Growth

Seven tips for surviving an international expansion

Jo Burston /

As an entrepreneur the ultimate goal is to grow your business. Part of this, if you’re ambitious and if your business is suited to it, is global expansion – taking your brand and business outside your country of origin to an international market.

As a startup you can often only grow so far in your home region. For this reason expanding globally can be a boon.

It can also be very challenging, yet there are some things you can do to gain a foothold in a foreign market and survive the first steps into global expansion.

Here are some of the most basic things you can do to survive.

Start planning early

You need to think on a global scale as early as possible; this will allow you to take a considered and measured approach and to sooner analyse the metrics of what will work for you and what aspects of your global strategy need to be tweaked.

Know the market

Look at the marketplace you’re considering entering. Will it be receptive to your brand and your product? What are the local laws regarding foreign ownership and trade? Who are your potential competitors in the market? What level of success do they enjoy? What can you offer that is better or different? All of these considerations will help you identify your target demographic and your place within the competitive market.

Consider your brand

How does it translate to the proposed market culturally and linguistically? Consider your brand identity, its story, and how to best present it and redesign it for your chosen market. Don’t expect what works here to work there.

Visit the country for an in-depth viewpoint

Make sure you understand the market, the culture, the customs, the politics and the local laws regarding doing business both as a local and as a foreigner. You need to be certain of compliance with all of these. Hire a reputable local specialist to assist you each step of the way, and don’t act until your research is complete.

Utilise local government and expert business resources to help you learn everything you need to know.

Identify and hire the perfect representative

Hire someone who knows and understands the local market intimately, including culture and customs, and someone who has flawless language fluency and who can effectively bridge the gap between your business origin and the foreign market into which you’re expanding.

Keep the lines of communication open and flowing

Don’t for a moment think you can “set and forget”. You need to keep on top of things with an active role and also create and foster a strong local network.

Be patient

Know that global expansion and success takes time. You might not make money for a few years, but when you do it will be worth the wait and the work.

Approach the new market with an open mind and a willingness to learn and change your approach if necessary.

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Jo Burston

Jo Burston is the founder and chief executive of Job Capital and Inspiring Rare Birds, which works to promote opportunity for women in entrepreneurship.

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