3M (NYSE: MMM) may be an identifiably American (or Minnesotan) company, but its business is increasingly global. Indeed, after 3M reported earnings at the end of January, this news headline summed it up: 3M Looks Abroad for New Growth.

In this series, I look at where a company is making money -- measured by sales by geographic segment. The goal is to see how the flow of money has changed in recent years, and to see how the company is positioned to take advantage of growth opportunities abroad in future years.

1. International sales as a percentage of total sales
First up, we'll look at the most recent fiscal year to see how total revenues broke down by segment.

In 2010, 3M had total sales of $26.7 billion. For the year, domestic sales clocked in at $9.2 billion, and even though the U.S. represents the largest single segment, it means that just 35% of 3M's sales came from the United States. The remaining 65% of sales were from the major geographic segments shown here:

Note that 3M breaks its geographic segments out this way -- not every company does. Unfortunately, there's no standard here, so for instance, sometimes you'll see Canada and Latin American combined, and sometimes you won't.

2. The trend: U.S. sales vs. Global sales
In year-end 2000, 3M reported sales of $7.8 billion in the United States. Last year's U.S. sales of $9.2 billion, then, show that 3M's U.S. sales grew at an annualized rate of not-quite-2% over the past 10 years.

Non-U.S. sales grew at an annualized 7% over the same time frame. Let's look at the breakdowns in the years ended Dec. 31, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2010:

Fiscal Year

Total Sales

% of Sales From U.S.

% of Sales From Asia-Pacific

% of Sales From Europe, Middle East, and Africa

% of Sales From Latin America and Canada

2000 $16.7 billion 47% 20% 24% 9%
2010 $26.7 billion 35% 31% 23% 11%

While the size of the pie has increased overall, the key growth driver has been the Asia-Pacific region.

3. Personnel
OK, so the majority of 3M sales already come overseas, and as the above table shows, growth in non-U.S. markets has been solid. So how is 3M staffing to meet the demand?

Pretty good, it turns out. For one, CEO George Buckley told analysts recently that 3M was "building factories overseas pretty much as fast as we can."

Stats paint the picture, too. As of Dec. 31, 2010, 3M had 80,057 full-time or full-time-equivalent employees. The breakdown is as follows:

  • 59% international (47,102 employees)
  • 41% U.S. (32,955 employees)

The 60% / 40% breakdown is in line with the company's current 65% / 35% sales breakdown.

There you have it
The purpose of this exercise is to provide a snapshot of 3M's business: How global is the company right now? How has the picture changed over the past 10 years? And how is the company staffed to handle future overseas demand? Hopefully, you now have context the next time you hear an executive or an analyst waxing excitedly about the growth potential abroad.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.