I have more than 10 years’ experience in helping small to medium-sized firms develop, implement, manage, and evaluate entry strategies for market penetration, market development, and product expansion purposes. Intensive experience building new products, conquering intractable strategic issues and driving revenue growth for start-up, small and medium-sized firms. I am a pioneer in the integration of strategic thinking with functional areas within the firm that have generated increased sales and market penetration through the re-segmentation of markets and the repositioning of existing product families for my clients. I am experienced in the presentation and communication of strategic objectives, and the building of and control over functional, procedural programs and policies to achieve sustainable foreign-market penetration. I am a past contributor to forward-thinking organizations ranging from manufacturing start-ups to companies in multiple sectors.
There are two (2) sorts of internationalization programs: the continuing internationalization program and the first-stage internationalization program. The continuing internationalization program can be described any firm that has at least two functional activities operating across at least one national border. For instance, a United States’ based ball bearing manufacturer producing his ball bearings in one of the free trade areas of Northern Mexico, seeks to add sourcing of the primary raw material (steel) from Canada. The ball bearing manufacturer had to take that “first-step” and move (part of) its productive capacity to Northern Mexico in the first place. The “second step” or ‘continuing step’ would be to source steel from outside the United States.
A “first-stage” internationalization program is any firm that, besides its sales activities, has none of its functional activities outside of the original market. That is, other than periodic sales to foreign markets, it doesn’t source materials from outside its original market, doesn’t do any promotions outside its original market, nor does it formalize its strategic direction to take into account foreign markets. It is this type of internationalization I most specialize in. First stage internationalization programs require a strategic perspective. Considering that small to medium-sized firms have no formalized strategy in place, this is the first set of activities performed. Use of formalized strategic methodologies permit the firm to understand how they ‘fit’ into their industry, external environment, plus provide the small to medium-sized enterprise a firm ‘grounding’ in thinking in terms of formal processes and policies. Thinking in such planned terms (rather than emergent terms) provide the internationalizing organization with a required knowledge to create, implement, and evaluate the entry mode decision framework (the strategic purpose of the first-stage internationalization program.)
The internationalization program needs an holistic approach to its development from the strategic direction of the firm down to the functional activities that comprise daily operations. Progressing form the start-up phase to the mature phase, each industry naturally diffuses barriers to entry into multiple markets. What I do is help small- to medium-sized manufacturing and service-oriented businesses take that first or second internationalizing step. I understand that every business is different. That is why I approach the internationalization process in an unique way for each and every client I help. The way I approach the internationalization process can be characterized by four (4) broad categories of projects: Marketing & Advertising, Strategy Formation, Operations/Supply Chain, and the rest of the business-related activities that first-stage internationalizing firms must do. I call this crafting the internationalization decision framework. The internationalization decision framework is comprised of five (5) fundamental questions that seek to holistically relate all relevant business activities necessary to sustain the firm, over the long-term, as it internationalizes.
The internationalization decision framework encompasses: Why is the firm internationalizing now (in essence, what has changed in the client’s environment that is forcing their company to internationalize?) Which is the most appropriate internationalizing strategy to use right now for the firm (in essence, how should the client internationalize?) What level of criterion should the client’s firm use to craft the internationalization decision framework? Where should the firm internationalize to? Lastly, I ask of my clients: What resources does the firm have to put to this internationalization program? Some further questions I ask to help clients crystallize the international decision framework development process are: What impact does the choice of distribution channels have on the entry strategy? What changes should the business make to its marketing strategy as the firm enters a new market? How should the firm advertise to its new customers? Should the firm outsource any one of its business functions? Does the firm have enough resources for the chosen entry mode?
These questions are geared to help me formulate the client’s entry mode decision framework, especially if that client is creating a first-stage internationalization program. In the event that the client already has an internationalization program, then these questions help me to evaluate the client’s continuing internationalization program. The differences between my version of the client’s continuing internationalization program (as reversed engineered through these questions) and senior management’s own [internal] understanding of the client’s continuing internationalization program will provide additional avenues of market or product growth, and may provide the client’s firm additional opportunities to gain either scale or scope economies.
Companies can elect whether they just require Appleton Greene for advice and support with the Bronze Client Service, for research and performance analysis with the Silver Client Service, for facilitating departmental workshops with the Gold Client Service, or for complete process planning, development, implementation, management and review, with the Platinum Client Service. Ultimately, there is a service to suit every situation and every budget and clients can elect to either upgrade or downgrade from one service to another as and when required, providing complete flexibility in order to ensure that the right level of support is available over a sustainable period of time, enabling the organization to compensate for any prescriptive or emergent changes relating to: Customer Service; E-business; Finance; Globalization; Human Resources; Information Technology; Legal; Management; Marketing; or Production.
Internationalization made transparent is my credo. The client firm can internationalize for two primary reasons: short-term gain in a globalized environment or long-term viability in a hypercompetitive marketplace. The more structured the first-stage or continuing internationalization program is for the client, the more comfortable the client will be in performing functional activities with an international component. The long-term goals of any internationalization program is to make the firm a global, not merely local, competitor.
This requires a holistic analysis of the firm as a single entity, rather than a set of discrete functional activities. All introductory stage business organizations start with a significant lack of financial, personnel, and skills resources. In essence, entrepreneurs start with an idea, and they build an institution around that idea. Over time, that “idea” grows in content. Policies, processes and procedures are put in place in order to manage certain activities. Functional activities are created then expanded to fulfill productive roles within the organization. Such growth occurs on an ad-hoc, emergent basis until the firm’s micro-environment (its selling environment) forces it to either remain small or to “go big.” This is the point at which the firm needs to consciously, systematically, and structurally differentiate the activities it performs on a daily from a long-term basis.
This is the way in which I approach the crafting of the client firm’s first-stage internationalization or continuing internationalization program. My approach permits the firm to structurally ‘think’ about its environment (macro-environmentally through country-level and industry-level characteristics, and micro-environmentally through corporate to functional factors) by strategically analyzing the client firm’s macro- and micro-environments for those factors that will aid and/or inhibit the client’s operations in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term. Only through a clearly articulated strategically structured analysis of the client firm’s environment can the firm develop and sustain its competitive ‘edge’ in a globally ordered marketplace defined by its hypercompetitive nature.