Five Tips for Launching Your Global Expansion

7th November 2019

Going global isn’t the exclusive reserve of big, established businesses. This is the 21st Century! We might not have flying cars, but we do have an accessible global network to easily and cost-effectively do global business.

PayPal, Amazon and eBay are making global sourcing and shopping easier than ever before. Thanks to these entities, alongside other innovative business resources, startups can easily provide products and services to markets across the world.

So, if you’re tempted to go global, here are a few tips to get started.

  1. Ask the right questions

Before you start, it’s important to ask yourself a number of questions that will guide your business strategy. Think about what you’re selling, where and how. Good questions include:

Where in the world should you focus your efforts?

Most products and services that provide value will be embraced overseas, but there are always fringe cases. When you’re thinking about the viability of your product, target places that are likely to see success. No snow plough franchises in Morocco, and that sort of thing.

Is your target market familiar with your product or service?

Just because your offering is commonplace where you live doesn’t mean the same elsewhere. And this isn’t necessarily a downside.

Being the first to market an exciting new concept can make your brand synonymous with that offering. Just remember that you’ll have to do more upfront to educate your audience if you’re bringing something new to the table.

Are you likely to encounter any logistical challenges?

Whether it’s the environment or the government, anticipating the logistical challenges is important. If you’re planning on delivering pianos to Borneo, you’ll probably need to take into account navigating a rainforest or two. When your products are entering countries, you don’t want them languishing in customs.

  1. Build with scalability in mind

Small global businesses don’t stay small for long. You need to make sure that your business infrastructure is able to handle growth. Scalable business software for aspects such as HR and payroll, eCommerce, logistics and so on are specifically designed for startups.

Let’s say you start your international expansion with a staff of just 3 people. Things are busy, but you’re getting by. Suddenly, you need a regional salesperson to take advantage of an opportunity in a new international market. You need to make sure your in-country payroll is able to seamlessly adapt to the issues of a new hire in order to save time and hassle.

Flexibility and scalability mean that your solutions don’t just grow with you, they help you keep tighter control of your outgoings because you’re only paying for what you’re using. Using a trusted payroll adviser to help establish your representative in-country to comply with international employment legislation and taxation is a must.

  1. Research and Planning

It’s essential to assess your readiness and commitment to grow internationally before you get started. This means doing your research and preparing an international business plan.

Conduct foreign market research and identify international markets.Get to know the opportunities and compliance challenges you might face. Look into governmental opportunities both at home and abroad to figure out ways to make sure you are getting paid. Financing can be a challenge, but government interest in boosting imports or exports have made getting funding and getting paid easier than ever.

Evaluate and select methods of distributing your product abroad. Cultural, social, legal and economic differences make exporting a challenge for business owners who have only operated within their own borders. There are plenty of means for distributing your product, from opening company-owned foreign subsidiaries to working with agents, representatives, and distributors and setting up joint ventures.

  1. Get to grips with the culture

Get to know your global markets and the people that operate in them on a personal level. It’s the best way to build lasting relationships before you get down to business.

Do your research. Learn at least a few facts about the country; it shows you respect your potential partners’ cultural heritage. Also, and this is a big one, learn the language. Even if it’s just a little bit, it goes a long way and shows foreign partners your dedication to the relationship.

Doing business in a foreign country can be intimidating, so take the time to get comfortable and get confident. Bring your own interpreter if you need one. They’ll have your best interests at heart, so you can feel confident with your business dealings.

Finally, dress with respect and authority. This should be self-explanatory, but just in case, it’s important to remember – jeans and lumberjack shirts might be the dress code of startups at home, but perhaps not abroad.

  1. Give yourself time

Even if you’re excited about expanding abroad and getting your business started overseas,  remember that all good things take time. Don’t rush the process.

Give yourself time to research, seek trusted counsel, and navigate the ins and outs of moving abroad. Remember that you also have to apply for and receive the appropriate visas, so don’t expect things to come together overnight.

But don’t panic. Even if you’ve made the first steps, and need to rewind to ensure your business is compliant, the right help is at hand.

The article first appeared in The Grasshopper blog 

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