As we move through 2021, the picture is becoming very hopeful and global business is not going away. Through my work as President of Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global®, I’ve discovered that women business owners, now more than ever, are ready to grow big by going global. It’s a fast ticket to find new customers. I asked six experts to weigh in on six key trends – digital, strategy, wellness, supply chain, security risks, and remote work – that business owners should understand as they navigate through uncharted global territory. Here’s what they said.
Digital: Migrate online to reach new customers, export to new markets, and grow profit margins.
The COVID-19 crisis hit women and women-led firms disproportionately hard. However, the crisis also opened new opportunities when it forced consumers and businesses to migrate online. American online sellers reached new customers, exported to new markets, and grew their profit margins. U.S. ecommerce retail sales jumped 44% in 2020, and online sales grew by 46% in the UK, 40% in Brazil, 27% in Mexico, and 20% in Canada – these are markets where buyers often prefer American online stores and marketplaces, and will also continue shopping online. Businesses, too, have gone digital, and B2B and B2C markets are melding – brands and manufacturers are building direct-to-consumer digital commerce channels, posing new competition to online retailers. Businesses that will do best amid the frenzied global migration to online shopping will focus on building genuine omnichannel businesses with keen customer engagement, emphasis on data analytics, and broad-based digital transformation of business operations. Keep an eye on opportunities – from innovation in cross-border payments and online lending, to fast-disbursing working capital solutions to fulfill online orders.
– Dr. Kati Suominen, Founder and CEO, Nextrade Group (www.nextradegroupllc.com)
Strategy: Expand value to compete in new places as cross-functional workstreams drive innovation.
Strategy remains an art, but it’s lost its edge.
In 2021, companies will succeed when they compete in new places, with cross-functional workstreams driving innovation. Yesterday’s bland mandates can’t provoke that.
Moving forward, the sharpest strategies will be:
PURPOSEFUL: A North Star can captivate today’s diverse stakeholders. When CVS embraced “Helping people on their path to better health,” it meant foregoing cigarette revenues. It also made their direction clear and true. Purposeful strategies push companies to new frontiers while also future-proofing integrity.
ENLIGHTENED: Increasingly, advocacy groups hold businesses accountable for every action. When facing decisions, leaders should weigh potential impacts on employees, communities, and the planet. Enlighted strategies drive profits while making business a force for good.
INTEGRATED: Strategy that only engages one function can’t drive meaningful change. By ensuring that initiatives span the organization, CEOs can expand all-important accountability. Integrated strategies charge the entire leadership team to own and deliver outcomes together.
¬– Michelle Hayward is Founder/CEO of Bluedog Design (bluedogdesign.com)
Wellness: Invest in services and resources related to mental health and wellness.
Businesses have an incredible opportunity to help employees and business environments recover from the tsunami of COVID stress, and emerge stronger and better equipped to handle adversity, be agile, and know how to pivot personally and professionally. Lofty goals? Yes! Achievable? Absolutely.
The Wellable 2021 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report https://f.hubspotusercontent30.net/hubfs/226537/Resources/2021%20Employee%20Wellness%20Industry%20Trends%20Report.pdf, suggests that companies are planning to invest exponentially more this year in services and resources related to mental health and wellness.
Resources for mental health are proposed to be up to 88%, followed by telemedicine at 87%, stress management at 81%, and mindfulness at 69%. This is great news as the cost to companies arising from mental health related conditions in their workforce is in the millions to billions, depending on the study.
One bright spot from our COVID world is that mental healthcare access and utilization have exploded. Wellness is seen as necessary, not a luxury, and companies can only benefit from having a healthier, happier workforce.
– Margo Jacquot, Owner/Director of The Juniper Center (thejunipercenter.com)
Global Supply Chain: Diversify a global supply chain.
There will not only be logistical problems after the pandemic and Suez Canal crisis, but there will be many other unexpected and out of control factors that will impact our businesses. These include 25% tariffs on certain goods, material cost increases on finished goods, stronger and appreciated Chinese currency, and triple or quadruple ocean freight costs. Currently, ocean freight is about 35% to 50% of the cost of a transaction. If the container is low value, it is 100% of the cost.
This makes the landed cost of the goods increase greatly. All these costs will be passed along to the final consumer. Our customers and retailers are pushing back on these increases, while importers like us are suffering with NO MARGIN to operate the business now and in the near future. If large and small businesses are not making a profit due to these high costs, this will eventually damage job opportunities.
A business with a global supply chain should:
• Diversify its supply chain as much as possible.
• Contract with ocean carriers to guarantee some volume in exchange for a more favorable rate.
• Shop and compare sources elsewhere, such as Europe, Africa, and South America.
• Expand export markets to more countries.
• Clean out the old inventory (e.g., if some customers will not import because of the high tariffs and increase in ocean freight rate, it is a good time to sell old inventory).
– Wendy Shen, President and CEO, FLOMO/Nygala Corp.(www.flomousa.com)
Security Risks: Mitigate unnecessary risk exposures.
Businesses across the USA and those operating globally are facing significantly increased risks of fraudulent activity. The most common type of fraud to both individuals and businesses include COVID-19 scams, identity theft, credit card fraud, robocalls, mortgage fraud, and fake charities. However, fraud at all stages in business typically includes a suite of issues ranging from cyberattacks to internal theft to corruption. Internationally, and especially in higher risk and emerging growth markets, this may involve third party supply chain corruption, bribery schemes, facilitation payments, anti-competitive pricing, corporate espionage, money laundering, racketeering, and accounting frauds such as books and records violations, excessive meals and entertainment costs, Purchase Order fraud, etc. A well-designed Enhanced Due Diligence investigation on new executive hires and third-party business vendors can help identify 35% of these problems so that you can effectively mitigate unnecessary risk exposures.
– Candice Tal, CEO, Infortal Worldwide (www.infortal.com)
Global Talent: Offer a hybrid work solution.
Will remote work continue growing? Yes is the short answer! Why?
– Immigration work visas continue to be expensive and challenging.
– An amazing pool of talent around the world speaks your customers’ and vendors’ languages and can respond 24/7.
– Younger generations are seeking more work flexibility. Even older generations have gotten a taste of working from many other parts of the world, which allows them more flexibility around retirement timing.
– There are so many great new productivity tools to measure work activity/results and collaboration.
– Finding employees who wish to travel non-stop and have the stamina to travel and still be effective in different time zones is really challenging and a quick way to burn out.
– We can save serious travel costs, opportunity time spent commuting, costs of brick and mortar for employee work space, and taxes depending on nexus issues.
– If you don’t offer at least a hybrid solution outside of certain in-person required work, you will no longer be competitive with other companies that are recruiting top talent.
– Blaire Miller, Manager Partner/Owner, The Hunter Group International Executive Search (www.huntergroup.com)
Those who fare the best will absorb what they learn, continuously improve, and re-invent themselves to become highly productive, competitive players on the global stage.