By Bill Bishop, CEO of Bishop Communications Inc., a leading branding and packaging company for entrepreneurs
It is an undisputed fact that we are living in an age of globalization. Every business, even the corner store, is affected by events half way around the world. Increased global trade, outsourcing, and instant communications have made the marketplace much more competitive and challenging, but these trends also present entrepreneurs with huge opportunities to do business beyond their borders.
In 1998, in my book Global Marketing For The Digital Age (HarperCollins), I explained how the Internet was making it possible for entrepreneurs to build global-scale enterprises with a minimum of capital and risk. Since that time, with further advances in technology (such as the advent of social media, and wireless communications) these opportunities have multiplied exponentially. Yet few entrepreneurs have taken advantage of these opportunities to build a global company.
Most entrepreneurs are hesitant to go beyond their borders because they have the wrong model in their mind about what globalization would mean for them. They think global expansion means setting up offices and factories in foreign countries. While this may be a viable option for Fortune 500 companies, many entrepreneurs are not willing, or able, to invest a lot of capital in risky foreign markets. Watching on television the upheavals in the Middle East, and other countries, gives any entrepreneur pause when thinking about venturing outside their country.
Fortunately, there is another global business approach that is much safer and more scalable: Packaging and licensing your intellectual property. This approach involves less risk, less capital investment, and yet offers a much greater potential upside.
A good example is Four Seasons Resorts. While they own a number of their hotels, it comes as a surprise to most people that they don’t own most of them. Based in Toronto, Four Seasons has taken the IP approach to globalization. They provide their branding, marketing and process intelligence, while indigenous business partners put up the capital for land and buildings. As such, Four Seasons receives its substantial licensing fee, while minimizing its risk. Should the political situation in a country go sideways (for example, a new government nationalizes one of their hotels), Four Seasons can simply walk away, no worse for wear.
The trick is to recognize that your intellectual property is your company’s most valuable asset, and the most transferrable. Instead of making foreign investments in physical assets (buildings, trucks, and people), package your intellectual property, and then license it in global markets.
This is what EO member Jeff Calibaba did. As a distributor of AED (defibrillators), Jeff packaged his intellectual property as The HeartSave Awareness Program. This packaged program was comprised of a trademarked brand name, graphic identity, a results-oriented process, and complementary knowledge products such as books and videos. This IP not only helped Jeff sell a lot defibrillators, he was able to license it globally. Medtronics, the makers of the defibrillators, paid Jeff a licensing fee to use his IP package in more than 40 countries around the world. By packaging his intellectual property, Jeff was able to build a global enterprise with little capital, no risk, and lots of upside.
To paraphrase Dickens, these are the best of times and the worst of times. It is the worst of times for entrepreneurs who are still clinging to outmoded thinking, and it is the best of times for entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of their global opportunities by packaging their intellectual property.
Bill Bishop is the CEO of Bishop Communications Inc., the founder of The Bishop School of Entrepreneur Marketing, and the creator of The BIG Idea Adventure™, an advanced coaching program that helps entrepreneurs grow their business by creating, packaging, and promoting their intellectual property. He is a coach, keynote speaker and workshop leader, and is the author of many best-selling books, including How To Sell A Lobster (now sold in 25 countries in 12 languages), The Problem With Penguins, Beyond Basketball, and Global Marketing For The Digital Age. He was also the author of Strategic Marketing For The Digital Age, the first book ever published about e-commerce and Internet marketing.
In February 2013, Bill Bishop will be presenting at the EO Business Beyond Borders Conference in Shanghai, China.