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Become a Micro-Multinational Small Business in 5 Steps

A few years ago the Council on Competitiveness identified the trend toward micro-multinationals. A multinational small business operates across geographic borders in their operations, marketing, sales and/or distribution  — and they don’t wait to “grow up.”

You needn’t be a large business in order to go global or cross over borders. You can go from startup to global in one step.  Today, inexpensive technology and services that are readily available make it possible to leapfrog over regional and national expansion.

That said, here are the top 5 steps that a startup or small business like yours can become a micro-multinational in 5  steps:

(1) Invest in your online presence — the World Wide Web is the gateway to doing international business. It opens up international business channels. With a good website you can have can near boundary-less marketing.  You have a place to connect with and communicate with customers.

Don’t overlook social media in the online mix.  One of the distinguishing trends that we’ve identified at Small Business Trends as coming out of the explosive growth of Twitter is how much communication takes place in one spot online, emanating from different countries.  It is evidenced by the different languages you see.  For instance, some of my Twitter followers write in two languages, and mixed in amongst the English tweets I regularly see Twitter messages in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Polish — you name it, I’ve seen it on Twitter — and I see it daily.  What an amazing online venue making the world smaller.

Some things you can today to expand your online presence globally:

Container ship for global business

(2) Develop a stable of globally-scalable services — As a small business or startup, your company will necessarily be a lean one, without a lot of overhead.  But you’re going to need support in the form of outsourced services for operations, sales, marketing and distribution. The services you choose can make or break your business.  This encompasses everything from Web design to telecommunications to package delivery to public relations services to legal support.   Look for:

(3) Staff globally — You’ll need to staff for a global business.  There is a host of issues to address:

(4) Invest in technology — Technology helps you scale your business and grow, without investing heavily in other resources.  Technology, particularly software, is the great productivity-enhancer of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Consider these types of technologies as must-haves for the micro-multinational business:

Finally, consider whether your service providers and partners can bring technology to the table.  Do they have software that helps you streamline the way you work with them?  Do you get real-time access into reports or information from them?  How easy is it for their technology to integrate with or communicate with your technology systems?



As a business owner, one of the best uses of your time is to develop some level of understanding of technology and how to deploy it for business improvement.  While you needn’t become a technologist, the more comfortable you are with technology the bigger a competitive advantage you will have because of the efficiency and leverage it gives your business.

(5) Understand the tax, legal and business environment — As I wrote a few weeks ago, not every business is prepared to operate globally or even in 2 or 3 countries.  You must investigate the economic and business climate; conduct market research; do your homework when it comes to the legal and tax requirements, and otherwise get your business ready for global [3] business. Failure to do so could cost you all your profit and then some, or ensure your early demise.  But good planning can help you make the right moves.

My business, in its own way, is a global business.  All 5 of these considerations are ones I deal with daily.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Please check out our series on micro-multinationals [4] for examples of how others are going global even while the business is young and small.