5 Steps to Maximize Growth Beyond Borders

Whether you are a local professional service firm looking to open another office or a national manufacturer considering a major global expansion, all companies will face growth pains, challenges… and opportunities. In order to evaluate these opportunities, companies need to be prepared and have a clear road map of how this growth can happen. If not, the once incredible opportunity could backfire and create unintended obstacles that many large organizations have already experienced.

Where do I go from here? This is a common question many small, mid and large size organizations ask when faced with growth initiatives, especially internationally. Here are five of the most critical steps needed to even begin to answer this question.

Do your research.

Get the information you need to make the most informed decision and mitigate your risk. This starts by taking a comprehensive look at your own strengths, competition and market you serve. Better understanding a specific demographic or country you are evaluating will pay huge dividends and avoid global pitfalls.

The difficult task is to then assess all the extraneous factors that will influence your work conditions, productivity, and alignment with your own goals. If you are entering another country, this evaluation will be expansive and could include everything from understanding; language barriers, travel concerns, product restrictions, market entry guidelines, sales distributorships, and resources that are or are not available on site.

Be Strategic.

Knowing your limitations, and resources ahead of time will allow your organization to make corrections, and keep on track. It will also allow you to capitalize on opportunities quicker to maximize your investments.

A thorough analysis of your opportunity then needs to be organized into a workable roadmap that defines your financial, market, and performance initiatives. This strategic plan lays all the groundwork for a successful launch. It also becomes the tool your leadership team needs to open new markets, verticals, products, and identifies if and when this venture will be profitable.

Know your numbers

Successful companies know their numbers. This means they have established their pricing, margins, and return on investment. For those interested in international growth, they have already proven they can produce financial results at home. Expanding into unknown territory, however, puts a kink into knowing this process, and presents a journey in itself.

Having a research, financial, and legal team at your side throughout the entire process allows for collaboration that is vital. Once you have identified all your financial variables, markets, and opportunities tied to your expansion, you will also need financial tools/specialists that will help you make the right decisions with peace of mind.

Get help

Distribution channels, language barriers, security concerns, cultural differences, laws and regulations, currency, taxes, travel restrictions, market entry plans, lack of leadership, limited on site resources, are just a sampling of obstacles your company could face when undertaking a new international growth initiative.

Regardless of your situation, never overlook your need for outside help. You will need a trusted partner who has the experience, resources, time, and level of commitment that can help you achieve your goals. More importantly, you need objectivity. Many companies have internal politics, hidden agendas, and biased opinions on the effectiveness of a decision like this. Don’t let this happen and approach companies that will provide you with the most holistic, professional, and unbiased representation.

Make it a priority

Growth into a new market or country needs to be a priority from the top down. Companies that are looking to the future and remain open minded to new ideas would be best positioned for success. This means leadership has or is willing to commit to the right resources, budgets, and key personnel in the market or the countries they will serve.

Building a brand inside, or outside, the United States takes patience, expertise, and exceptional timing. The research, analysis, and strategy that are invested at the start will then make the implementation of your international strategic plan even easier. Have specific goals outlined that are realistic and attainable. Embrace the change that comes with every new venture and turn your opportunity into reality – Growth Without Borders.

4 Considerations Before Taking your Business International

If your business has done well stateside, you may be primed to expand overseas to capture additional customers and gain market exposure throughout the world.

But before you take that major step, there are some aspects to consider.

There are many nuances that drive the business decision. When pondering if international expansion is right for you, consider these four factors:

1. Culture

The cultural difference can determine whether the business is successful or not. If the product or service doesn’t add value or meet the desires of the local markets, there’s no need to go sailing! It is vital to have an intimate understanding about who lives in the community and what they value. Consider the following:

  • Does your product or service provide a need or desire by the local consumers?
  • Are there language and cultural differences? How will you overcome these?
  • Can you manage the time zone difference effectively?
  • Are there dietary, religious or lifestyle considerations that could affect your business?
  • How are contracts or agreements negotiated?
  • Is there any business attributes considered offensive or rude when engaging the local consumers
  • Are there limitations over business practices?
  • How will you market the product or service?
  • What if your product or service doesn’t translate well to the local community?

Knowing how to conduct business among the “local” markets is extremely important. Do not underestimate the effects of cultural differences. You must be willing to invest significant time and energy in order to pursue an overseas venture. Seek first to understand the culture.

2. Legal and regulatory barriers

Conducting business in foreign markets is achievable if the business is flexible enough to work within the local laws and regulation guidelines. Review aspects such as:

  • Labor and employment laws
  • Duties and treaties
  • Restrictions (import and export laws)
  • Corporate organization practices
  • Investment and business procedures
  • Dispute resolution
  • Trademark requirements
  • Customs laws and regulatory requirements
  • Limitations on currency repatriation
  • Tax laws on products, services and conducting business
  • Producer/distributor liability provisions

When reviewing legal and regulatory commitments, it is highly advised that you seek experienced legal counsel for overseas business practices to identify hazards that may cause barriers for your business. Don’t skimp on the cost of using overseas expert legal counsel, it can save you in the long run.

3. Foreign government consideration

The stability of the local government and its authority are very important when reviewing overseas business options. Aspects to consider are:

  • Currency exchange rates
  • Access to needed resources and materials
  • Communication and transportation options
  • Government assistance programs for businesses
  • Access to affordable capital
  • Protection policies for businesses
  • Immigration and employment Laws

Government stability holds the key to contract integrity, employee security and rights, trademark and intellectual property and many other facets in conducting business. Make sure to seek “local” expertise over the political and business factors before entertaining any overseas expansion.

4. Business case

It is essential that the business case responds to the challenges, adversity and rewards of expanding overseas. Some strategies to consider are:

  • Perform a market study to understand the market’s personality, economic feasibility, market trends, financial cost patterns and market forecasts
  • Do a financial feasibility study to determine if the move makes financial sense
  • Intellectual property and trademark protection, and making sure the governmental authorities in that location recognize and protect the businesses proprietary needs
  • Partnership and liaison relationship development – seek guidance and opportunity by engaging in a “local” partnership with an existing client or supplier

Expanding into unchartered foreign market waters can be lucrative. However, it can become a nightmare. In addition to the four aspects discussed, you can reach out to the American Chamber Abroad, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are located worldwide. Don’t be a casualty, be prepared for clear sailing!

As seen in the Business Journals – a division of ACBJ