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Born global

More and more small and medium-sized companies are launching themselves as international businesses from the word go - and being successful, too. “The key to success is having a strategic network and unique products,” maintains Siv Marina Flø Karlsen in her doctoral thesis from BI Norwegian School of Management.

More rapid internationalisation: it is no longer the case that a company must establish itself in its home market before venturing overseas, and then only through tentative steps in neighbouring countries.

A number of new small and medium-sized Norwegian companies have been successful internationally right from the start and have quickly gone global. Some of these, such as Opera Software, IRTech, Colormatic and Optoflow, even started life as global organisations.

In her doctoral project for BI, Siv Marina Flø Karlsen studied the internationalisation processes of selected small and medium-sized companies. She was particularly interested in learning why some companies quickly succeed in becoming international.

Twelve export winners

Flø Karlsen interviewed the key personnel (founders or others who were with the company from the start) from twelve selected companies which achieved early success in the international and global arenas, measured as proportion of exports and the number of continents where they operate.

“Some of the companies simply had no choice. Their products are designed for a global market, so they have to look beyond this country’s boundaries at an early stage in the company’s development,” declares Flø Karlsen, citing the Norwegian company IRTech as an example.

IRTech has developed niche products for the steel industry, a global industry which has no home market. As she explains, “All the clients are large international companies”.

Fast track to global success

Siv Marina Flø Karlsen was eager to identify the common characteristics of companies which achieved global success at an early stage. Here is the blueprint for high-speed internationalisation:

1) The company’s products are unique, ingenious and innovative. They are also revolutionary and offer new ways of doing things.

2) The company’s founder or others with a major role have wide experience and extensive contact networks from previous work in similar industries.

3) The company has strong relationships with key personnel from large, successful organisations.

4) The company has good relationships with influential figures in the industry who can provide support and insight in any areas where it lacks expertise (e.g. research institutions).

5) All the personnel are very involved in the company and eager for it to succeed.

Siv Marina Flø Karlsen conducted the work for her doctoral thesis at the Department of Marketing, BI Norwegian School of Management

Audun Farbrot | alfa
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