SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

The Challenges of Internationalising a Startup

Working on creating a successful startup is challenging at the best of times. However, once you’ve set up your website, your business model, your products and your services, there’s still the biggest problem to face. Expansion.

Today, we’ll explore some of the most common challenges that startups like yours face when trying to boom into the global market and how you can overcome them.

Not Starting Early

One of the biggest mistakes that start-up companies make when trying to secure their position on the global Mapnetwork is leaving it too late. Every decision you make needs to consider the fact that you’re planning to globalize in the future.

Even down to a basic level of choosing the name of your brand. You may have come up with a really awesome name for your startup but have you considered how well received it will be in other countries. In some cases, it might even be offensive, in which case you’ll need to adapt and move forward.

Overcoming the Language Barrier

Let’s face it, not everybody in the world speaks English. Or at least fluently enough for them to understand your website. To overcome the language barrier, you’re going to need to think about translating your pages in the near future. If you want your startup to definitely be a global entity, you’ll need to start thinking of this early on in your development.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply copy and paste your content into Google Translate. Although this will do the basics, it won’t be able to translate full sentences and thousands of words accurately. Instead, you’ll need to use a professional translator who’s fluent in the languages. Fortunately, there are several sites that can carry out this process on your behalf such as UK top writers and Best Australian writers. Simply find which one best suits you.

Ensuring Expansion is Right for You

Sometimes, startup companies will move to the international markets simply because they don’t have enough business in their domestic market. However, this is not always the best decision, and the chances are that you aren’t’ receiving business in your domestic market because of your business model.

However, this can be a critical error and will possibly result in your breaking your business due to huge expenditures that won’t pay off. Unless you’re originally planning to operate in another country, always try to conquer your domestic market first before expanding.

Consider Your Communication Methods

Whether you’re operating an online service or selling your products to the world, you’ll need to pay attention to how you’re communicating with your customers and the methods you’re using. For example, you may be using social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, but are these the primary source of communication in certain countries?

Lean Dole, a marketing expert at Viawriting, explains, “You’ll need to explore other options. You could invest in multiple, dedicated email addresses. You may need to think about dedicated country phone support lines. You may even need to consider what prefix you’re going to use on your domain name, such as France (.fr), Spain (.es) etc.”

Increasing Global Credibility

Not only will you need to adapt and customize your content for your online users, but you’ll also want to adapt and personalise your user-generated content. For example, customer reviews and feedback are vital aspects that will contribute to your success. So, you may be highlighting reviews from your own country, but what about promoting the views of others?

Another thing you’ll want to think about is adapting this content to suit the country that you’re promoting in. Every country is different and will have its own mindset, its own culture and its own ideas. It is better to outsource such work to professionals like Academadvisor or Write my essay. You will need to address these if you want your startup business to succeed.

Don’t Risk Poor Customer Experience


Let’s imagine you’re based in the US, and you’ve got an increasing number of customers in China, none of which speak English. Then, let’s say there was a problem with your product or service. Maybe the parcel wasn’t delivered, or your product was faulty. The individual then attempts to contact your company, you answer the phone, but neither of you understands each other.

This is going to seriously harm the reputation, credibility and trustworthiness of your business and it may be extremely difficult to claw back these brownie points. Before you launch your service into another country, it’s vital that you set up the right customer support teams that can handle any queries or complaints.

Not Playing the Long Game

Moving into the international markets is a long game, and many startups will be extremely eager to make the biggest impression that they can, causing them to overlook this consideration.
Instead of trying to steal your competition’s market share in one huge strike, it’s much more effective, and budget-friendly, to chip away at it slowly and gain ground and traction.

Brenda Berg is a professional with over 15 years of experience in business management, marketing and entrepreneurship. Consultant and tutor for college students and entrepreneurs. She believes that constant learning is the only way to success. You can visit her personal blog at Letsgoandlearn.com

 

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Building Brand Recognition for Your Startup: Website Fundamentals

By: Rebecca Shipley 

When launching your startup, it is likely that the thought of how to best get exposure and a loyal following. And even better if you can do so while also building up your brand identity and its ability to be recognized and remembered by consumers, right? With the right elements, your website can make this happen for your startup. Use your website as a powerful tool to develop your brand and its ability to connect with and engage consumers.

Domain name
Your domain name is a link to your website (both literally and figuratively) that people will interact with before even reaching the homepage of your site. Therefore, you must help set your site up for success by choosing and brand conceptsregistering a domain name that ties in with your brand and promotes recognition and remembrance of it.

Make the domain name for your site something that is short and sweet, no longer than about four words. It should also be simple to spell out and to share, whether through word-of-mouth or digital mediums. Avoid using hyphens or numbers, as they tend to be accidentally put in the wrong place or left out entirely. These things will help your site’s domain name be remembered and shared, and as a result, promote brand recognition with more people, both on- and offline.

Your site’s domain name should also be brandable in the sense that it should itself be relevant to your brand. When a person sees it, they should know that it is connected to your brand if they are familiar with you. If a person has never before heard of your startup, once they visit your site they should see how its domain name ties in with the brand that is presented there.

Logo
Your brand’s logo will take up some valuable real estate on your website, placed prominently at the top of its homepage and various other internal pages. Ensure that it speaks to the message your brand wants to communicate and gives people the right idea of what your brand stands for and represents.

Both in design and in color scheme, your logo should not be too similar to that of your competitors. Avoid having it be overly fussy in a way that detracts from all your hard work on the rest of the site or that makes your brand look like it was indecisive on what it most wants to convey with its logo. The right logo makes a website and its design, as well as further promoting the site’s brand. The wrong logo can confuse consumers as to what your startup values and/or has to offer them.

Links to social media
Include links to each of your brand’s social media accounts on its website in a way and in a location that they are easily seen. Place them prominently on the site’s homepage or on a clearly identifiable tab. By directing traffic to your social media accounts through your website, you are allowing web users to see more of your brand’s content through its social media posts and your brand to build up the engagement of its social community online.

Content catered to your target market
Everything your brand does with its website needs to be done with its target market in mind. Give them content they find interesting and useful within your site. If you are not quite sure of who makes up your target market and what it is your target market wants to see from your brand, you will need to conduct market research in order to find out. This can be done either through primary research methods (like surveys and focus groups) or secondary research, in which your startup takes data already collected by an outside organization and uses it to form its own conclusions.

Know who you are using your site to market to, what it is they like and want to see, and craft your site around this knowledge. It is much easier to promote brand recognition with a specific segment of the market that you are working to get the attention of with your site than it is to attempt to do so by making general content that you hope pleases everyone.

Of course, your startup’s website needs to express what it is as a business and what it has to sell to the consumer. On top of that however, it needs to be a part of your startup’s online presence that serves as a strong representation of its brand and allows visitors to it to see that brand. Having your brand represented well on your site will allow people to recognize it, remember it, and be encouraged to follow along with all it is doing.

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Start-up: International Coworking Day!

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This past week on Tuesday, it was International Coworking Day. This was a worldwide celebration for the coworking movement where entrepreneurs, artists and others “rent” a desk or office inside a cooperative workspace. I attended the BBQ at OfficeXpats
a coworking space on Bainbridge Island. It ended up being a diet cheat day as I ate two cheeseburgers, had chips, deserts and a beverage (sorry!). Hat’s off to OfficeXpats owners Leslie Schneider and Jason Omens (pictured) for engaging the community with a party.

I have tracked this “culture” for several years and have observations. And while this blog is about start-ups, I have an Office 365 hook below.

internationalcoworkingday

 

Culture. In general, there are three types of coworkers/members based on my research.

Start-ups. First and foremost are the start-ups seeking a physical beachhead in the world of business. These are typically capital-starved entrepreneurs who benefit from the flexible leases ranging from a desk to cubicle to small office. Their tenancy is typically short-term as they either make it or not. If not, they move along down the road. If they make it, the entrepreneurs will often move into permanent larger space. When I’ve walked into different coworking spaces, I’m always surprised at the tenant turnover. For example, at The Hub in downtown Seattle, I spoke with some young entrepreneurs who were trying to create “Uber Movers” where you’d hire a mover for just a few hours, not the full daylong commitment. Fast forward and the “Uber Movers” were gone next visit.

Not for profit. My sister Ginna Brelsford runs a not-for-profit called Sahar and is a tenant in The Hub. She fits the profile of many coworkers seeking a place to work, have interns sit at those long millennial tables, etc. Sahar currently serves 15,000 girls annually in 12 schools in Balkh Province, Northern Afghanistan. They provide access to education for girls through computer centers, innovative and sustainable building designs, training female teachers and piloting a program to prevent early marriage. It dedicated a new school for 3,500 girls in 2011 and are managing the collaborative partnership between philanthropy, architecture and international development. The reason I share this is that donors often require the not-for-profit entity be run from a real office, not a dining room table.

Social Cliques. Defined as “a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them….” I’d say this element is present and accounted for in the coworker movement. There are storytellers, writers, artists, poets, retired execs and even PR people who are really into this movement stuff. I get that but I’m personally not that into it. It’s akin to the hard core “channel clique” in the SMB channel amongst a handful of vendors and compliant partners in our world. Think of it this way. By analogy, there are coworking tenants who are really seeking the B&B experience about getting to really know you versus the anonymity of a hotel room while traveling. Does that make sense?

Conservative/Secular

In 2009, I wrote an article in our SMB PC magazine on Regus, the worldwide executive suite provider, shaking up the need for new office buildings and being an almost counter-cyclical play in the Great Recession. It has a day lounge that I compared to an airline lounge (in fact Regus briefly got into the airline lounge business at one point). To this day, I’m a gold member. That means I can use the business lounge at any of 3,000 locations worldwide (I’ve done so in Istanbul Turkey, Sydney Australia, London GB and countless US locations including the handful of Seattle-sites). I’ve viewed the business lounges as getting me away from the sticky customer tables at Starbucks to get some real work done. Wouldn’t leave home without my Regus gold card.

My friend and colleague Dave Waldrop rented a couple offices inside the Redmond Regus when he directed the start-up attachedapps (see my blog on attachedapps being acquired). Dave needed a more traditional arrangement (read more conservative) as he was raising capital from investors for this venture. I get that. My experience has been that Regus is not an “untraditional” coworking movement space (several coworking organizations advertise against Regus offering a hipper and cooler alternative; Level office ad: “Hipper Office, Lower Cost - Better-Looking Designs & Amenities‎”).

Office 365

Now the geek stuff. Back in the Small Business Server (SBS) days, I implemented more than one solution for offices that had sub-tenants and the use of the SBS resources was a benefit that could be shared. I remember touring some early executive suites (including one launched by former Microsoft exec Tony Audino) where IT local area network resources where shared (and billed for). Today that’s all changed. With my Office 365 account and laptop in hand, I work wherever I am. So when I visit a Regus Business lounge, I take advantage of the high-speed WiFi connection and rock on. Worked in Istanbul Turkey (the Regus was in a “Trump Tower”) because my fleabag hotel had no internet connectivity. I literally camped out at Regus for a week!

Next year, mark your calendar for August 9th to participate in International Coworking Day and learn more about this community. The shoe might just fit.

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Steps to manage IT for starting and growing your business

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By: Ashley Leonard


You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” So why put all your investment capital in one part of your business? IT resources can eat a large chunk of your startup or investors’ capital, taking funding away from more crucial aspects of a new business. While having the right IT solutions for your business is important, you may not need an extensive IT setup immediately. This is especially true now that the cloud is a safe, efficient and cost effective option.

You can make your business or investors’ capital go much further if you are slightly conservative. To start, purchase IT assets and utilize the cloud instead of buying physical or on premise resources. Avoid overinvesting in IT resources you may not need immediately and invest your capital in other ways. Those who are first starting a business can use these tips to effectively manage IT with realistic resources:

Count on the cloud: Why is everything moving to the cloud? Because it’s cost effective and efficient — two things every startup or small business is looking for. With the cloud, there is nothing to manage, no infrastructure cost and no large capital needed for hardware. Little maintenance is required and you don’t have to pay consultants to install and update applications. The cloud is more secure and flexible so you can move from one vendor to another as you grow.

Strengthen your core: Determine the core infrastructure functions your business needs. From there, decide how many workstations and how much storage space you need to run your business. You’ll find that almost all core functions a business needs, like Microsoft Office 365, can be found and managed from the cloud and configured to meet your requirements now and in the future.

Save with a suite: Today, more businesses large and small are choosing cloud-based programs over on-premise versions to handle not only IT functions, but financial business as well. For your accounting and sales tracking needs, consider using a suite of programs. Keep track of your accounting with programs like QuickBooks Online and NetSuite, which can be used online through the cloud. Record and report sales stats and mange CRM (customer relationship management) with solutions like Sales Force conveniently through the cloud.

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4 Things To Do In Your First Year Working At A Startup

 

Be prepared to take out the trash with a smile.

I have bad news for anyone looking to get into the startup game for the first time: not everybody can make it. Still, the only way to find out if it's for you is to try. And that takes hard work, dedication, and at least a little strategic foresight.Startup

More than working at a traditional organization, the level of success you reach at a startup is mainly up to you. Whether you're joining a startup after a career at a big company or taking your first job at one, here's what you need to do during your first year in order to succeed.

1. Start Small And Prove Your Chops  

Your earliest experience working at a startup might not be a full-time affair at first. There might not be any open positions at startups you like that exactly fit your skill set, so look for any way you can contribute. Offer to work part-time or on a freelance basis. A certain startup might not have the budget to hire a full-time social media manager, for instance, but if that's your passion, you could still offer to help build the company’s presence on different platforms on nights and weekends, and show how valuable you'd be down the line. The first employee my cofounder and I hired at our own startup was an intern who did just that. Six months later, he was running all of our marketing campaigns.

When you prove you want to be part of the team and can add real value, a space for you will develop organically. But you have to get in on the ground floor and show what you've got.

2. Check Your Entitlement At The Door  

Startups may have an entrepreneurial mystique about them, but you can’t go into this world asking what’s in it for you. A new startup doesn’t owe you anything.

It’s part of the typical startup culture to put the company's needs first—before individual careers and personal ambitions. In fact, in a 2015 survey by the Startup Institute, entrepreneurial leaders listed the top qualities they look for in employees, and willingness to put the company before oneself was one of the most desired traits.

That means working as a team of equals where no task is below anyone’s pay grade. At my startup, The Bouqs Company, one example is trash duty: All of us, from the CEO down to the newest intern, take turns taking out the trash. Another is customer service: Every single employee, from the COO to the CMO to creatives to coders, pitches in on customer service during our busiest holidays. Eighty-four percent of respondents in a 2014 study by Millennial Branding and Beyond.com said the top attribute they look for in employees is a positive attitude.

No matter how impressive your resume, you need to be willing to do what it takes to make the startup—not you—successful, all without complaining. That definitely isn't always easy. But as the company succeeds, so will you.

3. Get it Done  

Startups are often cash-strapped and need to get the biggest bang for their buck. That means you need to prove you have something extra to bring to the table. And that something is almost always worth way more than what they actually pay you.

So think of it as a career investment that will pay off later on, and start by being great at your immediate job. In that first year, take on every task that's thrown at you, do it well, and then ask for another. As you get the hang of that, look for ways to add value, no matter how small, beyond your core role. Organize an event, set up the company’s social media page, bake a tray of mac and cheese for coworkers during that late-night sprint. Any skill or knowledge you bring to the table means one less employee the startup needs to find.

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Start-up; Poverty and Entrepreneurs

Start-up; Poverty and Entrepreneurs

Harry here and be forewarned. I’m about to go intellectual on you. This is an interesting New York Times article about how entrepreneurial communities do and do no develop in non First World countries. Hint: It has to do with savings and capital.

Laura Doering was at a rest stop in Panama about five years ago, waiting for her bus to refuel, when she saw six vendors clustered together selling almost exactly the same snacks. She wondered: Why doesn’t anyone sell something different?

Read on here 

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