About 36 percent of the world’s multinational corporations (MNCs) are based out of America. As a US entrepreneur, you might be hoping to boost this number through your own international startup ambitions.
And that’s a realistic goal to have, so long as you recognize when the time is right to go global. Too soon, and you risk stretching your finances and human resources too thin. Too late, and you might miss out on that all-important market share.
If you’re considering taking your business off-shore, read on. We provide you with some signs to look for so you know exactly when you and your business are ready to leap.
1. You’re Financially and Operationally Stable
If you’re dreaming of global expansion, you need to ensure solid foundations before putting your business on the boat. It’s likely your local business will be the thing keeping you afloat while you set up shop overseas. So you need to keep the money flowing in.
Assess your current business, checking for a hard-working, self-managed team, a solid customer base in the US, and a sturdy supply chain.
This is a good sign that your business model is competent and efficient and should be replicable in another country–at least administratively. Of course, there will be some necessary localization, so be prepared for that, too.
If you don’t, work at getting more info on global employment organizations up your sleeve before committing to an international operation.
2. You Already Have International Customers
The most successful international expansion comes naturally. And what we mean by that is you’re already seeing signs of an established, or at least very interested, global customer base.
Perhaps you’re already getting inquiries from overseas clients. Maybe you own an e-commerce site, and the majority of your sales come from one country. It could be that your trusted business associates overseas are telling you the time (and the customer network) is right.
Whatever the reason, be sure to do your homework on your new market (or markets). Consider population density, spending habits, competitors, and where your customers are online.
3. You Have an Overseas Partner
It literally pays to find a trusted partner in the target country if you’re expanding a business internationally. That might be an overseas retailer who will stock your products, a trading partner, or even just a commission-based salesperson or consultant.
Of course, this feet-on-the-ground approach needs careful planning and oversight to ensure its effectiveness. You need to develop a transparent communication system between whoever is overseas and your headquarters back in America. You’ll also need to travel often between locations to meet with partners and see their operations first hand.
Do you need to set up an office in other countries? That all depends on how hands-on you feel you need to be in your business. Remember, it’s more expensive to set up a branch office, but you will have greater control over the day-to-day management.
4. You Know Your Markets
If you’re taking your business abroad for the first time, it might be best to select a market similar to the US. Knowledge of a market’s culture, language, business practices, and spending habits can make or break a business. If you choose a country similar to your own, you’ll have a better chance of understanding these crucial factors.
Of course, this might not always be the case. What if all your overseas sales are already coming from, say, Japan. There’s obviously something about your product that Japanese people like, but if you want to improve your presence in that country, you’ll need to invest in localization. In other words, you’ll need a team that can communicate in Japanese and understand the Japanese marketplace’s needs and wants.
5. You’ve Got the Legal Stuff Sorted
Every country or economic zone has different rules regarding protecting intellectual property (IP) and the enforcement of infringement claims. If you have ambitions to become an international company, you need to ensure your intellectual property (IP) is protected in any new market.
You also want to make sure you’re not accidentally stepping on anyone’s toes locally. For example, is your logo too similar to an established company in the new market? Maybe your name or slogan can’t be trademarked for the same reason.
6. You’ve Localised Your Web Presence
As we mentioned above, localization is essential when entering an overseas market. Unless you’re Apple, few businesses succeed when they simply copy what they’ve been doing in America and transplant that elsewhere.
And that all starts with your website.
You need to make sure the language you use is correct, product pricing is in the local currency, local shipping companies are listed, and local contact details for customer service. Things like checking your translated copy, packaging, or product imagery aren’t culturally offensive are essential, too.
7. You Can Get Paid
We’re now entering the age of global remote work. And this means sending money overseas is easier than ever before.
However, this doesn’t mean you should assume banking regulations in your target country will be favorable to overseas companies. Do your homework and look into what you need to do to ensure you’ll get paid by clients, whether setting up an international branch or using an international “middle man” transfer service like PayPal or TransferWise.
Go Global With Your Business
If you’re keen to go global with your business but unsure if you’re ready, take a step back. Assess whether or not your company expresses most or all of the signs listed here.
If you’re missing the mark on most of them, you might not be ready to expand. On the other hand, if you have a stable business, overseas customers, and partners in the countries you’re hoping to grow, too, the time is likely right.
For more entrepreneurial advice, read the other articles on our blog.