If you have a small to medium scale enterprise that is doing very well locally, it may be time to think about expanding into another country. Taking your company overseas is a huge step in the life of any business and, as such, should not be taken lightly or without proper preparation.
First of all know your target market. Be prepared to travel to and around the country in which you are planning to set up shop and take the time to get to know people there; prospective customers and potential rivals alike. Be certain that you know and have allowed for any cultural differences that might affect your trade. Do some research and make sure that there is a place for your business in the country before you commit to what may turn out to be an expensive waste of time and money.
Visiting the embassy
When visiting the foreign country for the first time, be sure to pop into your local embassy. Explain what you are hoping to do and ask for any assistance that the embassy can provide, in the way of information about businesses, bylaws and anything else that might possibly give you a good head-start.
Check out tax regulations and government business statutes. You may qualify for government grants or other financial assistance for expanding your business outside your home country, and you may even be entitled to rebates on taxes that you would otherwise owe. Be prepared to fight to receive the grants and assistance as it is likely that there will be several stringent checks on you and your company before any funds are handed over.
Know your limitations
When expanding abroad, make sure that you stick with what you know. This may mean that you have to employ a lawyer, accountant or assistant who is skilled in the minutiae of foreign business expansion, rather than trying to wade through pages of legalese all bound in sticky bureaucratic red tape by yourself. If your business is making cakes, then stick with that and make plenty of extras so that you can afford to hire someone to smooth your path into the new country!
Finally, before putting any plans into action, draw up a business plan, exactly like you did when you first decided to open a company and make an appointment with your bank manager. He or she should be happy to see you if your business is doing well (and, frankly, if it is not doing well you should not be thinking about expanding!) and will listen attentively to your plans. The bank may be able to ease your transition into the foreign country, helping you to set up bank accounts, arranging lines and letters of credits and verifying your business identity to foreign banks.
Do not think of your overseas expansion as being something easy and obvious. You are essentially starting from scratch, building a brand new company from ground up. If you keep this in mind and work as hard on your new venture as you did when just starting out for the very first time you are more likely to succeed and do well in the country that you have chosen to be the home of your first foreign branch. Once that one is up and running smoothly you can turn your eyes to yet another country…
Keith Barrett works with www.egopay.com, helping merchants to facilitate payments on an international basis. It’s his firm belief that most companies could benefit by looking for overseas customers.
Of course, if physically moving into another country is beyond reach at this time you could consider an international shipping solution instead.