International expansion is becoming increasingly possible and common for US-based businesses due to the huge availability of information and the ability to connect to anyone in the world, all through the internet. The internet connects the world, which makes expanding to any part of the globe far easier than it was just a couple of decades ago. However, there are still many challenges that your business would have to contend with should it look at international expansion. While the internet can help to alleviate some of these challenges, a lot of it will come down to your business’ ability to build and adapt in foreign markets.
So, here are some of the pros and cons in some key areas to consider if you opt to push forward with international expansion.
Finding the right people to fill your available jobs will always be one of the most important challenges your business faces at home or abroad. Not only do you want the person to have the right skillset, but you also want them to gel with the established culture and ethics of your business.
When hiring new staff in the US for your base or across your expanded business in other states, it’s easy to find people who meet your criteria. Many employers want to make sure that the people they hire are as educated as they say and haven’t had any problems with the law. In the US, you can just use the best people search services to find all of this crucial information, through a variety of different types of background check, to bring you the reassurance that you’re hiring the right people.
Of course, being based in the same country as your business makes it much easier to integrate new people into your ethos. Abroad, however, finding this information and integrating people can be much more difficult. When recruiting overseas, you’ll need to find trusted sources for background information, if available, and then undergo the rigorous task of building people into your business’ way of doing things. You’ll need to focus on defining and communicating the key traits of the business regularly. If you do undergo and achieve this rigorous task, though, you’ll be able to expand into larger markets and allow your business to continue to be recognized for the same values that it is known for at home.
Seeing the untapped and theoretically ready markets overseas can be tempting enough for your business to go all-in and quickly capitalize on the opportunity. But over the years, many businesses have fallen apart by jumping the gun and committing to an international expansion without due consideration and preparation beforehand.
Even if it looks like your business’ offering would suit a market, and many of the metrics align, that doesn’t mean that it will. There are many aspects to consider when looking to expand into a foreign market, some of which your business may not be prepared to achieve. The best expansion considerations when going abroad include: if the expansion will divert too many resources from the core business, if you have the funds for the initial investment and to sustain growth, and if your offering has enough appeal in the foreign market.
In-depth research of your business and the market into which you aim to expand can give you a much better picture of whether or not you are suited to international expansion. When exploring the above considerations, it’s important to go beyond the general outlook and delve into other factors, such as the culture of the area and local laws. A dislike of US products and services or certain legal precedents could derail your international expansion before it’s able to take root.
Some cultures won’t be accepting of certain products and services regardless of how helpful or advancing they may be, but some markets simply need you to work a little local charm to get in with them. Speaking the local language and having a real understanding of the culture and the way that things work in a foreign market will help your plans for international expansion immensely.
Personally, doing the research, learning the language, visiting the area, and having meetings with local businesses can do you a world of good. But if you can’t spare the time to do so, there are other ways to break cultural boundaries – or at least narrow the cultural divide. One of the best cultural boundary-breaking techniques is to find and hire someone as a consultant who has a genuine affection for the new culture you aim to embrace. Equally, you could find and hire specialized consultants who deal in the specific foreign market.
It is important for you to get a feel for the new culture as the US is a very different market to those of other nations. What you know works across the US likely won’t appeal to many people abroad. So, getting hands-on experience and knowledge can be key, but hiring others who have a head start can help a great deal.
The opportunities presented by international expansion can be too good to deny, but it’s important that you and your business are prepared for the rigorous task ahead.
Keith Warburton, founder of Global Business Culture, is one of the world’s leading experts on the commercial impact of cultural differences on global business. He is a frequent keynote speaker at international conferences and leads corporate training programmes all over the world.