I was recently in a café with my partner waiting for a couple of coffees. I walked to a nearby counter to pour us each a glass of water from a pair of water dispensers. One of the dispensers was taking forever. Although it was fuller than the other and the tap was fully open, water was barely trickling out. I grew frustrated at how long such a simple task was taking. I became fixated on it.
Before I realised it, the second glass had completely overflowed and began cascading down the side of the counter. The torrent of water engulfed the front of my pants, my right shoe and a box of thousands of paper napkins on the floor, which quickly turned into a mushy mess.
I was confused and embarrassed (partly because my pants were conspicuously soaking from the waist down). I hoped my partner hadn’t noticed but when I looked up she was trying hard to control her laughter. I sat back down annoyed and drank my coffee. Why did that stupid second glass take so long to fill up? The two dispensers were basically the same. So why was I so fixated on the slow dripping tap right in front of me when I’d completely ignored the fast-flowing one just next to it?
Not all water jugs are created equal
As I reflected on the analogy during the week, it reminded me of two acquaintances of mine – each of who has built their own successful business. Alix is a fast-talking, enthusiastic entrepreneur with a magnetic personality and a limitless well of energy. Jen is more cautious and risk-averse, yet she is also charismatic in her own way and exceptionally strong at building long-term relationships with her clients, for whom she delivers time after time.
Both of my colleagues operate in the same industry, yet they’ve each built entirely different businesses. Alix’s is global, operating in half a dozen countries; Jen’s is confined to just one state in one country. Alix has established unique revenue streams that could each withstand unforeseen market disruptions; Jen’s business is built entirely around her and would likely collapse in a matter of weeks without her at the helm.
Both of these colleagues are roughly the same age, are equally qualified, and share similar motivations: they’re both great at what they do, love being their own boss, and want financial independence to be able to spend more time with their families. Both earn enough to make a respectable living, yet one of my colleagues is far more successful than the other. Why?
The answer is that Jen is stuck staring at the slow-dripping tap. Because she’s so fixated, she’s failed to step back and take stock of the bigger picture. She hasn’t allowed herself to see the hidden opportunities in her business beyond what’s right under her nose. And those opportunities are most likely waiting for her overseas.
Step away from the tap
It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day of your business. After all, your continued dedication and commitment is likely the reason your business is successful in the first place. You’re probably great at solving tricky problems, delivering for your clients and ensuring that things get done to a high standard.
The danger is though, if that’s all you allow yourself to do – it’s all you’ll ever do. You’ll continue putting out fires and working away meticulously, without ever really understanding just how successful your business can be. We all need to take a step back from time to time to look at the opportunities around us and decide if we’re investing our time and efforts in the right place.
Going international doesn’t mean giving up on what you’ve built at home. In fact, it often means exactly the opposite. Successfully expanding your business overseas is all about taking what you’re great at – what you do better than anyone else – and working out how to apply it in another country.
Stand back and evaluate your opportunities. How long has it been since you thought about doing business in another country? Have you never really considered it? Give yourself a chance to forget about the day-to-day and try to understand the bigger picture for your business. What are the fast-flowing taps that can take your business global that you’re currently missing out on?
You owe it to yourself to take a look. They might be right under your nose.
If you’re a small business thinking of how to grow your business and whether international expansion is right for you, check out our e-book Why Go Global? Seven Reasons to Take Your Company Global.