By Jane Larson, July 2nd
The Arizona Republic
There is more than one way for Valley small businesses to go global.
For Kyocera Solar Inc., it's importing solar technology from its Japanese parent company, integrating it with solar panels made at its Mexico factory, and selling the units in California, Texas and markets around the world.
For the Center of Modern Design, going global means importing fine furniture from Denmark and Italy and selling it to Scottsdale area homeowners.
For Succeed Corp., it's building a workforce of software developers in Mesa and the Ukraine and selling their Web-site-building products in the United States and soon in Europe.
Those were the experiences shared this month by three global entrepreneurs at a joint meeting of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce's First Friday Airpark Breakfast and the Arizona International Growth Group (www.azigg.com).
No matter how a company incorporates an international component, the panelists agreed, doing so brings more resources and brainpower to the business.
"I've learned we're a great country, but we don't know everything," said Tom Dyer, senior vice president of marketing and government affairs for Kyocera Solar. "Those other countries are great to live in, but they don't know everything, either. We all have a lot to learn from each other."
And although some sectors of the Arizona economy struggled, Arizona businesses that sell overseas saw their exports rise 4.9 percent in 2007, to $19.2 billion from $18.3 billion the year before.
Of the more than 4,500 Arizona businesses exporting, 88 percent were small firms with fewer than 500 employees, the Arizona Commerce Department reported this spring.
There are rewards as well as risks to going global, the panelists said. Among the rewards:
• Finding talent in a tight
When Succeed Corporation® (
• Discovering innovative
When Chris Jorgensen and his wife tired of high-tech corporate life, they decided to start an e-commerce business in Park City, Utah, marketing high-end furniture from their native Denmark. Today, some 30 percent of House of Copenhagen's sales come from the Far East, and interest is strong from Australia. When it came time to add a bricks-and-mortar design center offering similar goods, the Jorgensens picked Scottsdale over San Francisco for the demographics and hot growth rate and opened their Center of Modern Design in the Airpark.
• Taking advantage of overseas growth.
While the U.S. economy is slowing down, other parts of the world are not. Going global allows companies to tap into other markets' upturns even though their own regions are struggling.
Sometimes domestic markets are too small to support a business. Jorgensen found that out with his previous startups in Denmark, which has a population of just 5.5 million.
"It's so small you can't depend on your own market. You have to go outside," he said. And so his previous firms started with other parts of Scandinavia, then expanded to Europe and then to the United States.
The panelists don't deny that
there are risks to international
moves. Among them:
• Strong foreign currencies can make your products more expensive.
Kyocera Solar and Center of Modern Design aren't helped by today's weak dollar, because it takes U.S. customers more dollars to pay for the imported products. Succeed is watching the rise of the euro and trying to balance its growth plans around the euro-dollar exchange rate.
• Cultural differences.
When Dyer lived in Singapore, he was impressed by how residents referred to themselves as Singaporean regardless of their part in the multiracial culture. When he moved to Japan, he learned what it was like to be treated as a minority but still found ways to succeed in business.
• The supply chain is critical.
Shippers who deliver expertly and internationally are a key ingredient for the Jorgensens' businesses. Strategic partners whom Succeed can trust are key to its expansion in other markets, Sayed said.
• Other nations' instability.
Another country's political or economic instability can be introduced into your business.
• Different legal systems.
Legal frameworks may be quite different from those in the United States.
Despite the risks, going global makes sense to many.