Next step: World domination
Today there's no reason why almost any business - no matter how small - can't consider going global.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Bringing a business to the international marketplace is not just the domain of large companies. Thanks to better technology and falling trade barriers, it is something even the smallest businesses should consider.
"Not to go international would be like walking into a room of 100 people and only selling to five," said James Foley, director of Bradley University's International Trade Center in Peoria, Ill.
"The small-sized firm often ignores the possibility of going international," Foley said, but the possibility is "wide open to a small company."
Although manufacturing or selling abroad may not be for every one, some businesses could potentially boost sales and profit significantly by venturing into international waters.
For example, entrepreneurs touting a seasonal product might want to market their wares in another country with opposite seasons.
"Our product was growing so strongly," said Tim Krueger, CFO of Hawaii-based sunglasses company Maui Jim, and "we felt we could bring the product to a lot more people around the world."
Since launching the sunglasses in several overseas markets including Europe, Dubai, Mexico, Canada and Australia, international sales account for nearly 20 percent of the business, Krueger said.
And, "there's still a huge amount of opportunity out there."
"If you have an offering that'll get accepted outside the U.S., then I say go for it," said Foley, who is also the author of The Global Entrepreneur ($29.95, Jamric Press International).
Foley recommends that business owners first prove themselves in the domestic market before venturing overseas. That will allow for the business to fine-tune its competitive position, pricing, marketing and logistics.
When putting together a global strategy, selecting the right overseas market is tricky. And a decision between Bangalore and Buenos Aires should not be taken lightly.
"We tend to go where competitors have gone before and therefore lose advantage," Foley said, but "don't let competitive behavior dictate market selection."
Instead, do research to uncover where the best opportunities are, he suggests. For example, sites such as comtrade.un.org show what countries are buying which products, and http://www.usatradeonline.gov/ has a database on which U.S. goods are bought and sold in other countries.
Of course, due diligence may require travel to other countries. But before setting out, U.S. Commercial Service and the Department of Commerce both offer services to help business owners with travel arrangements, interpreting and counseling, as well as setting up contacts with buyers and distributors. The Commercial Service's International Partner Search will also help business owners find potential strategic partners in other countries.
And sometimes a good place to start could be right next door.
"I think most companies have an opportunity certainly within Canada and Mexico for starters," Foley said.
Before settling on a location, James Sikich, CPA and chief executive of Aurora, Ill.-based consulting firm Sikich LLP, suggests finding an accountant and a lawyer with international experience.
Dealing with foreign currency and exchange rates as well as international trademarks and patents can get complicated, but "the scary stuff you can get help on," Bradley's Foley said.
Once the groundwork has been laid, adding on more markets becomes easier and more profitable.
"You are essentially just adding more sales on top of domestic success," Foley said.