If your business has been expanding beyond your home country, you may begin to feel a bit lost as to where to begin. The truth is that conducting business in new locations takes a different mindset than in your home country. Luckily, there are a number of tips that you can follow to make doing business in multiple countries as efficient as possible.
Understanding the Country’s Culture
“Same same, but different.”
If you’ve ever traveled in Asia, you’ve probably heard this phrase from shopkeepers and street vendors when negotiating over an item’s price and quality. The truth is that in this situation, business rules and customs are different — let alone currency exchange rates! However, the process remains the same — exchanging goods.
Taking this metaphor one step further, the same can be said about understanding a country’s culture. On the surface, it seems that every country conducts business just about the same. The only problem is that cultural barriers and know-how stand in the way of really tapping into a market’s true potential (and getting that souvenir at what price they’d normally sell it to locals for).
To combat these difficulties, it can’t be emphasized enough: do as much research as possible before you decide to grow your business. For instance, Spain’s business hours differ from those in Germany, even though those countries are relatively near one another. Similarly, you may find it exceptionally difficult to get work completed in Israel on a Friday. These issues must be anticipated and adapted to as you expand your business — not after you’ve already invested time and resources in a new market.
“Scalability is a characteristic of a system, model, or function that describes its capability to cope and perform well under an increased or expanding workload or scope.” [Source: Investopedia]
The idea of expanding your business to multiple international markets is that each country has its own particular ways of conducting business. Thinking further ahead, the idea is to expand at a steady pace that your business is comfortable with — not biting off more than your business can chew, so to speak. This has to do with the question of “scale.”
Scaling is all the rage among startups eager for a quick buck, but scaling requires building along steps, minimizing risk, and maximizing growth. For instance, you may think your business translates well to European markets, but may find snags due to cultural differences (see above), time zone differences, acceptance of foreign business entities, and so forth. Take each market as its own individual set of challenges and see how your business can provide solutions in the most efficient manner as possible. Once you’ve felt that your business is established in a self-sustaining manner, then you can begin to scale your operations to additional markets.
Avoid a Physical Presence if Possible
On the surface, it seems like the solution for any business is to set up shop in a new country to capture the largest audience possible. The problem with setting up a physical presence is the cost involved (time, money, effort) that can hamper your efforts — or even sink your organization as it becomes frustrated with such things as:
- Adhering to a country’s regulations
- Filing the appropriate paperwork
- Hiring foreign staff
- Leasing property
- Investing capital in the country
- Opening up a foreign bank account
- Paying the appropriate amount of taxes
Luckily, all of these obstacles are no longer necessary, thanks to advancements in virtual technology and consumers around the world preferring to handle their business through self-service (i.e. Amazon, utility companies) and through telecommunications technology, such as virtual phone numbers. Using the call forwarding capabilities of virtual phone numbers, you can get in touch with customers while bypassing obstacles from foreign service providers (virtual phone numbers are identical in look and functionality to local area numbers). Online collaboration platforms like Slack and Trello also aid in interfacing between the digital and “real” world, granting your business the ability to delegate tasks (like a “virtual office”) and interface with customer inquiries without having face-to-face contact with individuals.
By leveraging technology in this manner, your business can avoid the costs and risk associated with the traditional methods of business expansion.
by Tom Senkus
Author’s Bio: As an international entrepreneur, Tom Senkus shares his knowledge with readers to jumpstart their business endeavors. For more information and his list of content services, visit www.tomsenkuswriter.com