As technology freely crosses borders and international markets open their arms ever wider to new business, the '90s wave of globalization shows no signs of cresting. And while countless entrepreneurs crossed horizons in the past, even more will follow in the coming months and years.
"International trade is driving the overall economy," says Winters. "Small business still represents a fairly small percentage, but the number of businesses growing in international trade is increasing."
Despite the initial enthusiasm for breaking into international markets, however, the logistics sometimes provide a sobering reality check. "As far as extending credit, [building] relationships, finding distributors, making sure their products are used and understood--it's hard to do that long distance," Winters says. "But I think [entrepreneurs] can do it, and they should learn how to do it and strategically pick countries they think they can have a quick impact on."
Wacker is even more optimistic. "A 15- or 20-person company today has just as much potential and the necessary resources and skill levels to be a global company," he says. "That's one of the wonderful things about [going global]: It's not just for big companies."
As the nation's small-business owners peruse the global landscape for opportunities, the challenge becomes targeting those areas that hold the most potential for 1998 and beyond. Our experts point to Asia, Canada, Eastern and Western Europe, and Latin America. "China, India, the Middle East, Pakistan--to me, those are by far the biggest opportunities over the next 20 years," says Birch.
But predictably, those lacking experience in the global arena should start out with modest aspirations, says Winters. "I think Canada and Mexico are great places to start because of their proximity, and I think Latin America is still a great opportunity," he says. "Eastern Europe also has a ton of potential, but [entrepreneurs] should start a little closer to home first, to get grounded."