Trade Forum Features

The power of diversity

14 January 2013
ITC News
Women-owned businesses are doing well. There are over 8 million in the United States of America generating US$ 1.2 trillion in revenue through the hard work of almost 8 million employees, according to the 2012 State of Women-Owned Business Report by American Express Open, a business service and forum that provides networking for small business owners.

The report also states that between 1997 and 2012, when the number of businesses in the United States increased by 37%, the number of women-owned companies increased by 54%. While it looks like women’s business enterprises have mastered the art of success in the United States, one of the greatest challenges is increasing similar statistics in emerging markets.

Women would not be in business if they were not up to the challenge of growing a client base and revenue, or if they neglected plans for growth and expansion. Although several areas of the world continue to experience the negative impact of political and financial volatility, business opportunities still remain to be leveraged. To make the best of these opportunities, companies must adopt diversity policies, recognizing that many Fortune 500 companies believe engaging with diverse talent is an asset. Last year, Forbes magazine went so far as to declare the criticality of partnering with diverse resources to ensure growth. In a Forbes article, ‘Diversity Management Is the Key to Growth: Make It Authentic’, IBM’s Chief Diversity Officer, Ron Glover, said: ‘Diversity has allowed IBM to be innovative and successful for 100 years and to work across lines of differences in 172 countries, amongst 427,000 employees.’

Business includes challenges such as local culture and regulation, legal constraints, access to capital and skills development, but these obstacles are not insurmountable. The following key points are among the issues to consider when developing a business:

  • Intent: Remember the business plan first developed for the business? To grow the business further and penetrate new markets, it is necessary to revisit the strategic roadmap or create a new one. Growing business on a global basis dictates accelerating the establishment of new markets. This requires due diligence in market research that will result in the identification of new client opportunities for products and services.
  • Culture: While most global enterprises conduct business in English, it is crucial to understand local culture and languages, and to infuse local principles into a regional corporate culture.
  • Process: Business processes that are optimally designed and documented can be easily replicated worldwide and tailored to meet local customs, culture and regulations. Once processes are optimized and tailored, new in-country teams can swiftly and seamlessly integrate into the global delivery model.
  • Networking: Identify and tap networks and social media platforms comprised of women’s business enterprises that have already expanded into developing markets. Acting as mentors, they can provide valuable information and contacts around skill development, access to capital and the local regulation framework. All of this enables a faster speed to market for products and services. In return, women’s business enterprises should mentor those following in their footsteps, thereby fuelling growth for others.
  • Outreach: Market the business and advertise through specifically targeted media in new and emerging markets, preferably where competition is low enough to achieve major growth. By actively participating in industry councils and trade shows, the business can gain sufficient exposure.

Companies want to do business with capable, diverse businesses, so it is important not only to grow diversity talent within an organization as part of sustainability and social responsibility policies, but also to ensure suppliers follow a similar course. Finally, once a business is up and running, it is essential to invest innovatively in process and technology improvements to further strengthen core competencies and to outsource non-core competencies to subject matter experts.