Looking for a business partner overseas to help grow your business? Don’t make this classic mistake.

A shipment of your company’s product is being held up on a dock overseas, and you’ve received word from a local business partner that a small payment would help smooth its way through customs. Should you pay the bribe to get things moving?
 
The answer is absolutely not, according to Richard Burge, Chief Executive Office of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council.

“Corruption is a cancer,” he says. “It destroys economies, it destroys people’s lives and it will destroy you. You don’t want to be corrupt or deal with corrupt people.”

A speaker at the recent World Chambers Congress, Burge went on to speak about the importance of establishing strategic partnerships and alliances to business growth and innovation.

By identifying and aligning with organisations that share similar goals, particularly those in international markets, you not only expand your network but also better guarantee the success of your business through building upon the opportunities these networks provide.
The trick for SMEs is finding the businesses and individuals who’ll value the partnership – and your business’ contribution to it – as much as you do.

The good news is that SMEs have an advantage over larger businesses when it comes to forming strategic partnerships with overseas organisations.

“Provenance is important,” he says. “People want to know where a product or service comes from, and that is the advantage SMEs have because they have people they can deal with who have faces and names, and that means a lot to customers.”
 
Burge has the following advice for SMEs:
 
  1. Be brave. Travelling to the next door country is not being international. Don’t be afraid of going  somewhere strange and difficult. You’ve got to have the attitude that risk is good.
 
  1. Don’t just look at obvious markets such as Britain and New Zealand. There are extraordinary opportunities out there, particularly for people with technologies or approaches to business that can see small scale opportunities and make profit out of them.
 
  1. Work with people who have the same values as you and believe in the rule of law.  Don’t work with people who believe a business deal has to have a winner and a loser. Businesses who see a contract as a partnership, rather than some sort of battleground, will be looking for the opportunity of doing further deals with you.
 
  1. Get your idea right before the pitch. First impressions count so make sure you do your preparation. No matter how small your business, if you have a really stimulating and interesting idea, particularly something which disrupts the current way of doing that thing, people will be looking for you.
 
  1. Think about how your idea can be scaled up. You may not be the one to scale it up, but always have in your mind how your bright idea can grow beyond the first pitch and the first set of customers to something that will become bigger and better.
By identifying and aligning with organisations that share similar goals, particularly those in international markets, you not only expand your network but also better guarantee the success of your business through building upon the opportunities these networks provide.