Strategic Partnerships

Strategic partnerships is not something that fits into a specific mold and can be recreated several times.  A strategic partnership is finding value in another company while being able to provide your own unique value or skillset.  A misconception is that international distribution partners are basically the same as a international strategic partner.  In most cases, this is not true.  A strategic partner is somebody that provides more than just infrastructure.  A strategic partner is somebody that complements your own business model and can work in conjunction with you.  The possibilities for how a strategic partnership might play out are endless, but the basis for it depends on that both partners are dependent on each other and the act of breaking up would be painful.  


put time into

This is one element that is absolutely crucial to long term success.  For any partnership, there has to be a level of trust before all parties can work together effectively.  Spending time, either in person or through teleconferencing, is the easiest way to build that trust.  This is the time to adapt to any cultural adjustments or syncing up with their workflow.  

The easiest way to build trust in your partnership is to spend time in person with them.  If the country is totally foreign to you, make sure you appropriate enough time adjust your new partner and culture.  A great way to do this is by having your new partner show you around town and personally introduce you to their customs.  This is also a time for you to gather information and prepare your staff with the new changes.


ask the in depth probig

It is important to be able to ascertain a profile of your partner early on.  The most straightforward way to do this is by asking as many questions as possible.  The larger your information base is on your new partner, the easier it is going to be to anticipate their needs and for you to understand their capabilities.

What is happening in their business that would als help your company?  Are these the most effective practices?  What are their specific expertise?  What is their access to capital.  What is the profile for their client base? Key connections?  Which marketing channels do they use?What are some challenges they face?  Are there any internal or external threats?


gauge what you can offer

Through all this, you should have a good idea as to what your capabilities are.  When you are trying to engage in a partnership, your value has to be as promising as your potential partner.  You should be able to gauge and take an inventory as to what your side can offer in exchange.  

For example, perhaps you have relevant contacts that could help your partner immensely.  Or you might have specific knowledge about something or even a potential target market that your partner could find useful.    You might find that you have personal that you could make their process more efficient.  This is a time that you should collaborate and gather as much research as  you can to maximize this strategic partnership.  The more avenues of collaboration you can find, the higher chance you give your partnership to succeed in the long run.  


never stop evaluting

As you continue along and build your partnership up, it’s important to continuously evaluate and negotiate over time.  Just like any other business venture, it’s important to revisit and reanalyze projects or programs that both companies are taking advantage of.  Things are changing fast enough that it makes sense to go back and try maximize any programs that have been lacking attention.  The same goes for projects that are no longer effective for either company.  Often times these come from changing circumstances that make them either inefficient or irrelevant. This also presents itself with good opportunity to look at new opportunities for collaboration.  

This could be a good time to look at purchasing and other financial agreements.  This could also include incentive programs for existing employees.  This time should really be spent with a discerning eye looking at all current collaboration.  For example, you might have been working on digital media between your two companies, but are finding that as it is taking longer, the more out of date the information is becoming.  Here you have the options to stop completely or try to pivot the project in a new, more effective position.  

Things to Consider Before Expanding Internationally

Taking the next step with your company into the international arena represents a major leap in your growth.  Taking these next steps can be very daunting if you are not fully prepared.  The only way to prepare yourself is to do the necessary research and an honest self assessment.  Here i’ll go over some things to consider before you start the process of expanding internationally.  


One of the first things to consider is how well you are situated in your current state of operations.  Have you built a team or staff that is capable of operating without you?  It is important that your day to day functions are implemented and running smoothly.  What you can’t afford is disorganization on two fronts.  Your daily functions shouldn’t be an area of focus for your team.  


Similarly, you will have to determine if your company is deep enough to start business in a new location.  On top of hiring new people, you will most likely have to reorganize the structure of your company.  It might be necessary to assign senior employees to your international efforts.  This will cause some displacement in your daily operations.   It’s important to gauge if your company can afford this movement.  Your international team is going to need a great deal of guidance and somebody closely informed about your company.  It’s important that you keep as much consistency as possible in your new venture.  

cultural consideratios

As you send your people abroad, it’s also wise to think about the cultural implications of living in a new place.  Some countries are fairly easy to adapt to if it is a predominantly English speaking country, as well as countries with high rates of English speakers.  As for other countries, integrating into their customs can be difficult.  Countries like japan can be very rigid towards those visiting their country.  It is important to accept and adapt as quickly and easily as possible.  This will ease the transition to doing business in an unknown environment.  Its also key that you tailor your message or product to whichever region you are expanding into.  Concepts and ideas to not always directly translate over and it can be counterproductive if your marketing is done in the wrong way.    

country research

When doing business in another country, it’s important that you do the necessary cultural research.  You can undo all your work by following the wrong procedures or conversely, you can spend to much of your time on leads that will never pan out to something tangible.  Certain cultures have an inability to dismiss your or say no to another meeting with no intention of ever buying, instead simply being polite to their guests.  When selling in a new country, it’s a good idea to look for similar trends with similar buyers.  This also a good opportunity to do market research on your competition.  Understanding the competition can shed light on some of your questions and problems.  Doing the requisite market research might also impact your decision whether or not to expand at all.  If you discover that the new market is ripe for a new entry, you have the information to process.  You may also discover that market penetration will be a hard and difficult task, that you might not be able to afford in the short run.  

Dangers and Pitfalls of International Expansion

Taking your business abroad has numerous benefits, but as many benefits there are, there are equally numerous pitfalls.  The road to expansion begins and ends with research.  You or your business will go nowhere without a proper amount of foresight that comes out of due diligence and a thorough accounting of where you are and where you are going.  As discussed before, just because you have the capabilities of expanding internationally, does not mean that you should be going abroad.  Going abroad takes a tremendous amount of resources, so it is very much worth it go through the research and determine if the further investment is worth it.  


When preparing for an international expansion, it’s a good idea to try to think up as many potential pitfalls as possible.  You probably know your company’s weaknesses better than anybody else does.  After understanding these weaknesses, the next step would be to put them into the context of where you are expanding.  You  can start by researching your target market as thoroughly as possible.  The more information you have, the better you will be placed to succeed.  This would be a good time to do a SWOT, gap and market segmentation analysis.  Gather as much information as possible before moving forward.  Some things to consider are how big the market is, what is your timeline for success, is the target market compatible with your own market? After you have much of this information, you can proceed to develop your strategy for the target market.    


One of the next things to consider is whether or not your organizational structure is indusive to a positive international expansion.  If you are expanding into a new culture with different languages and customs, it’s important to have a workforce that is flexible enough to adjust to the situation.  It is important that you have a set of guidelines in place that makes that integration into a new country as smoothe as possible.  Its also important to think about how to integrate technology and your workforce.  If you are looking to hire new employees in the new region, it’s important to know what kind of compensation and what you can offer that is customary.  If you go in expecting their customs to be the same as yours, you will fail to build the trust that is necessary for further expansion.      


Similarly, if you have a product, that product should be ready for expansion.  That entails that your product meets certain industry and government regulations.  It is not worth to go through with all the work only to be halted before distributions because you didn’t read the fine print.   It is also important to do some cultural research.  You don’t want to launch a product that doesn’t translate well into the local language or a product that is offensive to locals.  It wouldn’t hurt to do some serious product testing and make sure that the demographics are consistent with what you would expect.  Another area of research is to make sure that your product is protected sufficiently.  Certain countries are known for harboring individuals that specialize in  copying or stealing ideas and repackaging for themselves.  You should have more than a rudimentary understanding to sufficiently protect yourself.


Once you have entered a foreign market, it is also important to your investment that you remain in that market.  Having a solid foundation at home is crucial for the initial expansion, but in order to have continued success it’s important to build that same foundation in your target market.  The faster you find stability, the easier it will be to transact business.  THis means that both you and your business will have to adapt and be malleable to your new environment.  Being too rigid can lead to loss of business and erode the relationships you have previously built.  It is equally important to gauge new ideas more carefully.  Remember, your thought process might not fit in with the local culture seamlessly.  As you continue to expand and diversify both your organization as well as your offerings, it’s key to hold your company message as consistent as possible.  THis is especially important for a new environment because it is the easiest way to characterize your business and keep everybody on the same page.  Consistency is also key to building a base of loyal consumers.