Global expansion isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies. By taking advantage of new opportunities in untapped markets, small businesses too can benefit from the perks that come with international growth. However, simply setting up shop on foreign soil is easier said than done. Not only are you required to navigate through a foreign legal and accounting system, but you also need to learn about the culture and business practices of the host country.
Whether your destination is Mexico or Malaysia, we spoke with local experts to find out what you should — and shouldn’t — do when expanding abroad.
1. DO: Get a feel for the industry before making any decisions.
Before expanding your business, it’s important to do your research and understand the industry you’re getting into. “Make sure that there is a market for what you’re selling, and that you have a good understanding of the market conditions,” advises Wilson Ramos, founder of Mexican-based export company Expoferia. “It’s also important to do your research on the local competition and what they’re doing.”
2. DON’T: Assume that things will be the same as they are at home.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when expanding abroad is assuming that everything will be the same as it is back home. “Don’t assume that you can just replicate your business abroad,” warns Ramos. “Not only will the approach need to be different, but there are likely additional costs associated with operating in a foreign market.” says Saivian.
3. DO: Use local resources to get an insider’s perspective.
With so much information available online, it can be easy for small business owners to find themselves researching their destination country until they’re blue in the face. However, there are other ways to learn about your host country before you even set foot on foreign soil. “Talking to people who have lived or worked in that particular country is one of the best ways to gain insight into local norms and customs,” says Ramos. “You can also try using social media hashtags related to your industry.”
4. DON’T: Assume that things will be cheaper abroad than they are at home.
One misconception many business owners have is thinking their products will go farther if sold abroad because they’ll be cheaper than similar items sold domestically. “Believe it or not, often times exporting goods can cost more money than selling them domestically,” advises Ramos. This is due mainly to the added costs of shipping and handling.
5. DO: Take advantage of free or low-cost resources to help with your expansion.
While there are certainly costs associated with expanding your business abroad, there are also a number of free or low-cost resources available to help you out. “The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a number of helpful guides on exporting goods and services,” says Ramos. “There are also a number of private companies that offer consulting services for a fee, but it’s important to do your research first to make sure you’re getting a good deal.”
6. DON’T: Try to do everything yourself.
Expanding your business can be daunting, so don’t try to go it alone. “There are a lot of resources available to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help,” says Ramos. “Local Chambers of Commerce can often be a great resource, as well as online forums and social media groups.”
7. DO: Take the time to learn about your destination country’s culture.
One of the most important things you can do before expanding your business abroad is learn about the culture of the country you’re going into. “Be prepared to experience some cultural shocks when you first arrive,” warns Ramos. “Try to learn as much as you can about the local customs and etiquette ahead of time so you don’t make any embarrassing mistakes.”
8. DON’T: Underestimate the importance of translation services.
If you’re planning to do business in a country that doesn’t speak your native language, it’s important to have translation services available. “This is especially important when it comes to legal documents and contracts,” says Ramos. “It’s also a good idea to have someone on your team who is familiar with the local language and culture.”
9. DO: Take advantage of free or low-cost marketing resources.
When expanding your business abroad, it’s important to reach as many potential customers as possible. One way to do this is by taking advantage of free or low-cost marketing resources. “Social media platforms are a great way to get your message out there at a minimal cost,” says Ramos. “You can also try targeting local newspapers and magazines.”
10. DON’T: Underestimate the importance of market research.
Before expanding your business abroad, it’s important to do your research and understand the potential market for your product or service. “This can involve conducting surveys, focus groups, and interviews with potential customers,” says Ramos. “It’s also a good idea to look at industry trends in the destination country.”
Whether you’re thinking of expanding your business abroad or already have and need assistance, it’s important to know the ins and outs of growing your business internationally. Saivian Suggested to follow these ten tips and you’ll be on your way to having a successful international experience.