Trend: Small Business Market Goes Global

The world is shrinking, and small businesses have noticed.

Taking advantage of instant communication, product delivery measured in days, and falling trade barriers, small businesses will become more global. The Internet and the proliferation of cheap, easy communications technology (cell phones, lower long distance rates, email, instant messaging, VOIP) are a big part of the enabling of small business in the global marketplace. Worldwide delivery services have contributed by lowering shipping time and costs.

Cross-border markets that were once the domain of only the largest corporations will be open to any size enterprise. National boundaries and oceans will no longer hem in the ambitions of small businesses.

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that 97% of U.S. exporters qualify as small businesses. But the influence of globalization will be felt on more than sales. Suppliers to U.S. small businesses will increasingly be located in other countries. Small businesses are already outsourcing software development, preparation of tax returns, and the manufacture of goods. Look for all of these to increase and for new areas to open up.

Expect a huge increase in translation services, import/export specialists, and other services to help smaller enterprises find partners and do business across borders. English will continue to be the lingua franca of business around the globe. But the ability to communicate in the languages of the markets into which you sell will be as sought-after competitive edge.

International outsourcing has become common in larger companies. But in tomorrow's world, U.S. small businesses will become important users of offshore outsourcing.

Capital markets will open up. Technology developed in one country increasingly will be funded by investors in other countries. Look for this to increase the investment of the U.S. and other first-world countries in developing nations. Also, look for a rise in the number of facilitators of investment and other transnational business activities.

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