How to expand your business internationally

by | Dec 23, 2017 | Business Feature

If you run a business either large or small, you’ll know how important it is to think long-term about growth. Many companies have done this before you, and many will do so in the future. Not only does it often lead to an increase in profits, it also means a better reputation, a larger team and the chance to work in and visit a nation you’ve perhaps never been to before.

While expanding at home is often a good idea, sometimes the only option when expanding is to go abroad. When you’ve exhausted all the business here in the United States, the best way forward is to go international – and this can bring with it a range of challenges as well as opportunities.

In this article, we’ll look at some top tips for opening a branch of your business in a foreign country.

Explore the market thoroughly

Sometimes, it can seem from reading the newspaper as though certain markets are simply hotbeds for the products or services offered by many American businesses. However, the reality on the ground can often end up being subtly different. What may seem to many people like a given can often be untrue or hype, which means it’s important to do your research.

That could entail anything from paying for market research to be carried out on the ground (particularly important if you’re a consumer-facing firm) to simply reading up on real-life accounts of what’s happening in the country.

Ask the experts

When it comes to doing this research, there are plenty of companies out there who can provide you with all the information you need. Expert help is also useful for working out the more mundane yet important aspects of your business’ expansion. A good law firm with experience of international expansion, for example, can help you get ahead of the game regarding moving to a different regulatory environment.

Build trust in the new place

The success or failure of your international venture will come down to many things, but one of the most important of these is how trustworthy your business appears to be. And a common failure when expanding abroad is for entrepreneurs to neglect to build that trust. Whether you need to go and do a physical meet and greet for suppliers or customers, or you simply need to run a marketing or public relations campaign to tell your story, trust is essential.

As DocuSign Chairman Keith Krach puts it: “Remember that while business is global, trust is local.” Even if you have the best offer in the industry, an amazing team in place on the ground in the new country and a perfect market fit, you’re unlikely to get anywhere if you’re viewed with suspicion in the country to which you move.

Visit personally before making the final decision

Perhaps you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the new market once your expansion is underway, or maybe you’re more likely to remain at home and work on the new venture remotely. Whatever your plans are, it’s a good idea to visit in advance. Set up some meetings with other businesses to see how the land lies, and maybe use the time to speak to potential suppliers or employees as well. Not only will this help you to decide whether you should move out there, it will also give you that all-important instinctive feel for whether the move makes sense.

Fortune favors the bold

It’s always wise to be cautious, and following the tips outlined here are great for doing that. But the majority of international businesspeople had to take a risk at some point, and you’re no exception.

Once you’re fully informed about the risks, offers, and challenges you are going to face when moving into a new market, unless you’re instinctively certain of failure it’s best to take the plunge and try. In any case, there are very few occasions when failure abroad means ruin at home. If your international venture doesn’t work out, you can simply close down in the new market and re-focus all your energies on your work at home. And if it does work out, you can sit back and enjoy the success.

Ultimately, what matters when expanding your business to a foreign country is doing your homework beforehand. Information about the new market, its consumers and how you’d fit in there is your main weapon, and with that on your side, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of international success.

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