why is it important to consult with a SCORE small business mentor when considering a step into the international market?

  

A: Being successful internationally is directly tied to working closely with the most experienced resources you can find. Because SCORE counselors have access to a broad base of contacts and expertise, you get the resources of the entire organization. A relationship with SCORE is critical.  


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