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Best entrepreneur in town!

If you would as me today to divide starters (end entrepreneurs for that matter) in two divisions, my first choice would be to see who is becoming an independent craftsman on the one side, and the entrepreneurs willing to create “a company” on the other side. This article is not about who’s right or wrong, but I wish to express my concern for entrepreneurs, especially in the Flanders area, that believe becoming king of the village is the highest possible objective for their new company or venture.

Take for example the people that are selling in the B2B-space and that target small and medium enterprises. I believe in that market, that’s why I have started several ventures that targeted the small and medium enterprises. When selling to small businesses, you typically will have extremely critical customers that are on the other hand appreciating good products and services. There are no huge decision blockers, as the owner or the management can decide relatively fast.

So I’m pleased every time a starter, founder or young entrepreneur comes to see us with a business vision that goes further than the first border they encounter. But these fine folks are still a minority amongst the companies I encounter day to day. When you take for example the Flemish market (the northern part of Belgium, and for the ease of this discussion, we add the Brussels region to it), we have about 6 million people that live there and we have about 388000 small businesses, including 230000 that are self-owned. That leaves you with 150000 companies that have between 1 and 49 employees, or not even 30000 that have between 10 and 49 employees (1). In the whole of the European Union, we have 23 million small businesses (2). (For your information: In the USA, you have about 27,5 million small businesses, half of them employing at least one person.) (3)

Imagine yourself selling vegetables on the local farmers market in your town, but only selling your product to men that have a green sweater and a beard. No doubt that would be in most cases a stupid business decision. So I am having more and more trouble in understanding business people that have great ideas and products, but that make the choice to not sell it to a market within reach – not even in a future stage of their existence…

This is not a call for blind and reckless expansion. It is a small call to action, when evaluating the success and the next stages of your venture. If you consider yourself an entrepreneur, you must ask yourself the question if and why you should (not) stop at the border. This is not a request to all of you, updating the business plans to now include 23 million potential customers. But at the very least you should, in the roadmap of your company make the decision why you should go internationally (or why not). And if you don’t, you should answer yourself, and the stakeholders in your venture, the question why you are ignoring millions of potential customers, that are within less than15 hours driving (if you ship your product) or within 2 time zones (if you deliver a service).

Borders are no stops for your business, they represent new challenges, and new opportunities – and isn’t that one of the reasons why you became an entrepreneur? Take that into account, and add the fact that most European Governments have programs in place that will help you with advice and money to expand (FIT, AWEX and Brussels Export if your are a Belgian Entrepreneur, or trying to do bsuiness with/in Belgium are only a few examples)

Or do you think we have this all wrong? Let us know via the comments on this article.


(1) figures belgian social security administration

(2) figures by the European Small Business Alliance

(3) US Small Business Administration, figures of 2009

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 at 14:16 and is filed under business, entrepreneur. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Written by: Koen Blanquart

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