I've written previously about how more U.S. small businesses are trying to develop an international presence for a number of reasons, such as a weaker dollar, better communication technology, or higher incomes abroad. It's easy to think of why small businesses are doing this, but how is a lot more difficult. There's no easy path for even well-established and successful small businesses to navigate to get their services or products abroad. That article touched on using consultants to figure out all the complexities of opening an office abroad.
But yesterday I checked out a conference of small-business CEOs from around the country hosted by the U.S. Pan-Asian Chamber of Commerce and I heard some different ideas. Tanniru Rao is a former professor of marketing who started his own market research firm, Market Probe Inc. He explained at the conference how he found that he needed to have a presence abroad so his firm of 250 employees could compete with the top market researchers who can have thousands of employees. But he said that rather than trying to directly set up his own operations in places like China, acquiring pre-existing firms in those places was "the best way" to go. He said they decided to keep local management in place because he not only got a foothold, but also acquired "seasoned local talent." That makes the transition much faster than doing it yourself, he said.
Laurel Delaney has the best blog around on the subject of small business going global.