10 Tips for Creating a Global Strategy

a businessman holding a globe with others looking on May 1, 2017 By: Howard A. Wallack

Getting your association to take the leap into global markets can be daunting, but here are 10 tips from association professionals who have been there, done that.

As associations continue to grapple with the challenges of an ever-changing international business environment, a clear global strategy is becoming more important. Current and former members of the ASAE International Section Council were asked for advice on how to develop and implement a global strategy. Here are 10 tips to help your association succeed in global expansion and management.

1. Link global growth to mission. To secure the resources necessary for global programs, it's important to have them enshrined in the overall strategic plan and mission. That way, even when volunteer leadership changes at the board level, the global programs and resources will remain the same.

2. Get strong buy-in from leadership. Top-down support from volunteer and staff leadership is crucial. The CEO and senior leaders should be committed to global growth, and you need volunteer leaders with global experience and support, as well as staff dedicated to global operations.

3. Engage board members with global experience. Having someone on the board with prior global experience can be a potent tool for gaining buy-in from skeptical board members who might have less international exposure. This person will likely be well positioned to support and guide the development of a global strategy.

To secure resources necessary for global programs, it's important to have them enshrined in the overall strategic plan and mission.

4. Identify global goals. As you develop SMART goals, strategies, and actions, you'll want to get input from local stakeholders, such as members or potential partners. In addition, you'll need to identify key partners in the region or country that have shared interests and goals and appoint staff members who will work on implementing those goals.

5. Create criteria for choosing a target country. To focus your global growth and make a convincing business case, you'll want to create a matrix of multiple data points. It should include both general economic and growth factors, as well as other items specific to your industry or sector, including annual GDP growth, per capita income, demographics, and population growth. The matrix should also include sector-specific data, such as demand projections for specific products, the absence or presence of competitors in the same product space, and price tolerances. Taking into account the needs of local members and discerning which association initiatives are going to provide the most value are important, too.

6. Calculate finances carefully. Despite well-intentioned efforts to do solid financial and resource projections and return-on-investment estimates, associations frequently underestimate costs and the time it takes to break even on global initiatives. Keep in mind that global expansion might be more about longer-term brand awareness, market entry, or governmental recognition than immediate financial gain.

7. Keep global initiatives connected. Bring together various departments to plan projects related to global outreach and growth. Don't let global initiatives become a work silo and the responsibility of only a few. Make sure that your teams have the right mindset and the international, cross-cultural, and communications skills and competencies necessary to implement a global strategy.

8. Find the right local partners. Nothing can replace local knowledge when entering new markets, so finding the right on-the-ground partners who understand the local culture and your association's needs is imperative. A local partner with similar goals, objectives, and values will speed your entry and may provide additional credibility.

9. Send staff overseas. Staff will have a deeper knowledge of your global members and partners if they meet them face to face. Their understanding and support of your global programs will grow as well. But even associations without the resources to send staff overseas can connect them with international members and chapters through messaging applications like Skype.

10. Define KPIs to measure progress. At the outset, develop key performance indicators to evaluate your global program's success. Some possible areas to measure include relationship management, financial and banking close-out procedures, and human resources compliance. Document your successes, failures, and scalability to other regions and countries and communicate those efforts to staff, volunteers, and members.

Howard A. Wallack

Howard A. Wallack, MA, MSc, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, is deputy chief human resources and administrative officer at Jhpiego, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland.