08/27/2013 04:48 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2013

Global Strategy in Uncertain Environments

One of the most frequent questions that we are being asked by clients is this one: In a world that is constantly changing how do we expand and enter new markets?

Good question... Well, there is an interesting paradox in our world (actually, one of many). New technologies and the internet generate unprecedented opportunities for internationalization and access to new markets. Communications are oh-so-easy and free; movement is fast and cheaper than ever; disintermediation is thriving as technology allows for immediacy, accuracy and speed.

On the other hand, this continuum of change is multifaceted (political, geostrategic, economic and social). Inevitably it creates uncertainty. And uncertainty breeds insecurity; insecurity affects decision-making; poor decision-making has negative impact on strategy. This nexus can be the slippery road towards failure. No, no, no. We don't want that.

In order to surf this chaos and build an effective strategy for international expansion, I suggest 10 critical steps:
  1. Localize the global and globalize the local; adjust your strategy accordingly. It is important to pay attention to the global vs. local balance, which means adapting your product or service towards the needs of the local market
  2. Involve local partners; take advantage of their local insights, contacts and also avoid overheads. Often they can be of significant help in overcoming government barriers.
  3. Form partnerships (aka strategic alliances). A strategic alliance is a relationship between firms to create more value than they can on their own. The firms unite to reach objectives which are commonly beneficial, while remaining independent. Today companies form alliances with their rivals, their suppliers, and even their customers.
  4. Locate and invest in the untapped part of the market. Domestic and international underserved markets represent a multitrillion-dollar opportunity that is largely untapped. Look for it!
  5. Collaborate with non-traditional partners. Non-corporate and non-profit local partners can provide the necessary expertise on social infrastructure and local legitimacy.
  6. Remember that 'the best way to predict the future is to create it', a phrase attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Do not allow fear to put you off. Identify the obstacles, think carefully before you act, but be daring.
  7. Do not be afraid to customise your brand for the local market. Even well established global brands that enter new markets need to adopt some degree of customization in order to meet local market needs.
  8. Develop a communications programme based on your company's core vision and competitive advantages; launch key initiatives and develop tangible benchmarks.
  9. Top-down strategies are not winning as much as they used to. Challenges today come from many fronts and top management doesn't have all the answers. Engage your grassroots staff; they could help creatively and aggressively.
  10. Create organisational energy by sharing the challenge and by inspiring and mobilising your people.
And remember that adapting these simple and straightforward rules can be an effective response to complexity!