This is the era of tiny companies that operate globally. These micro versions of multinationals outsource almost everything to specialists all over the world and sell to people all over the world through the Internet.
In olden days, “multinational” meant big. And it took a long time to get there. You started locally, then you expanded within a local region, then you went national and finally you went multinational. Now we see companies going global from day one, enabled by the Internet.
We will chronicle the real stories behind this transformation in business. We are interviewing the founders and managers of these micro-multinationals to find out what it is really like to manage a business at the leading edge of this trend.
First, we want to separate this from two trends that look similar at first sight:
1. Virtual companies: This tends to mean that there is no physical office that everybody commutes to. The problem is that the term “virtual company” sounds unreal, or insubstantial. These companies are very real, with real products/services that their customers rely upon, real revenues and profits and the people who work there rely on getting paid by these companies to pay their bills.
2. Telecommuting: Traditional companies have worked with “telecommuting” employees for a long time. The arrival of Net based collaboration tools make that a lot easier. This saves on office rent and enables companies to retain employees who need a more flexible schedule. Telecommuting is great and the trend will increase. But it is very different from the genuinely networked companies in one critical aspect. In a traditional company, the physical office is still the core and the “remote workers” have to work hard to “stay in the loop”. In a genuinely networked company, nobody is out of the loop, there is no core to be remote from and everybody has to make the online tools work.
This is about talent
When your product is digital (designs, code, SEO, writing, advice, finance, whatever), location of people who create your product is simply irrelevant. You would be crazy to restrict your search for employees, contractors, partners, vendors (all being “talent”) by zip code.
The Product Can Still Be Physical
You can design something and send it to get made in China, assemble a site that attracts traffic, bung in some simple e-commerce and then outsource the pick and pack fulfillment.
This is what has been called Punk Manufacturing and Chris Anderson at Wired hailed as the next Industrial Revolution.
Kicking Off The Series Is Generation Alliance
This is the first in a series of five articles on micro-multinationals. Next is Generation Alliance, a company “headquartered” in Australia and – you guessed it – doing business globally. If you run a micro-multinational and want to tell your tale to the world, send an email to bernard dot lunn at gmail dot com.
We operate primarily as a virtual organization. While we do maintain a small headquarters, the vast majority of the company works virtually from all over the world. This allows us the ability to hire the best talent possible, no matter where they reside. Of course, our technology then ties everyone together, forming a complete virtual workforce that–at least to the outside world–seems as if we’re standing side-by-side. It definitely takes some getting used to, but the benefits are massive.
We actually did a recent post about this on our blog, as well: Enabling Virtual Workforces – http://www.on-state.com/blog/?p=642