Going global: on top of the world
The global landscape is an interesting one at the moment, to say the least. We’re exporting more, importing more, we have e-commerce businesses and easier payment gateways than ever before. But if you want to expand your business internationally, you need to know how to navigate this.
However, there’s a pecking order of priorities when considering expanding abroad.
Despite the logistical, technical and legal barriers, it’s never been easier to do business with other countries, with myriad free project management and digital communication tools. These days it’s possible to have teams in ten countries without ever having to meet them face-to-face.
Recognising cultural barriers and having a robust plan for dealing with them with is nonetheless essential. For example, Americans, are notorious in setting up shop abroad in exactly the same way they run back home and this can be a fatal mistake. This also applies to general business etiquette. For example, the Japanese have a very specific way of exchanging business cards. Make sure you research and understand the local culture.
While it’s always going to be easier to deal with an English-speaking market, if that’s your main language, going further afield often requires finding a partner. And this is where the ability to build relationships comes in handy.
Find a well-connected individual who comes closest to you in business operation, has already shown a degree of success, and is up for the challenge. They will know the cultural barriers, limitations and most importantly, the potential for it to work. While entrepreneurs might have a tendency to want to go it alone, a profit-sharing relationship can be far more successful when there’s a lack of local knowledge or logistical barriers. The fact is that we might be a global economy but people still prefer to do business locally, in their own language and using their preferred payment services.
In my business, I have distributors in many far-flung countries and am in regular Skype, WhatsApp or email contact with all of them. And it’s the strengths of these relationships that really hold the key to our success.
Expanding globally. Before you start:
- Are you ready to grow? It might seem exciting to build an international team but are you ready? Have you done all you can in your own area?
- Is there actually a demand for your product or service in the market you plan to enter? Have you done your market research properly? Are you familiar with local strategies for effective selling and distribution? Sign up to local professional networking groups to gather information about the market.
- What are the main legal barriers? Are you au fait with any legislation that might affect you? Are there any risks? And do you have a strategy in place for if it all goes wrong? How easily can you retreat? Complete a comprehensive S.W.O.T analysis before embarking on international expansion.
- Do you need an overseas partner? As well as finding someone you can trust and who knows the market and industry well, if possible, find a fluent speaker in the native language (but one who speaks your native language too). This will make communications easier all round and also demonstrate your commitment to the market.
- But don’t forget the boys and girls back home. It can be distracting to grow your empire, but don’t do it to the detriment of your home market. Recognise that sometimes the best way to expand internationally is through the connections and relationships that you have developed in your home market.