Finding the quickest path to expanding your business overseas can yield enormous return on investment if done right. However, many traps await from foreign laws, to payroll management, to adapting to a different culture. We will look at everything you need to know before jumping in.
Is your company ready to take the next step?
This is not a question of whether you can do it or not (you most certainly can), but rather an assessment of whether doing so would make sense. Bear in mind that scaling your company overseas requires you to commit valuable resources.
It can be argued that focusing your efforts on one country and succeeding there with regards to market share is better than diluting company efforts across several countries (which would likely have an impact on service quality).
You should also evaluate whether the foreign marketplace is a good fit for your offerings. There may be language and regulatory barriers, and you could potentially run into a stronger level of competition than what you are used to back home.
If you have determined that your company is ready to proceed, this is what you should be focusing on:
1. Find the right people
Finding the right people to call your partners should top your list of priorities. This should be someone both trustworthy and knowledgeable. This person could help you overcome language barriers as well as ensure that your work is compliant with the local laws and regulations. For obvious reasons, finding all these traits in the same person can be a challenge, so start thinking in terms of assembling a team. When it comes to choosing a distributor, don’t automatically assume the largest players are the best choice; it could very well be that they won’t be able to put in the best effort because of their size.
2. Study the culture you’re targeting
Just because your business plan meshes well with your own culture, it may not be so with the culture you’re targeting. At the very least, some adjustments may be needed, so it’s wise to study up on what you need to know. The language barrier is one thing and it can be overcome merely by hiring the locals to serve the customers and having your website localized. Time zones can be addressed in a similar manner. But when it comes to cultural differences, this is by far the greatest obstacle you’re likely to run into.
3. Paying your overseas employees
No matter what type of business you’re running, you’re going to have different types of people working for you in your remote office. There will be traditional full-time employees that work regular hours – this can be either in-house or online, depending on the nature of your business. Then, there are the contractors who are either paid hourly or on a project/task basis. Of course, you also have the option of hiring staff through an agency.
Either way, you will need a solution to take care of your global payroll – a notoriously difficult and complex area, although there are now companies e.g. Papaya Global which is aiming to streamline these processes whilst keeping growing companies in compliance with local payroll/employment laws. You will want to be spending your time on running and expanding your business overseas – not in disputes with local authorities for being locally non-compliant.
4. Devise a system for managing your staff
Once you have worked out the ins and outs of your new country structure it’s time to think about how you’ll be managing your staff. When working exclusively on a one-site office, operations are generally quite straightforward. But when working in a remote or distributed environment it can get complicated.
Typically you will have less control over your employees, so you will need a way to track, manage and report tasks and projects. When it comes to project-based work, team collaboration tools are a lifesaver. If you’ll be working with freelancers, some of the freelance platforms have built-in time tracking, which adds value if you’re paying them on an hourly basis.
5. Set up the infrastructure
Do you have enough computer hardware or will you need to purchase extra? Is the office space comfortable enough to house your staff as well as all the equipment you’ll need? These are some of the basic things you’ll need to cover in one way or another, but it doesn’t stop there. If you’ve done your homework (and at this point, you should have), you may come to the conclusion that your infrastructure needs to be adapted to the governing laws in that area. For instance, in Europe, the data protection laws require you to treat customer data with caution to ensure it doesn’t get out in the wild. To that end, encryption and other safeguards must be applied.
Scaling your operations overseas is the only way to attain international success. Launching an overseas operation is not easy but with the right effort, application and tools it can be done.