The Definition of International Business
International business relates to any situation where the production or distribution of goods or services crosses country borders. Globalization—the shift toward a more interdependent and integrated global economy—creates greater opportunities for international business. Such globalization can take place in terms of markets, where trade barriers are falling and buyer preferences are changing. It can also be seen in terms of production, where a company can source goods and services easily from other countries. Some managers consider the definition of international business to relate purely to “business,” as suggested in the Google case. However, a broader definition of international business may serve you better both personally and professionally in a world that has moved beyond simple industrial production. International business encompasses a full range of cross-border exchanges of goods, services, or resources between two or more nations. These exchanges can go beyond the exchange of money for physical goods to include international transfers of other resources, such as people, intellectual property (e.g., patents, copyrights, brand trademarks, and data), and contractual assets or liabilities (e.g., the right to use some foreign asset, provide some future service to foreign customers, or execute a complex financial instrument). The entities involved in international business range from large multinational firms with thousands of employees doing business in many countries around the world to a small one-person company acting as an importer or exporter. This broader definition of international business also encompasses for-profit border-crossing transactions as well as transactions motivated by nonfinancial gains (e.g., triple bottom line, corporate social responsibility, and political favor) that affect a business’s future.
Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship
A knowledge of both strategic management and entrepreneurship will enhance your understanding of international business. Strategic management is the body of knowledge that answers questions about the development and implementation of good strategies and is mainly concerned with the determinants of firm performance. A strategy, in turn, is the central, integrated, and externally oriented concept of how an organization will achieve its performance objectives. One of the basic tools of strategy is a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) assessment. The SWOT tool helps you take stock of an organization’s internal characteristics—its strengths and weaknesses—to formulate an action plan that builds on what it does well while overcoming or working around weaknesses. Similarly, the external part of SWOT—the opportunities and threats—helps you assess those environmental conditions that favor or threaten the organization’s strategy. Because strategic management is concerned with organizational performance—be that social, environmental, or economic—your understanding of a company’s SWOT will help you better assess how international business factors should be accounted for in the firm’s strategy.
Entrepreneurship, in contrast, is defined as the recognition of opportunities (i.e., needs, wants, problems, and challenges) and the use or creation of resources to implement innovative ideas for new, thoughtfully planned ventures. An entrepreneur is a person who engages in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship, like strategic management, will help you to think about the opportunities available when you connect new ideas with new markets. For instance, given Google’s current global presence, it’s difficult to imagine that the company started out slightly more than a decade ago as the entrepreneurial venture of two college students. Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, students at Stanford University. It was first incorporated as a privately held company on September 4, 1998. Increasingly, as the Google case study demonstrates, international businesses have an opportunity to create positive social, environmental, and economic values across borders. An entrepreneurial perspective will serve you well in this regard.