Borders are disappearing in the business world. Thanks to the internet and the swift evolution of technology, more and more businesses—small and large alike—are taking advantage of the opportunity to expand internationally. Some experts even say we are moving toward a “global economy,” an economy where international expansion isn’t just an option, but an essential component of success.
The advantages of international development are potentially enormous, even for small companies. Not only does expanding your business reach to other countries widen your potential customer base, but it also makes it possible to take advantage of the commerce benefits those countries afford. Most manufacturing happens overseas because the services are less expensive. The same goes for other factors of employment, administration, customer service, product development, and more.
Of course, for all of its potential profits, expanding your business internationally will also present a number of new challenges. From cultural boundaries to differing rules and regulations, there are a lot of potential roadblocks to consider before taking your business global. Read on to learn more about these challenges, so you can decide whether or not your business is prepared to face them.
Different countries have traditions and customs that you must be familiar with before taking your business global. For instance, it is a tradition in Japan to bring a gift to a business meeting and present it to the CEO or most senior member present at the meeting. In Germany, the idea of a “company car” is taken very seriously, and employees care almost as much about the car they are given as they do about salary.
Other unique tenets of business etiquette abound in other countries, but you won’t just have to worry about foreign business customs if you expand internationally. On the contrary, thinking about the broader cultural divide is important, as well. Different countries have their own views on what clothing, gestures, or behaviors are appropriate. In particular, hand gestures (the thumbs-up sign, the “A-OK” sign, crossing the fingers, or the “peace” sign) have very different, often offensive meanings in many other countries. Getting a hang of these cultural differences can be difficult if you’ve only ever lived or worked in a Western country.
Lingual differences can also be a boundary to international expansion. Often, English is still viewed as the international business language, which means that your prospective foreign clients or business partners might be perfectly willing to conduct meetings in a language you understand. Still, if you aren’t bilingual, you might have difficulty communicating or negotiating with people in the foreign business market. Even those who know English may have thick accents that make them difficult to understand. And if you are selling to consumers, you’ll need to redefine your product and marketing campaign for an entirely different language.
Will you be bringing over some of your Swiss employees to help your business gain a foothold internationally? Doing so might be a good idea to avoid hiring an entirely new staff, but you will have to concern yourself about making sure your people can make it through the required immigration channels to attain work permits. As for recruiting international workers, you will have to familiarize yourself with local labor standards for everything from occupation health and safety to salary.
Singapore government imposes considerable regulations on different industries. Similarly, foreign countries have their own standards and regulations by which businesses must abide. From essential licenses and certifications to labeling and packaging standards, all the way to regulations for selling products over the internet, your business will have to learn to play by a whole new set of rules when expanding internationally. Consult a professional familiar with industrial regulations in your particular industry to make sure that your company is ready to comply with all foreign laws.
Tax and Money
The dollar is stronger than many foreign currencies, which means that expensive-to-produce products can struggle to be competitive abroad. Apple, for instance, has had trouble marketing the iPhone in the Far East because it is so expensive. Even if you do have a product or service that can make a profit internationally, you need to consider the complications of foreign taxation. Of course, you will have to familiarize yourself with the local tax specificities of the country where your international expansion is taking place.
Equally important, though, is to check for Double Taxation Treaty between your country of origin and the new country in which you are doing business. Countries forge these types of taxation agreements with one another so that companies and individuals are not taxed twice on revenue or income. If unsure, speak with an specialist to make sure your foreign gains won’t be subject to the taxation of two different countries.
Needless to say, there are a lot of different factors to consider when considering an international expansion. Growing your business overseas, in other words, is not a decision to be made rashly or overnight. Thinking through all of the logistical hurdles—including the challenges listed above—will help you to formulate a smart, comprehensive plan for moving forward with your expansion. Hopefully, knowing about some common pitfalls will help your business to execute a seamless and instantly profitable international expansion!