Having been a success in your country as an industry leader, you may be thinking about taking a step further and having dreams about operating on an international level. This is a significant move for any company, particularly when you have started it from scratch, but it can also be incredibly overwhelming. It can also be one of the most exciting times for a company. Do not be afraid, though, as we have put together several tips to help you move from small to world leadership.
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Are you ready to expand on a global level?
You must make sure that both you and your business are ready in the logistical and financial sense before you start the often complex and lengthy process of going global. If you are not entirely sure, there is no harm in hanging on a little bit longer and staying local, because diving in the deep end too quickly may cause you to flounder and fail. Remember, just because you think that your product, service, or idea will work in another country does not necessarily mean that it will. Scaling borders is always an expensive and complicated process, whatever the size of size and type of business, and it takes resources and time away from other local opportunities and your core business activities. Can you afford to take this risk?
Before you throw your heart and soul into a global expansion, spend some time planning and tracking your market share to see how it will support new international markets and help to build more long-term opportunities. If you think that there is a need for what you can provide, have all of the necessary resources to finance the initial investment, and maintain the development you are planning, then go for it. It is essential to keep in mind; however, that success is very rarely immediate, and preparations and time need to be factored into your plans.
Have you thought about the challenges of international business?
With global expansion comes a whole host of new challenges and obstacles that you may not have thought about these may include:
Differences in language: How do you interact, for example, on the Chinese market if your business’ primary language is English? It can be disastrous for the business if messages are not delivered correctly. Obviously, there are ways around this. One of the most transparent and straightforward ways is to recruit bilingual workers who interpret for you. You might either want to play an active role and hire someone to work as an in-house member of staff or outsource it to somebody part-time, depending on your company needs. If your workflow relies on the interaction of your clients, make sure you have employees who speak the language of the country of which you are expanding in.
It does not matter where you are in the world – customers expect the very best quality service and language can be a significant barrier to that.
Differences in culture: It is not only the language differences that we need to take into account but also cultural differences as well. Remember that every country and culture has its own complexities and ways to do things, and it is essential to focus on those and not to offend them. You will need a local person to understand how the culture and taste for certain consumer products and services outside of the United Kingdom will affect the market.
Compliance with international regulations: Ultimately, you may be aware of all of the rules and regulations governing compliance in your own country. However, do you know the rules in the other countries that you are planning to expand into? This includes global tax regulations, corporate regulations and packaging requirements. You may also find that some banks overseas are unwilling to deal with your administrative problems that might occur in dealing with a British company, especially after Brexit. You may need an international banking company to help you to deal with the financial side of the business. There are some ways around this; however, if you want to get a little more creative. These include using payment platforms such as PayPal, although this does bring about some issues of its own, or International money transfer, which is safe, easy to use and could save you plenty of money in transfer fees.
The pace: It is not unusual for companies to realise just how fast-paced industry is in the United Kingdom once they move into a market outside of it. It can take people by surprise! The speed at which other nations work at may be a lot slower, and some may find that this can take some getting used to. However, it is important to try not to rush things because what you want to do is to build a partnership and trust with customers and vendors. If they feel rushed, they may not feel as valued, and this can have adverse effects. Try slowing down and going at the pace of the local – you never know, you might find this a much better way of working overall.
What is our advice for global expansion, and what best practice should you follow?
So far, we have explored whether you are entirely ready to take steps towards competing in the global market and some of the challenges that you may have to face if you believe that you are ready.
Methods of communication: Are you going to communicate with your overseas team members, customers and clients by live video telephone calls, satellite calls or emails? You also need to take into consideration how your employees can safely exchange data while making sure that they comply with the law and best practices for your data. You also need to know that if you trade within the European Union, you must comply with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations)
Build a decent team: You just cannot expand without a reliable team behind you. You cannot even begin the process of developing globally without at least thinking about doing this. You may want to start off by finding someone in the new country to take on a mentoring role, who knows how to comply directly with the rules and regulations that we have listed above. It would be best if you also made sure that someone in the local office team knows the language, culture and the business. This is important to make sure that all is going smoothly and to convey the specific selling point of your company in a way that is relevant and meaningful to the local consumer market while helping you to secure reliable and competitively priced vendors.
Get the infrastructure put into place to operate globally: Logistically, it can be a long and complicated process to establish a business overseas, and it is vital that the foundations are in place and stable for it before even starting. To begin with, you must decide what activities and decisions are centrally managed and made and which can be done locally, and clarify this to everybody involved.
Do not forget to do some due diligence. Check everything and then check everything again and then get somebody else to check for you. Get a further person to review if either of you is unsure about any element. You need to know every scenario and all of the potential circumstances before you make any significant business decisions, and how you will deal with them. Do not be tempted to expand into a country that you have never visited. Not only is this incredibly disrespectful, but it can also bring up things you did not think about. For instance, will the weather have an influence on your business? Are there local holidays that will clash with some of the things that you are planning? Take some time to visit locations and check out any potential partners and even competitors that produce similar or complementary products to see how the market lies.
Make the most of trade shows: Trade shows can be a great way to learn about world markets and to meet people who are willing to help you develop and expand your business. It also gives you the chance to check out some of your competition. Once you have established yourself, you can become an exhibitor to market your business even further.
When it comes to moving your business global, you need to be versatile and able to change. New challenges will emerge with each new country you go into, and you need to be able to adapt your business model and your thinking to rise to the challenges..