Taking Your Business Overseas: Tips From Those Who’ve Done It
Companies are always looking for new markets in which to sell their products. Mostly, they’re able to do a pretty good job in their local, domestic country. But sometimes, opportunities overseas are so enormous; you can’t ignore them.
Taking your business global, though, seems like an impossible task. There are so many regulations to consider, import duties, and logistical challenges – not to mention the language barrier in many cases. You worry that you’re going to spend a considerable amount of time just tending to administrative requirements and that your costs will spiral.
There are small business owners, however, who have done it. And, as a consequence, they’ve made a fortune.
Expanding your company overseas requires careful consideration. It would help if you prepared yourself both financially and emotionally for what’s about to happen. Furthermore, you need to figure out whether the business ideas you want to implement have legs in foreign markets. Remember, not all products are destined for success in regions where your target audience may be very different indeed.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the advice from entrepreneurs who’ve successfully taken their businesses overseas and made a fortune in the process.
Build Out Your Infrastructure
Before you even begin selling your product overseas, you want to make sure that you have the infrastructure in place to deliver.
First, you’ll need to check that you have the internal capacity to observe laws in the foreign jurisdiction, so you don’t wind up getting shut down during the first week of operation. You’ll want to pay particular attention to data-sharing regulations as these are currently the least well-known and among the most policed.
Second, you’ll need to build capacity at your central office to deliver the strategy to satellite operations. Entrepreneurs who expand overseas put in place training programs provided centrally and inform local outfits how to operate effectively and in-line with company brand policies.
Third, you need people in the foreign country who can make decisions independently of the head office in your best interest. Finding employees to do this is perhaps the most challenging endeavor of all. Not only do you need somebody you can trust, but also a person with experience in your operations.
Your best bet here is to choose somebody from your existing team – preferably a member with managerial experience – and then send them to the target county to oversee operations there. You might have to bump up their pay, but it is often worth the return of having someone on the ground, able to carry out the tasks you want doing.
Finally, smart entrepreneurs build out the physical infrastructure they need to make operations successful in the foreign jurisdiction. This includes building IT networks with sufficient capacity to communicate back and forth and systems that allow employees to share ideas. Remember, not all target countries have substantially developed infrastructure outside the major cities, so you may need to do a considerable amount of planning for this eventuality.
Find the Right Partners
When trading overseas, you’ll also have to build a fundamentally new partner list. Not all of your existing suppliers will serve the new market, so forming new relationships will be critical. For instance, if you’re planning on expanding a restaurant chain to a foreign country, you’ll need to find new fresh produce suppliers. And that could be challenging if you’re looking to keep your product features consistent with each other.
You’ll also need to find new banking and finance partners. When you’re dealing domestically, you don’t need to worry about things like finding the best exchange rate. But if you’re trading across multiple currencies, it’s a big issue.
Fortunately, there are partners out there who can provide you with this type of complex support. Tracking payments in multiple currencies across a variety of accounts can be a logistical challenge. But with the right tools in place, it is surprisingly easy. And once you get the hang of it, you can pretty much put it on autopilot.
Think Carefully About How Customers Might Receive Your New Ideas
If you’re an established company, you probably have a very good conception of how your domestic customers receive your products, values, and branding. However, it’s a bad idea to assume that buyers in foreign countries are the same. Invariably, they have entirely different belief systems – at least according to entrepreneurs who’ve expanded overseas.
Therefore, your task is to explore your target market again – as if you’re doing it from scratch. Don’t make any assumptions about what customers want. Instead, please take a look at what your competitors are doing and take cues from them. If you have the money to do it, get a third-party agency to conduct market research on your behalf, and find out how you can win. You’ll often come to some fascinating insights into what you should sell and how you should be selling it.
Be Flexible and Change Direction When Required
Expanding overseas means being open to taking your products in a different direction. You might have a good idea about what works in the domestic market, but be warned: things are rarely the same when you try to sell in a foreign country.
Marketing schools in western countries teach us that brands need to be consistent at all costs. But entrepreneurs who’ve actually launched companies on foreign soil know that this idea can be dangerous. Products don’t have to be consistent across countries, so long as the experience is the same for clients within the target country.
For instance, McDonald’s changes its menu according to region because it knows that customers aren’t going to regularly shift from their local outlet to one the other side of the world – unless they’re on holiday.
You may also need to change direction on an operational level too. Sometimes, you might think that the best business opportunity is to sell your existing line of products. Local needs, however, often mean that you’re more valued for ancillary services. It can seem strange, but ultimately, consumers are sovereign.