Increasingly, businesses with ambitions are think globally. Indeed, almost half of UK businesses in one recent study said that they were more inclined to cast their eye overseas and broaden their horizons in a new country.
Whether it’s the attraction of emerging markets, a business need for a global presence, the availability of skilled workers or simply uncertainty in the UK, there are many factors driving this appetite for overseas success.
So, if you’re harbouring this ambition, what do you need to do to succeed?
Think carefully about where you’re going
Let’s be honest, you probably aren’t going to conquer the entire planet in one fell swoop. The same study mentioned above found that three quarters of businesses in the UK would consider expanding to Dubai. It’s easy to see why as this is a lucrative and business-friendly market. However, it’s important that you pick a market where there will be a demand for your product or service and focus on this. Global growth should be steady and measured, allowing you to focus all of your resources – and a concerted marketing campaign – on one territory at a time.
Test the market and embrace change
Once you know where you’re going – a decision that should be based on initial research – it’s time to carry out an in depth study of your chosen location. You need to find out what customers want and expect. Which of your rivals do they currently go to for your product or service and how and why are you going to do it better? Spend time in the territory, speak to as many people as you can – within and beyond your industry – to get a really good sense of what does and doesn’t work. You need to be open to change too. You might need to tweak your product or service slightly – or perhaps your marketing messaging – to suit the tastes in your target market.
Get the right help
You can’t do this alone. You need to tap into the support of experts to ensure that your expansion goes as smoothly as possible. That’s particularly important when it comes to people who understand the tax rules and legal system in your chosen location. It’s easy to make a mistake in this field – and it’s easy for these mistakes to be very costly. Every country operates with different rules, find someone who understands how they work and rely on them.
Not only that, but you could do with some ‘boots on the ground’ as soon as possible. Having people employed in your target location will not only give you the chance to tap into some local expertise, but it will also allow you to have someone on hand to meet customers, clients and suppliers.
Linguistic, cultural and time barriers
Your ‘boots on the ground’ and expert support should be able to help you to overcome any linguistic barriers that you might face. This is particularly important when it comes to paperwork. Long and complex legal documents are tough enough to understand in your own language let alone one that you’re unfamiliar with.
Languages aren’t the only issue you might face however. It’s important to be aware of cultural differences that might affect the way in which you manage your overseas entity. Different countries have different expectations when it comes to pay and conditions – including working hours and employee benefits.
On top of that, there’s likely to be a time difference to contend with. You’re going to need to get used to the best times of day to book in cross-continental calls – and be realistic in when you can expect to see replies to emails. This just needs you to spend a little time understanding time zones to make the adjustment.
The other thing to get your head around is the importance of the exchange rate. You need to understand how changes to this will affect your profit margins. You can overcome this by learning the techniques of fx trading and becoming adept at spotting trends and price movements and understanding how best to act to protect your business and your cash assets. You shouldn’t panic over small movements, the forex market is famously volatile, but you do need to be aware of how long term trends and big movements have an impact.
With thorough research, a careful plan, the right support and a clear understanding of the barriers you need to overcome, you’ll be well-placed to ‘go global’ and expand the reach of your business.