Startup international expansion makes every aspect of a business more complicated but when you do it right, going global can be the very thing your company needs to truly take off. However, before you get to that, consider these three things:
- The time zones
- The rules and regulations of international markets
- Cultural differences
The Time Zones
One of the first things you should always remember when expanding internationally is the time zone. That’s why you need to think about whether you’ll be opening an office in another country and hiring remote workers to hold the fort over there or having a business phone provider who can give you an international phone number.
Say you’re expanding to the USA. You could open an office there and hire remote workers. These could be people from your existing company or you can hire new people.
There are a few issues with this. Before you open a new office, you have to actually find the appropriate place and that can be a hassle. If you’re sending people over from your existing company, you’d have to compensate them as they’re relocating for you.
In addition, you need to be sure that your company can afford to split the team. And by “afford”, we don’t just mean financially. Can your company’s productivity afford to take a hit? Will you need to replace these team members? You also need to be absolutely certain that your team can handle the new influx of work they’ll have to take on if your company expands internationally.
If you choose to hire new people, you need to make sure they’re the right fit for your company. Can you trust them?
If you didn’t want to open a new office, you could set up an international phone number. For example, a cloud-based phone service such as CircleLoop allows you to choose a number from any country and area code you want. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re a small startup company based in a Yorkshire village. You could have an LA phone number if you wanted.
However, there are some issues with this too. For instance, you’d need to have workers to man the phones at night due to the time difference.
And with both of these options, one main issue is with communication due to the time zone differences. If there’s a problem and your staff need to ask one of the UK staff for help, they’d have to wait. It might be time to work in the US but it’s currently time to sleep in the UK.
The Rules and Regulations of International Markets
There are some markets that are harder to break into than others and it’s not just because the people might be trickier to please. Bureaucracy, politics and the economic climate of a country are some major factors that can make business much harder in particular regions.
Every year, economic institutions, such as World Bank, release data ranking countries around the world on how easy it is to do business there. Currently, New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark top the list due to low tax rates (18.4 percent in Singapore) and low costs to start a business (0.02 percent in Denmark). The UK also ranks quite highly on the list, sitting at number six for protecting minority investors.
On the flip side, countries with huge domestic markets like the USA and China have strict tariffs on foreign businesses. The pros and cons of breaking into those kinds of markets need to be well considered.
As well as their economic state, you also need to think about rules and regulations of a particular country. There may be particular taxes, laws and requirements placed on certain items.
For example, if you’re in a service or software industry, you need to check that your product and processes are meeting that country’s specific standards. You should carefully and thoroughly review any relevant regulations before expanding to that country to ensure that your company will be compliant.
Don’t Forget About Administrative Regulations
If you’ll be relocating team members, consider that you’ll need to sort out any admin, such as visas, health insurance and costs required for any dependants. And when they’re over there, how will you tackle payroll? Taxes vary from country to country so you need to take that into consideration as well.
One of the keys to successful global expansion is paying lots of attention to culture. Why? Because every country has its own and if you want to dig even deeper, some regions of different countries also have cultural differences.
You need to ensure that your overseas team is communicating in a way that effectively gains business without compromising your company’s core values. Your company still needs to promote the same shared vision but across different continents. This is a struggle shared by many successful international companies. As they grow more and more financially successful, it becomes harder to stand for what your company originally believed in.
Travis Kalanick, co-founder and CEO of Uber, discussed this in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. He advised budding entrepreneurs: “Stand by your principles and be comfortable with confrontation. So few people are, so when the people with the red tape come, it becomes a negotiation.”
That’s why you need to have done your research beforehand. Take a look at different countries, read about their culture and the way that the locals like to do business.
Understand your target audience’s needs, wants and preferences are key to your business’ success. The last thing you want is for your company to come across as ignorant and an outsider because it looks as though you don’t really understand what the foreign market wants.
While we’re on the topic of cultural differences, consider how this will impact your overseas team too. If you’ll be relocating members of your original team, think about this will impact their everyday life. For example, large areas of the Middle East are heavily patriarchal so how might this affect your female employees?
And if you’ll be hiring new team members to work remotely overseas, think about their qualities. Will they have any cultural habits that may conflict with your company’s core values?
Not every country or audience speaks English. You need to be prepared for that when you’re expanding globally too. So, whether you’re relocating team members or hiring remote workers, you need to make sure they can speak the local language. You also need to make sure somebody in your head office can also speak the local language in case there are any issues.
In the Midst of Your Global Takeover, Don’t Forget About Your Business Phone System
A phone system is integral to keeping your company connected - whether it’s internally, among the staff, or externally with the customers. Other means, such as emails and social media, might be rising in popularity but phones are what everybody turns to for the most important issues, regardless of technological developments.
In fact, business phones aren’t just desk phones anymore. There are many internet based phone providers who allow you to make and receive calls wherever you are, as long as you have an internet connection.
Cloud-based providers can even allow you to download an app so you can turn your personal mobile into a business phone and switch between local, regional and international numbers.
And the biggest benefit of this? If you relocate your business, such as expand globally, you no longer need to wait for the phone line to be activated. Just download an app, find an internet connection and you’re ready to go.
However, it’s important you choose the right kind of phone system for you and your business needs. Book a demo and see if CircleLoop could fit in with your international expansion.