Local businesses are going global with free business consulting at MSU

Publish Date: Thursday, September 17, 2009

The International Business Center is offering free consulting for area businesses that are interested in international expansion.

The International Business Center at The Eli Broad College of Business was awarded a seed grant as a part of the Ford College Community Challenge to start the Michigan Export Growth Program. The program will provide consulting to help companies explore their global options.

 "In this age of globalization, businesses need to change in order to be successful. Exporting is essential for the future success of local businesses," said Tomas Hult, Acting Associate Dean of Global Initiatives at the Broad School and Director of the International Business Center. "Exporting is challenging, but it is also essential. We want to help local businesses that will in turn help rebuild our economy."

Many Lansing area businesses offer unique products and services that could end up on store shelves on other continents, but matching up products and successful markets requires a complex look at local competitors, government regulations and cultural complexities.

To address these complexities, the program pairs teams of business students, faculty members and advisors with small to medium d businesses in the greater Lansing area. These teams look at the issues that a company will face when the look abroad. To start the process, all businesses need to do is fill out an online questionnaire online.

"Pro-bono services have existed in legal fields for many years" said Hult. "It just makes sense that we offer these consulting services to our local businesses; we are helping local companies realize their potential on a global scale.

Teams have already started working with worked with local food producers, health providers and the Capital Region International Airport.

"Education is a top priority for Ford Motor Company Fund," says Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. "We are pleased to be able to support the millennial spirit of innovation in these students, whose projects help address critical needs within their communities."

Dan Aylward, a senior consultant at Abilita, used the pro bono services to look at potential opportunities for international expansion.

Abilita is a consulting firm that helps companies lower their telecommunications costs by auditing local, long distance, internet, cellular services and their equipment to find ways to use these technologies more efficiently.

The company has independently owned offices in the US and Canada, but to meet the needs of their international clients, they are considering international expansion.

Aylward said the pro bono services provided his company with good information about potential markets and competitors. "I don't think that information was something we could have been able to get on our own," he said. "It was a good way to test the market. With this information, we will be able to help Abilita Incorporated and also each individual office."

Exporting goods and services is challenging, but a little help from the Michigan Export Growth program will prepare your business to make the leap into international business.

"In the spirit of Michigan State University's world-grant initiative, we are delighted to partner with the Ford Motor Company to create the Michigan Export Growth Program which will develop model opportunities for businesses to become engaged in the global marketplace," says MSU Provost Kim Wilcox.  "This project will afford Michigan entrepreneurs access to the cutting-edge knowledge of our newly educated international business students, while also providing practical hands-on leadership experience for our students to ensure their future success."

For more information and an online questionnaire, visit: http://global.broad.msu.edu/outreach/probono/.

The International Business Center is also the home of MSU-CIBER, a U.S. Department of Education National Resource Center, which provides international business services and information, including the international business website globalEDGE(tm) (http://globaledge.msu.edu/).