By Todd Smithee

When Columbus sailed west to go east, he had the right idea. The problem was, he did not anticipate the actual size of the world. The result: Columbus “discovered” America, and the rest is what we call history. Columbus was bold and took some educated risks, but look at the payoff. In today’s business environment, bold steps need to be taken in order to thrive.

First, explore the possibility of expanding your client base beyond your own backyard. As a resident of Michigan, a state which has been in a recession for years, this is a lesson we learned early on. While Conrin is no Fortune 500 company, we do not have a single client that is dependent on Michigan as its sole source of clients. All of our customers are national or global in scope, with many of our clients being based in other states. For years we have been able to win business nationwide, enabling Conrin to continue to grow as Michigan suffered a one state recession. The use of technology was key in allowing us to cost effectively pursue business thousands of miles away. It is now time to take this concept to the next step.

For decades the U.S. dollar has been the world’s reserve currency. Transactions and important commodities such as oil have been priced in dollars because of the stability and relative safety of our currency. That is now beginning to change. We are beginning to hear rumblings from a number of major nations including Russia, China, and Brazil about utilizing something other than the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Sure, some of the reasons are strictly political, but the viability of the U.S. dollar also raises some concern.

Does this mean the end of the American dream? Absolutely not! What it does mean is that, at least in the short-term, it could very well be in your interest to diversify your customer base beyond our own shores. There are countries such as India that are continuing to grow. Think of the products of foreign companies that we consume in the U.S. There is no reason you should not at least be exploring the opportunity to market your goods or services globally. Today’s Internet, pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) marketing, and web meetings make it very possible to sell anywhere, anytime (your only additional expense might be an increased coffee bill for those late night meetings). Think about what kind of shape your sales forecast would be in if you had clients in three or four parts of the world. Like the stock market, some of those markets will be up and some will be off. Like a stock portfolio, diversification will provide you with smoother, more predictable long-term growth patterns and help insulate your company against local/national economic downturns.

You do not need to invest in expensive travel and costly consultants to get started. Simple Google research, combined with PPC and SEO marketing will provide you with an idea of what markets might be productive. Web conferencing will allow you to get in front of your prospects to judge potential demand. All of this can be accomplished before involving the dreaded “hourly” folks ““ accountants and lawyers. These professionals can be brought in after you have identified a promising opportunity.

There is no time like the present to get started. Diversifying out of Michigan has helped Conrin grow as our home state faltered. We plan to use global diversification to help us grow through the national recession as well.