While exciting, expanding your company internationally comes with a host of risks and challenges. From factoring time zones into meeting calendars to navigating differences in culture, there’s a lot more than the upfront cost to think about when you’re expanding abroad.
To help you figure out a first-time expansion, 13 members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) offer their best advice on specific challenges you might face, and how to best deal with them head on.
Address Language Barriers
Ensure that your staff in remote offices can communicate well in several world languages. Don’t assume that all of your international clients can speak or write in English. Corresponding with potential clients in their native languages is not only professional, but also wise. As Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” —Luigi Wewege, Vivier Group
Get Good Local Advice
Before you dip your feet into the pond, you must make sure you have someone who is residing in or near the area you are considering. That way, he or she can give you simple and straightforward advice. Otherwise, you may have a lot of confusion, and do a lot of unnecessary work with negative return. —Kevin Xu, Mebo International
Understand Local Customs
In the Philippines, one of the most overlooked pieces is the cultural norms—the importance of family, group pooling of revenue, residence situations, etc. In America we are very lucky in that we can commute places or even have cars. We have our own bank accounts and prize individuality. In other places, especially Southeast Asia, it is all about the family. Realize that the money each person makes is for the good of their family, so the number of payments and even the day of the month it’s paid out can make a huge difference for employee retention. Also small details such as how far your office is from the subway line can be a deal-breaker for people who live outside of the city (which can be most of the population, depending on where you are). —Carter Thomas, Bluecloud Solutions
Make Local Connections
Your biggest challenge to starting the business overseas will be dealing with people. It will not be easy for you to understand the culture and business tactics in the overseas location. You should have someone local who you know and trust to start and manage the location and have that person deal with all local legality and process and report to you. If you don’t know someone, then find someone through referral. You can also contact your embassy in that country: The commercial officer in that country can also guide you and help you. Don’t overrely on your local connection. For the first few weeks or months, you’ll want to work with them at the international location to ensure that everything gets done. Once you’re there, start building lots of friends and connection who can support you in the case of an emergency. —Piyush Jain, SIMpalm