Entrepreneurs have a thousand things to take care of, and internationalization, especially for SMEs, is "one more thing" of the many that concern them. Even when expanding beyond borders is absolutely crucial to the survival or growth of our business, we know that it takes time to develop an export plan, or an internationalization plan.
So why invest such scarce time in this plan?
Here are eight reasons to think about it.
The process of making an internationalization plan adds value.
The very process of making this plan, which can be very intense, adds value because, among other things, it means that we must give time to this particular aspect of the business, focus on it and leave for a while the day to day that consumes us so much. In addition, it forces us to think more strategically, forces us to review our achievements and remember our strengths, puts us face to face with our weaknesses, which sometimes we let "pass" in everyday life and if we do it collaboratively, as we always recommend, gives us a chance to listen to everyone.
It also forces us to analyze many functions of the company, from human resources to finance and intellectual property, just to mention a few, and helps us consolidate many ideas, information, data and contacts.
Making an internationalization plan orders us.
Not only because we establish focuses and priorities, but also because we discard things like markets, strategies or actions, among others, which weighed heavily on us and which, when analyzed and discarded, free us to focus. I always mention that the plan is as much what is inside as what is outside, remembering what we are not going to do is almost as important as remembering what we are going to do.
A plan minimizes risks.
Risks also exist in the internal market, but in international markets, when we combine them with great distances, different cultures, currency exchanges, other legal and customs systems, the errors are expensive.
A plan can never eliminate risks, but it can reduce them. For example, by making a plan we can see that we have a marked weakness in intellectual property. By addressing that issue today, we can minimize risks and save a lot of money and a lot of time in the future.
A plan maximizes results.
Thinking things through and seeing how we can exploit each action, without leaving everything to chance or for the last moment, means that we can maximize results. For example, if we are going to visit another country on a trade mission or fair, do we think exactly what we want to achieve, what metrics will we use to measure it, where can we leverage?
A plan maximizes resources.
If you can focus on a few markets, you can maximize the resources for these and not be jumping from one to another with the consequent waste of resources: partners and employees are confused and demotivated, while money is spent on actions not necessarily profitable.
Having a plan makes us responsible.
The plan must have clear metrics, with pre-established and responsible dates for each action. The document obliges us to be very transparent with the actions we carry out and to make adjustments only when it really merits doing so.
The plan focuses on us.
The internationalization plan is our guide, but also our own yardstick for measuring ourselves. When we have so many demands on our time, the plan is the excuse to return to the path that we ourselves trace. That is why the consultant can guide the making of a plan, but the plan is always the property and responsibility of the company, which must feel that it is its own. We can also argue that having a plan motivates us as a team.
Having a plan makes us feel and look more professional.
This is something that many times is not discussed but that seems fundamental to me. Having a good internationalization plan makes us more solid as a company, no matter how young the company is. It gives us seriousness and security, but also affirms us before possible partners and our employees, as well as before funding and support organizations such as Uruguay XXI, the National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII), the National Development Agency (ANDE) or the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), among others, and even before possible investors. It is even a differentiator against our competition.
An internationalization plan takes a lot of "I think" but, as we saw, it will pay for itself with the benefits it brings and the costs and problems it saves.
Economist and Director of Sunny Sky Solutions