There is a big world out there and many entrepreneurs that I meet start their thinking of nothing but their local market. In Canada, it can be a stretch to get business people to look at the US. For American entrepreneurs, it can be a struggle for them to consider Europe or Asia.
There are real risks and costs to doing business on a global basis. While you may never take your business global, if you stay open to the possibility it will impact your thinking at every decision point. There are also things you can do as you develop your business so that should you ever choose to expand into other countries, you will already be well positioned to do so.
Hiring: When you are hiring people, look for those that speak more than one language, come from a different country, or have cultural roots different than yours. These differences will help you build more robust products, better customer service, and provide competitive advantage by ensuring that decisions are made from multiple view points.
Intellectual Property: If you are Canadian, be sure to file your copyright, trademark, and patents in the US. For a small incremental charge, you can do your filing internationally (e.g., the Madrid Protocol for trademarks).
Software Development: If from the start you create software that allows for the internationalization of error messages, screens, and user interfaces, multilingual and multicultural support is easy in the future. If you are not careful to pick an architecture and software development practice that allows for internationalization, the costs can be horrendous down the road.
Web Sites: Similar to software development, the majority of web sites built in Canada and the US are created with systems that have poor support for translations and international support. If you ever think you will need to support multiple languages (think English and French if you are Canadian or English and Spanish in many parts of the US), make that part of your criteria when you create your web site or anytime you are looking at a major web site refresh.
I’ve sold products around the planet. There are differences, culture, language, and customs, but with advance planning you can insure that your organization is ready to take on the world. The ones that plan to do so gain competitive advantage in their local markets.