Going The Distance

Mapping out plans for international expansion? Let us show you the way.

Ten years ago, Clayton Gush came to a serious realization. Cetacea Corp., his newly formed scuba diving accessories company in Foster City, California, lacked the necessary market share in the United States to keep the business afloat. Determined to persevere, the then-22-year-old entrepreneur resolved to dive into foreign waters with the help of partner Jim Youngblood. After revamping the preliminary business plan Gush had drafted in college, the partners turned the company into an export business. A smart move: Today, Cetacea brings in just under $2 million selling to diving enthusiasts worldwide.

Cetacea's tale of survival parallels that of many of today's small businesses. More than ever, entrepreneurs nationwide are witnessing the globalization of the business landscape--and are taking part in the revolution. "As we move into the 21st century, business will become more internationalized," says Michael Zey, professor of management at Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. "Your source of labor will be international; your source of financial support will be international; your market will be international. Most companies now realize they cannot live by the domestic market alone."

According to the International Trade Administration, each year international trade accounts for more than $800 billion in economic activity. And by 2000, experts predict that amount will exceed a staggering $1 trillion. "For better or worse, there's a tremendous interdependence of the world's economies," Zey says. "You really can't ignore that internationalism; it plays a positive role in development. Yours will be a bigger and better company if you go international."

Experts agree that shifting the focus from domestic markets to foreign ones is a complex process for businesses, one that takes serious time and effort. But the changing marketplace demands that business owners at least consider the possibility--if they don't want to be left behind. As the saying goes, it's not in the still calm of life that great challenges are formed.

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Going The Distance.

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