Solopreneur David Seah offers a thinking-out-loud protocol of his steps in confronting the “big hairy inconvenient mess” of setting up Paypal to take international orders. Sometimes microglobalization is high-level market analysis and product strategy; other times it’s the tedious grunt work of getting the business processes into place to be able to serve customers abroad.
I want to begin writing here on “microglobalization”, by which I mean the developments in technology and international trade that have put “global” opportunities within reach of independent businesses and even individuals. Once largely the province of well-heeled multinational/transnational corporations, global trade in goods and services increasingly presents compelling opportunities for smaller companies willing to take the plunge. I’m firmly convinced that even the tiniest firm has the ability to carve out a niche in worldwide business ecosystems, consciously and deliberately managing every aspect of its development within a global context. (I recently registered the domain name microglobalization.com, though I’m not yet sure exactly what I’ll do with it.)
Not surprisingly, a quick Google search reveals that I’m not the first to use the word “microglobalization”. In an academic context, a number of hits revolve around a 2005 article by Karin Knorr Cetina called Complex Global Microstructures: The New Terrorist Societies. Now, I have neither qualifications nor interest in writing about terrorism, but some of Dr. Knorr Cetina’s ideas are rather intriguing from an indy business perspective. There’s some fairly heavy academic verbiage in there, but also some illuminating insights that suggest ways an alert player can find opportunity in “forms of connectivity and coordination that combine global reach with microstructural mechanisms that instantiate self-organizing principles and patterns”. Dr. Knorr Cetina further elaborates these ideas in a chapter on microglobalization in Ino Rossi’s Frontiers of Globalization Research.
Jörg Dürrschmidt’s Everyday Lives in the Global City refers to “the microglobalization of the world city’s [i.e. London's] everyday life”. In this context Dürrschmidt defines “microglobalization” as “a compression and, subsequently, accommodation of global variety and difference into a distinctive sociocultural environment” — in this case the global invading the local.
Olav Anders Øvrebø, a Norwegian journalist and university lecturer specializing in media and communication issues, uses the term in essentially the same way I do — “how tiny service companies – even one-person outfits – can participate successfully in the global economy”. Programmers, journalists, document translators and other purveyors of “digital” services like the ones he cites, for obvious reasons, have been pioneers of business globalization at the small-firm and individual level. (I was in the translating business myself for many years and personally experienced how widespread Internet access began opening up enormous new international markets along with opportunities for networking, collaboration and learning in the early nineties.) More from Øvrebø here.
One practical result of President Obama’s National Export Initiative is that government export assistance resources, already extensive, are becoming easier to find and access online. An example is the online Begin Exporting tool launched last week by the SBA and Department of Commerce, which guides users through “six steps” to becoming a successful exporter:
- a self-assessment of export-readiness
- training and consulting services
- creating an export plan
- market research
- finding overseas buyers
- export finance.
By itself this is not the sort of thing that’s going to double U.S. exports in five years, but anything that brings a little more clarity to the confusion of the exporting process is a step in the right direction.
This month’s B2B Subgroup meeting will be led by Christopher Hastings.
Other than adding up their own costs and adding a % margin on top of that, most businesses have little knowledge of how to price their products. We are going to look at a few of the best tricks and tips for developing your pricing model for your business. Whether you are trying to build a SAS subscription model or running a retail store and fighting prices on commodities, we’ll identify some of the key considerations to know when pricing your products.
Our presenter Christopher Hastings has studied at both the Acton School of Business and the London School of Economics, building expertise in both entrepreneurship and international development. He is the founder of two startups, one focused on providing CPAs with the tools they need to counsel entrepreneurs (including on topics of pricing) and the other focused on location analysis for economic development. Despite having written textbook chapters on entrepreneurship and run budgets of 150MM+ supply chain projects, he is never happier than when working one on one with entrepreneurs to improve their businesses.
Date: August 23, 7:00 p.m.
Business Success Center
Chase Bank Tower
7600 Burnet Rd.
Austin, TX 78757
When I started this blog a few years ago, the idea was that this would be the “official” company blog and I would use Eurobubba for more personal, but still business-related observations. (I also have a non-business personal blog; I haven’t been especially prolific on any of them.) Since then, my approach to the business has itself become more “personal”, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it no longer makes sense to maintain two separate business blogs. I’ve imported all the posts from the Eurobubba blog except for announcements for events that have already taken place into this blog and will do all my posting here from now on. I’ll be redirecting the eurobubba.com address to point here. I’d like to promise that I’ll post more often, but other tasks seem to have a way of crowding blogging down the priority list, and I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep — but I do have a lot of (hopefully useful) content I’m working on. I’m also turning comments on; I hope I’ll get to spend more time in real conversation than dealing with spam. Thanks to everyone for reading!
Last-ditch efforts by Germany’s solar power industry to ease cuts in the country’s generous feed-in tariff yielded only minor concessions, according to an article from Power-Gen Worldwide.
Following negotiations between the two houses of the German parliament, the feed-in rate will be reduced by up to 13% as of July 1, followed by a further 3% cut in October. Actual rate reductions will depend on the size and type of installation. Under the original plan passed by the Bundestag this spring, the full 16% cut would have taken effect this month.
Quick note: it seems not everyone is abandoning the euro as a sinking ship. French finance minister Christine Lagarde today “welcome[d] Estonia to the euro club with great satisfaction” after the EU finance ministers approved the country’s adoption of the common currency, according to the Wall Street Journal. The euro will replace the Estonia kroon on January 1.
It’s official: the German parliament has passed long-anticipated cutbacks in the country’s generous feed-in tariff system of subsidies for solar photovoltaic power generation (Solar Association press release in German). The subsidies will be reduced by 11 to 16% depending on the type and size of installation. The new rates were adopted by the Bundestag today and take effect from July 1. Further cuts are expected from the start of next year.
The German Solar Power Association immediately blasted the legislation, an amendment to the Renewable Energy Act (EEG). System manufacturers such as SolarWorld AG have complained that the rate reduction is greater than can be offset by declining production costs. The new regulations will also bar building of solar power plants on farmland, a move the Solar Association called “unacceptable”.
Representatives of the governing coalition countered that the amendment eliminates a burden that “bestows dream returns on investors and rising electricity prices on consumers.” They also noted that the rates in effect until now have favored foreign manufacturers, who supply 60% of all solar modules installed in Germany.
The legislation does include a few bright spots for solar advocates. Generation for the operator’s own use will be subsidized for the first time, although support will be less generous than proponents had hoped. The legislation also explicitly opens brownfield sites and strips alongside roads and railways to solar development and establishes a €100 million research and development fund.
How to store the energy produced from vast but intermittent renewable resources like wind and solar has long been a major stumbling block in building a “green” energy economy. Now German and Austrian researchers may have found a breakthrough solution (press release in German).
Researchers from the Baden-Württemberg Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research and the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology have developed a process using electric power from renewables to first “crack” water to obtain hydrogen, then convert it to methane through a chemical reaction with carbon dioxide.
The methane can then be fed into the existing natural gas infrastructure, potentially eliminating the need for enormous investment in new facilities for hydrogen or other forms of energy storage.
Solar Fuel Technology of Austria has already completed a small demonstration plant in Stuttgart and is currently building a 10 MW pilot facility scheduled for completion in 2012.
Are your company and products ready for global markets? Maybe you’re just thinking about dipping your toes in one or two “easy” export markets like Canada, Mexico, or the UK. Here are some online tools to help you assess your readiness and start thinking through your strategy.
The US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Services has a simple nine-point Export Questionnaire (not just for ag businesses) that addresses your international marketing plan, available resources, and your existing knowledge of export processes. The result rates your company on a scale of 1–100 and provides comments and next-steps for each question.
The California Centers for International Trade Development offer a more detailed Export Readiness Assessment that covers your present operations, attitudes, and products. Like the USDA’s tool, the assessment gives you a readiness score, point-by-point diagnosis and suggested actions.
In his State of the Union address to Congress today, President Obama set a national goal to “double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support 2 million jobs in America” through a new National Export Initiative. Details are scarce so far, but the White House blog says “the NEI includes the creation of the President’s Export Promotion Cabinet and an enhancement of funding for key export promotion programs.” The focus on small business is encouraging, and we look forward to learning more about the substance of the initiative.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been getting all the (bad) press, but there’s at least one national business organization that’s taking a broader view of efforts to combat climate change. CEOs’ club The Business Roundtable released a report last week titled Unfinished Business: The Missing Elements of a Sustainable Energy and Climate Policy, urging Congress and the Obama administration to protect energy security and economic growth while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and modernizing the electric grid.
While the report doesn’t exactly toe the enviro line — it promotes expansion of nuclear power and R&D investments in “clean coal” technology — green-minded readers can only applaud its call for enhanced energy efficiency and modernization of the electric power grid to better accommodate renewable energy. Encouragingly, Roundtable President John Castellani explicitly acknowledged that a sustainable transition to a low-carbon economy must be a national priority.
The European Union’s international database on renewable energy legislation now provides information for all 27 EU countries, according to a press release from the German environment ministry picked up by Photon International. Using the database is free of charge, and all country profiles are available in German and English.
Keep it simple, smarty!
The new Come Clean Report from KRC Research and Weber Shandwick identifies insufficient and complicated information from vendors as the main reasons European companies are not following through on cleantech purchasing policies. Somebody’s leaving a lot of money on the table, folks. The Cleantech Group has more info here.