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In the mid-2000’s, smartphones took the world by storm.  Offering a plethora of abilities and functions to users, these intricate devices were obsessed over by people around the world, connecting users to anything they desired with the click of a button or a tap of a screen.  Recently, however, the smartphone market has experienced several missteps and subsequent difficulties selling their products to consumers.

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It is not easy for a company to expand internationally and achieve success at the same time. So, what is it about Apple, Google, Amazon, and global companies that make them the successful international businesses that they are today? How have these companies mastered their global marketing strategies and expanded beyond their initial customer bases? There are several traits that distinguish companies with accelerated global growth from smaller local companies.

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Around the globe, playing your favorite music, making phone calls, and listening to lectures or podcasts has been made more convenient with the help of one of the world’s most popular products—headphones/earbuds.  Strolling through college campuses, it’s a common sight for students bustling to and from classes to don a pair of earbuds or headphones.  In global workplaces, many employees play music through headphones to increase their focus and achieve better results.  Taking private calls has been greatly aided with the use of earbuds that work much like Bluetooth earpieces but offer much better quality—the noise canceling functionality that many of these products feature to make it simple to tune out background information and allows calls to be made without having to step out of a room.  This coveted usefulness has people around the world buying into the headphone and earbud market.

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Globalization created a platform for the world’s people, firms, and governments to become more integrated. It enhances the networks between countries and creates more opportunities. When globalization first began, the anticipated economic theory suggested that regional inequalities would diminish as poorer countries would attract investment more than the rich countries. However, we see inequalities between many countries and within many countries.

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Fair Trade has been around since the 1950s, but what exactly is Fair Trade and how has it changed since its inception? Fair Trade is global movement focused on providing over 1.6 million small-scale producers and workers with fair prices. It is an approach to commerce that eliminates forced labor, child labor, and discrimination while demanding safe working conditions, fair payment, respect for the environment, and transparency. It is an ethical method to trade and works towards alleviating poverty and sustaining development in developing nations.

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Forbes released the 2017 rankings for the World’s Biggest Public Companies, or the Global 2000, on Wednesday, May 24. Company rankings are composite scores determined by weighing sales, profits, assets, and market value. The United States contributes the most companies to the list with 565 members. China and Hong Kong supply the second largest with 263 companies. According to Forbes, “the world’s biggest companies have gotten bigger, more profitable and more valuable in the past year. 58 countries were represented, down from last year's 62 with Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Romania and Malta no longer boasting companies on the list.”

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The low oil prices have had both positive and negative effects in the short-term, but the long-term effects are less known and are thought to have wide and long-term impacts on the global economy. Low oil prices have reduced gas prices and have allowed people to save money at the pump. Lower gas prices can help people who have lower incomes and can also reduce costs on energy bills for those who live in cold climates. The automotive industry has sold more cars while gas has been less expensive, which has caused total vehicle sales to climb from 12 million per month to nearly 18 million. In addition, transportation companies benefit from lower fuel costs, as does any business that has to pay fuel bills to power its operations.

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Last Friday, the United Nations announced that the world may be facing a major shortage of water supplies in about fifteen years. Available water for consumption and other uses may be reduced by 40% as a result of factors such as urbanization, high living standards, heavy industry usage, and booming population growth. The report calls for drastic measures to keep freshwater as a readily available resource for the future, as some regions of the world are already starting to run out of water and aquifers are becoming exploited beyond a sustainable level. This will mean cutting down on heavy water consumption and use, a move which will affect people and industries worldwide.

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On a meeting in Berlin on Thursday, thirty wealthy nations pledged to donate $9.3 billion towards the Green Climate Fund, a sum dedicated toward reducing emissions and helping to protect developing and poorer nations from the stark effects of climate change. This is a little short of the $10 billion goal that was supposed to be reached, but it is a big step forward in investing to prepare help prepare for the effects of climate change. Environmental officials everywhere have highly praised the fund, and more countries are to offer donations by the end of the year.

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The slogan, “Time is Money, Efficiency is Life”, has driven China to become the world’s largest manufacturing power over the last decade. But the era of cheap China seems to be drawing to an end now. A similar issue is happening in another part of the world. Australia, the old auto-manufacturing giant, is seeing an increasing number of auto-production lines drawing out of the country and moving to lower-cost destinations around the world. The global manufacturing industry is currently undergoing dramatic changes.

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On July 18, the seventh annual Global Innovation Index (GII) was released at the B20 Australia Summit in Sydney. This year, the report's theme dealt with the Human Factor in Innovation, referring to the role that people play in the overall innovative success of different countries. While Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Sweden topped the list, a significant change was seen: nations in the region of Sub-Saharan Africa showed the most overall improvement on the list. Seventeen African nations, including Mauritius, Seychelles, and South Africa, jumped up in the rankings by several placings. Sub-Saharan Africa has already seen great strides in economic growth and freedom, and this new development spells good news for Africa and its future.

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The figures are showing a stark truth: the levels of income inequality all around the world remain on the rise. In several countries, especially the largest and richest ones, the rich get richer while poverty becomes worse day after day. While it is a common argument that a degree of inequality is necessary for motivating people to work harder, it is also true that such extreme levels of it can be detrimental to the economy. As a result, this trend is proving to be a concern to economists and political figures everywhere.

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It has been five years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, an investment bank in the United States, launched the global economy into one of the worst financial crises of all time. Since then, the United States and many other major global financial institutions have taken big steps in securing a safer worldwide financial state. The United States, along with many other countries, have made many reforms that will allow the global financial situation to become more protected. However, there are new areas in the world which could threaten the state of global finance.

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Here at Michigan State University, basketball is not simply a sport; it has its own culture. Spartan basketball is a way of life. If you disagree, you need only watch the Izzone student section for a few minutes to understand the passion for MSU basketball. This season, though, has been somewhat different for the stars of the basketball team.

The team got a facelift in technology when they were given new software for free that enables head coach Izzo to almost instantly send recaps of plays with a detailed analysis to the players on any one of their devices. This sort of coaching technology has skyrocketed recently and is starting to make its debut in foreign countries.

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Back in 1965, Fred Smith wrote a paper for his Yale undergraduate economics class that proposed an overnight package delivery service in which one carrier would be responsible for a piece of cargo from pick-up to delivery. This idea was unorthodox in the delivery of packaged materials at the time, as cargo shipment in the supply chain was handled by a multitude of companies. Smith received a grade of “C” on the assignment, because the professor told him that the idea was “not feasible”. Fast forward nearly 50 years, and Fred Smith is the founder/CEO of FedEx, a $28 billion company that transformed the way packages are delivered. His idea would revolutionize the package transportation industry, but this was not an overnight success story; at one point the company was kept alive by Smith turning the company’s last $5,000 into $27,000 with a gambling trip to Las Vegas. The packaging industry as a whole has changed a lot in the past few decades, thanks in part to massive innovation brought on by people like Fred Smith.

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Packaging is seldom thought about throughout the course of the day, yet we come into contact with some form of packaging constantly. For as long as there has been goods that needed transportation there has been packaging – beginning with woven baskets and ceramic vases. Throughout the centuries since then packaging has continued to evolve, and continues till this day.

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In today’s world, energy is always in demand and this has led many companies in the energy sector to focus on new renewable forms of energy. Lately renewable energy, specifically solar, has experienced a multitude of issues that threaten many of the companies that specialize in solar power. From the high profile collapse of Solyndra to the free fall of prices around the world, many are left wondering what the future holds for this burgeoning industry.

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The problem of copying and product imitation has pervaded businesses from practically the beginning of time. The age-old debate about the nature of innovation has significant importance in the world of business. Patents were originally designed to help companies protect their intellectual property from competitors to ensure that innovation was rewarded not stolen. However, many have argued that products are never completely original and all creativity comes from some other idea. Albert Einstein said it best himself with the famous quote, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” So what does this patent and creativity debate mean for businesses, and perhaps more importantly for global competitiveness?

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In this age of globalization and economic integration, international companies face many complex issues. One of these issues has arisen rather quickly this past decade and will affect many businesses in the years to come. Companies around the world now face the problem of a global shift in the supply and demand of talent. Due to an aging population, global employers face the challenge of recruiting from a shrinking workforce. More specifically, as the skills employers require become more complex, labor shortages are probable in many mature markets such as the United States, Italy, Canada, and Germany. Already, an estimated 31% of employers worldwide find it difficult to fill positions because of talent shortages in their markets. So what does this mean for the future of business?

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The 2012 Summer Olympics will undoubtedly have a major impact on the British Economy. Prime Minister David Cameron has already stated that the Olympic Games will give Britain a 13 billion pound economic boost. With the 2012 Olympics in London shaping up to be the most expensive games in history, much is expected from the Olympics in terms of economic growth for the United Kingdom. However with all this talk about its impact on Britain, the Summer Olympics may have an even greater impact on the global business world.

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With 196 countries across the globe and over 7 billion people in the world, differences in culture can be seen almost anywhere. In an increasingly interconnected world, people with different cultures can be found in a country nearby or even in your hometown. As a business person, student, or global citizen what does this mean for you? It simply means that understanding different cultures is becoming incredibly important in our daily lives and for business success on a global and even local level. Understanding cultural differences provides a unique competitive advantage and allows teamwork to thrive in almost any situation regardless of where you might be in the world or who you are working with. This is critical for proper communication and is especially crucial for international business.

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Many small businesses are achieving success by selling to customers within their domestic borders. While this is a solid strategy, opportunities exist around the world that will allow further business growth. These opportunities lie within expanding business into new markets abroad. Going global may seem difficult at first but for many small businesses it provides a proven growth strategy. Doug Barry of the United States Commercial Service states that profit margins for international sales tend to be higher and he also offers several tips for entering international markets. We will now take a look at these suggestions and see how easy international business can really be!

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The global economy has certainly taken a hit recently. The global downturn has not been easy for countries or companies to deal with, but still there are inspiring success stories that encourage us to keep pushing on. In hard times, focusing on these successes can be a great way to spur growth. This week in our blog series we will share some of these encouraging stories.

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Japan's strong yen has increased companies' desire to grow internationally to the point where the nation is now ranked the third biggest cross border acquirer - a significant jump from being placed 10th last year. Japanese companies have taken advantage of the fact that many of their international competitors have been weakened by the European financial crisis and moved into the market with successful M&A transactions. Data shows that the value of mergers and acquisitions abroad by Japanese firms has more than doubled since last year.

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The Director of the International Business Center at Michigan State University – Tomas Hult – just published the new version of the Total Global Strategy (TGS) book with George Yip. TGS has been the market leader both in multinational corporations’ board rooms and in executive MBA programs for years. From General Motors using the TGS framework to restructure their Asia operations to Michigan State University using it in its world-leading executive training programs in supply chain management to being rated as a top 30 business book previously, Total Global Strategy is the authority on practical and sophisticated global strategy development and implementation. TGS can be bought on Amazon and at all major booksellers.

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Forbes recently came out with an article outlining a list of the top Global High Performers. This list targets companies around the globe that are doing well in regards to profit growth, the return to stockholders, return on capital, and sales growth. These main categories help show an interesting shift to companies not many instantly think of and others that are continuing to blow us away.

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Forbes recently came out with a list of the 25 largest companies in the world. These are all large, multinational corporations that have an extreme impact on the global economy. Each and every one of these companies can affect many different economies and markets. Below is a brief summary of each of the top 10 companies:

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Today, many people buy produce at a local grocery store but newly designed agriculture programs are looking to change this typical consumer trend. Members of community-supported agriculture programs, known as C.S.A’s, have their fruits and vegetables delivered directly to their homes or neighborhoods. This direct grower-to-consumer relationship has had success on a local scale and now the program will test itself by entering the global marketplace.

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Comparing major financial cities across international borders is a challenging task for any organization to accomplish.  Using people, business environment, market access, infrastructure and general competitiveness as categories of competitiveness to be evaluated, the Global Financial Centres Index ranked the top 75 favorable cities for doing business.  London, New York and Hong Kong ranked as the top three cities and were considered essentially equal by researchers.  Taken as a whole, the list reveals many current and future trends in the global business world. 

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As the demand for energy is expected to grow by double digits in the upcoming decades, the search for the right energy source to fulfill this demand has begun. The serious problems at the Japanese nuclear power plant have raised major concerns about the safety of nuclear energy and new exploration for oil has yet to resume in the Gulf of Mexico after last year’s massive oil spill. Coal has had similar bad luck as coal plants have been used more cautiously due to their contribution to global warming. With these three energy sources ruled out, natural gas is looking like a top candidate to fulfill future energy demands.

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If you wanted to start a business anywhere in the world where would you pick? According to a Wall Street Journal article, the best place would be Denmark. The article talks about a collection of surveys that show a glimpse of entrepreneurship around the world and the factors that might help your next business make it in the global marketplace.

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Doing business abroad is a challenging skill for professionals to master. Each culture has a unique code of ethics that is often contrary to those across the globe. In order to successfully conduct business internationally, it would be ideal for businesspeople to take time consulting with coworkers about past experiences, brushing up on basic language skills, and even participating in detailed training courses.

In reality, there is often not enough time in the day to make all of the ideal preparations prior to a business trip. For business travelers lacking the optimal planning time, there are several applications available for mobile devices that can help them to avoid the most damaging cultural blunders without losing too much of their valuable work week.