While survival was the name of the game for many small business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic, today’s entrepreneurs see a brighter future ahead. In Meta’s most recent Global State of Small Business report, small business owners in North America feel confident about surviving for at least another six months under present conditions. That’s good news for veteran-owned businesses strategizing how to grow to the next stage of success.
Here are three ways veteran-owned businesses can forge ahead and find success, even in the current uncertain economy.
Make Global Connections
No business can grow without looking beyond its borders for new customers. Expanding into new markets offers new customer bases to sell your existing products or services. Global expansion is an easily reachable goal if you have the right connections and proper technology.
According to Meta’s report, although SMBs represent 95% of all companies worldwide and 60% of total global employment, they have lower rates of participation in international trade than larger businesses. The report found this is partly due to limited access to information rather than a lack of financing. In addition, SMBs have faced international trade challenges since the pandemic and continue to experience export disruption resulting from geopolitical uncertainty and the slowdown of global economic growth.
At the global level, 34% of SMBs that successfully export goods or services say having contacts in foreign markets helps boost their sales in those countries. That means it’s essential to make connections worldwide. A good start is joining networking groups with an international focus, hiring people with overseas connections, and partnering strategically with other companies that already have access to global markets.
The U.S. Commerce Department offers a slew of solutions to help American small businesses expand globally. Some particularly useful ones include:
- Connect to Global Markets: Check out these 12 Export Solutions that offer advice about how to export, connect with foreign buyers, handle trade challenges and expand into new markets.
- Commercial Diplomacy: There are international offices that help U.S. firms overcome trade obstacles.
- Global Market Finder: This tool helps you identify potential export markets for your products. For example, if you export fresh apples, you can find annual data on unit prices for each country and growth rate. The tool immediately provides the top 5 countries for a specific product and offers analysis for all the countries where a product was exported.
- USA Trade Online: If you want more information about specific foreign markets, opportunities, and global competitors, the USA Trade Online tool enables you to dive deeper into trade data. You can search on the country of destination, importing country, classification, ports of export, value, quantity, etc. And you can sort on growth rate to find the newer markets for your products.
- U.S. Commercial Service: If you need local export assistance, the U.S. Commercial Service has trade professionals in over 100 U.S. Commercial Service offices nationwide and more than 70 international offices.
If you were stationed overseas, don’t hesitate to tap into any connections you made there. Even if you don’t think your contacts can’t help you, ask—you don’t necessarily know whom they know.
You also need to make sure your website is global-friendly. Hiring developers experienced in building e-commerce sites adaptable to your target markets is critical. Find out which project management platforms your international partners and distributors use to make operations seamless and pay for top security controls to protect your company’s information.
The Great Resignation saw 47.8 million workers leave jobs last year, and the “quitting” trend has continued into 2022. That’s terrible news for former employers but could mean good news for veteran entrepreneurs looking to hire experienced talent to help grow their companies. Per the Meta report, the small businesses more than doubled their hiring rate throughout the year, from 11% that hired in January to 24% that added workers in July.
According to a recent report by McKinsey, the “competition for talent remains fierce,” so veteran entrepreneurs need to understand what employees want from their employers. McKinsey reports that workers quit to find improved career development and advancement prospects and make more money. They also want inspiring leadership, meaningful work, and the flexibility to work remotely, at least some of the time.
Veterans are ideal job candidates for nearly any industry, as many are cross-trained with the skills that fit various positions and have the excellent work ethic any employer desires. However, a MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index found that although more than 80% of veteran- and non-veteran-owned small businesses say it’s important to focus on hiring veterans, only about 10% of small businesses have intentionally recruited military veterans.
To find vets to hire, you can start at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services. Here you’ll find advice and resources for recruiting and training veterans to work for your company. You can indicate a preference for veterans when signing up on large job placement platforms such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter.
Use Digital Tools
There’s a digital tool for just about anything and everything you need to help grow your business. Adopting the right technologies and tools for essentials like project management organization, customer service, internal operations, communication, accounting, supply chain management, digital marketing, and more contribute to your company’s competitive edge.
The October 2022 Global State of Small Business report confirms digital tools’ vital role in how SMBs connect with customers and drive sales. Nearly two-thirds of SMBs (63%) on Facebook generated some portion of their sales through digital channels. In addition, digital tools for connecting and marketing to customers continue to be the focus of SMBs globally and have had a significant impact on increasing sales and customer bases.
Key tech trends to be aware of and consider incorporating into your business operations:
- The Rise of Social Commerce. Social commerce, also called “social selling,” is a digital marketing strategy that allows social media consumers to shop and purchase products and services without ever leaving the app. Shopify, a leading e-commerce platform, says the leading platforms for social selling are Facebook and Instagram.
- Lights, Camera, Videos. Using digital tools to create eye-catching videos should be at the top of your priority lists. Videos are not just for social media but are popular across the board. Wyzowl’s State of Video Marketing Survey shows that explainer and presentation videos are valuable tools for small businesses.
Help to Grow
As you navigate your small business through various stages of growth, you don’t have to strategize on your own. The SBA’s Veteran’s Business Outreach Center (VBOC) offers resources to veterans interested in starting or growing a small business, including workshops, training, and counseling. Also, SCORE business mentors can help you start, grow, or transition your business. Make an appointment with a mentor online or in person today!
Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association, SCORE.org
Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.