This summer I took some personal and professional risks and went on a 3 week business trip to Lagos, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana consulting on an expansion project for a client. My peers thought I was insane for doing this, my friends didn't know what to say, my family told me it wasn't an option and my Nigerian business consultant colleagues said, "You did WHAT! Nobody does that!" In taking the risk, I opened my consulting firm up to international business; the very international business I sat through all of those undergraduate courses just talking about. I DID IT and I didn't go as a student abroad, on a teaching visa etc, I went as a consultant, and the best part is that my client is one of my undergraduate professors.
He believed in my expertise, my ability to put his macro vision into micro form and apply action to it. In a world where PhD's build and create theoretical frameworks, Doctorate students build businesses for them, and together those very different mindsets create company's where research, theory, entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity and streamlined business strategy thrive nationally and internationally. Isn't it AMAZING; IKR!
Therefore, I wanted to explain to my fellow entrepreneurs the many ways they can enter the international business market where ceilings don't really exist. Where competition isn't meeting you at the door and you can be apart of development, apart of economic change and apart of history. As my client would say, "You can't be scared to get off the block where your home, church, school and neighborhood stores are." You have to be willing to take the risk if it means your business surpasses the 5 year startup failure stereotype. You have to be willing to do the unthinkable, the things that make everyone else uncomfortable and take on the anxiety of failure in order to live in success in the future.
Although my businesses focus on the implementation and expansion of nonprofit organizations, I spend more than half of my consulting time streamlining systems and developing strategies for the for-profits they're attached to or built upon. So, rather your business is knowledge-based like mine or you're in agriculture, hospitality, entertainment, manufacturing, real estate, etc., there's room for you internationally; Earn Your Spot!
A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a non-profit, citizen-based group that functions independently of government. NGOs, sometimes called civil societies, are organized on community, national and international levels to serve specific social or political purposes, and are cooperative, rather than commercial, in nature. There are operational NGO's which focus on development projects and advocacy NGO's which are organized to promote particular causes.
The most interesting findings in this area were how many NGO's are developed by Americans on international soil that provide private grant funds and crowdfunding for international causes. These NGO's are normally confused with the commercials we see at night about donating a $1 a day for a sick child. These particular arrangements that are crowdfunded for are typically led by an American business, in connection to their for-profit and for the expected benefit of the people in a particular country or town internationally. I would refer to this as a hybrid model, some would argue that its philanthropy or donors at work. However, I found it alarming that very few NGO's are developed or started in the country itself that needs these services. Sounds like an avenue to teach people how to advocate for themselves vs. Americans positioning ourselves to save their day once again.
What ways could you increase the economic growth and development of an international country through the creation of a NGO?
In what ways can we leave international countries with the "American Dream" instead of taking it with us as we leave their homes? Possibly we take the time to ask them what are their dreams instead of determining their admiration's for them.
A non-profit business, also known as a not-for-profit organization, is a tax-exempt organization formed for religious, charitable, literary, artistic, scientific, or educational purposes. It is an incorporated business from which its shareholders or trustees do not benefit financially. Any money earned must be retained by the organization, and used for its own expenses, operations, and programs. A few well known non-profit organizations include Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, and United Way. There are many types of not-for-profit organizations, however, the most common is a 501(c)3.
Not only are nonprofit organizations not trending in international countries, they're not required to be of service in international countries. Most of the service related work is completed through NGO's or social enterprises internationally. Meanwhile the U.S has established more than 20,000 nonprofit organizations for an "international purpose." I thought to myself, "Countries without established government policies can begin determining a means of requirements for American businesses in this space that result in companies, revenues and long-term benefits for their people." I can only imagine how trade of "service" could be affected if international companies developed policies and procedures around this.
How could our nonprofit organizations develop a financial and service model that impacts international countries beyond the shoes, clothes and toiletries?
A for-profit business seeks to generate income for its founders and employees. Profits, made by sales of products or services, measure the success of for-profit companies and those profits are shared with owners, employees, and shareholders. For-profit businesses can be either privately held or publicly traded. The latter sell stock and must abide by special rules to protect shareholders.
I found that the minimal for-profit businesses that we take advantage of in the U.S do not exist (or are very limited) in international countries. Businesses such as laundromats for example. A Nigerian colleague and I discussed the overnight success of a pair of entrepreneurs that started a string of laundromats in Nigeria and how they made millions in a few short years. A simple necessity like clean clothes in a country where more than half the country doesn't have power after the sun sets suddenly becomes a hot commodity. It made us wonder about what other for-profit companies could be developed that help the everyday Nigerian live a better life. So much so that the governor has requested a meeting to hear our ideas and begin implementation during his term.
Could your business offer one of those undervalued products and services in the U.S to international markets and take off like the laundromats did?
A social enterprise is a commercial organization that has specific social objectives that serve its primary purpose. Social enterprises seek to maximize profits while maximizing benefits to society and the environment. Their profits are principally used to fund social programs. The concept of a social enterprise was developed in the UK in the late 1970s to counter the traditional commercial enterprise. Social enterprises exist at the intersection of the private and volunteer sectors. They seek to balance activities that provide financial benefits with social goals, such as providing housing to low-income families or job training.
These are normally founded by activists that have a desire to support a particular cause. Entrepreneurs also develop social enterprises to contribute portions of their earnings back to the community. It is the Marie Management's motto that entrepreneurs without responsibility to their communities or those in which they earn their profits, are entrepreneurs going everywhere slowly. Therefore on this particular trip, I thought about the impact local entrepreneurs could make that locals found to be "rich" if they were required to contributed a portion of their proceeds to a cause. Given the open lid and very few ceilings presented in earnings internationally, companies are generating 3x the income as American companies in some sectors (especially oil & gas). I thought of this as I came across a real estate company selling only homes with price tags of $8M USD in Africa. One would think HOW SWAY and 100 million people live without clean water every day.
What social enterprise could your business develop to increase economic development in an international country?
Hybrid Business Models
The business model uses product sales to fund its social mission, reducing dependence on donations, grants, and subsidies, as well as to scale up the organization. Rather than take a nonprofit model and add a commercial revenue stream, or take a for-profit model and add a charity or service program.
We here at Marie Management LIVE BY the hybrid model. We don't believe nonprofits can survive long-term without developing such a model. Therefore this is what we chose to specialize in, however getting back to the topic ;), Hybrid Models could be developed internationally in areas of water purification, energy, oil, gas, transportation and education. With the development of hybrid models, international countries can meet both their social, service and economic needs. The thought of just 100 companies operating as a hybrid model in any countries areas of need are simply mind blowing.
What social enterprise could your business develop to increase economic development in an international country?
Let's Kill The Myths Shall We
All international countries, neighborhoods, communities and governments are not poor, existing in poverty or oppressed. Just like U.S states and cities have rich and poor, international countries have rich and poor. Opportunity exists for everyone, however, international red tap is a hell of a lot thicker than American tape in the area of business. Therefore, you have to know your industry in the international market, just as you would in the states. You have to know the players, government and community in international markets just as you do in the U.S. We refer to this as rubbing elbows in America. Internationally you want to become connected with the same players as you would here and you want to provide value, just as you would here. In my opinion, the work to do business internationally presents far more in outcomes than it does in the U.S, simply because the ceiling isn't present, policies don't hinder earnings and governments don't over-regulate businesses. If you can get past the American mindset that there's no money to be made or no service to be offered internationally, you can open up handsomely in foreign countries.
- Approach one business and one market at a time. Greed has no place in business, surely people will be able to sense this when you enter a country you were not born in. Look at the business model you are executing in the U.S already AND look at the existing businesses that DO NOT exist (or have limited reach) in a foreign country and start with one concept. Find one market that needs your product and or service that you can easily receive it given it's current structure.
- Build a global team. Not all of our business partners, colleagues, executives or staff will be able to succeed in the development of an international business, project or department. Get you some professionals that understand this line of work and do not possess the fear that hinders most Americans in the U.S, let alone in a foreign country. Be aware that you may even have to go at it alone and that is okay too sometimes.
- Be sure that your business can be found on every web based platform. Take the time to develop your online presence and make sure that your branding, marketing and engagement welcomes international business. Contact your phone companies, banks, web designers, sales and marketing teams, accounting and legal teams to ensure that your functions and operations welcome customers from different countries.
- Develop partnerships and succeed in collaborations. In some countries, we have made a bad name for ourselves in the realm of business. I mean HEY, we wouldn't be American's if we didn't do this before we got it right. So take the time to build relationships with international companies, executives and communities. Earn your respect and don't demand it. Become familiar with their norms and processes, just as we would expect them to do when they come to America. From here, begin the business conversations and start developing companies the invests in their country, not ours.
Top International Countries For Entrepreneurship
Based on the countries GDP, Population and GDP per capita, the following countries have been ranked by Inc.:
- United Kingdom
These countries are followed by: New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Belgium, Malaysia, Switzerland, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Although African countries did not make the list, I'll be sure to be apart of the history that gets it on the list ;).
The lord knows I learned some things from this business trip and most of them are pretty typical.
- Obtain your immunizations and visas 3 months or more prior to visiting. Take your time in this area and make sure things are aligned and done right. Make sure you have the proper immunizations for the country your entering and maintain organization of those documents both electronically and on paper. Become familiar with the visa process or hire someone that is. If the visa process becomes too hectic for you to navigate, HIRE SOMEONE, do not go at it alone and possibly ruin an international experience. Americans are not entitled to enter foreign countries just like citizens of other countries are not entitled to enter ours.
- Obtain flight and baggage insurance. Anything can happen with airlines these days. Protect your investment and belongings with insurance. This way you have a leg to stand on when you have to debate mistakes. Also, try to fly with larger airlines that tend to have more accountability practices already in place.
- Pack light. Take your average carry on bags only. This will help you expedite your travel and keep your belongings secure. In addition to that, if you have anxiety like me, it helps with a clean change of clothes on 24hr flights.
- Get professional assistance from locals upon entering the country. Do not assume that you know it all when traveling and do not assume that you'll be greated with welcoming arms at the international airports. Contact the local embassy's in that country for help if and when you need it. Get the guidance you need prior to boarding your flight. Also, know your transportation means, professional help required and business partner (collaboration) information prior to arriving at the airport. If anything, have the individuals you are meeting to do business meet you at the airport for a smoother clearance process.
- Determine what resources and accessories you will need during the trip. Things like charger adapters, bottled water, bug repellent, etc are necessities in most foreign countries. Ask your business partner or a local professional, what necessities you should bring before entering.
- Embrace the culture, do not force-feed your own. Do what they do on a daily basis, not what you'd hope they do because you're there. You are the visitor, you don't own the place (yet). Mingle with the locals and the business women/men alike. Learn the culture and embrace it as much as humanly possible without losing your mind of course.
- Learn. Educate. Inspire. Lastly, when you return, educate someone on what you've learned, what you accomplished and even what you didn't. This will help yet another American know that there is more to the world than their house, church and community store.
If you ever find yourself in need of a business consultant on your endeavor to implement international business into your NGO, Nonprofit, Social Enterprise, Hybrid Model or For-Profit Company, don't hesitate to schedule your free 30 minute consultation with Marie Management.