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The 5 keys to taking your business international

Growing any business is no mean feat, and for many setting up abroad can be a significant milestone in the growth of their business. In different countries and markets, regulation and style of business can all differ significantly. For example, in Singapore we give each other business cards with two hands. It is simply common etiquette known by anyone with specific market knowledge of business in the region. However, not knowing this could be a serious hindrance to expansion in the market.

When looking to grow internationally, I believe there are a five things you need to get right:

1. Pursue clients with an international portfolio

Working with clients with an international portfolio can be a great means for businesses to get themselves introduced to a foreign market. From a B2B perspective, if you manage to sell your product to a company in your home country, and they also have an international presence, selling to them abroad will be easier.

When moving into a new market, you may already have a customer, ensuring that the expansion does not have to be solely funded from your other business operations.

2. Secure market experience

Whenever any business expands into a new location, market experience on the ground is critical. Knowing the simple things like business etiquette, taxes and competitors is essential, and having someone on the ground with experience in these matters is critical.

In the US, for example, businesses importing products need to pay certain taxes and duties, which will need to be factored into product costs. Equally as a business leader or owner, you cannot be in two places at once.

No matter how committed you are to your business, you will need leadership and oversight support, whether that is at home or abroad. One of the most difficult issues many entrepreneurs face is giving away responsibility and letting other people lead your business, but this is necessary to growth.

Nobody can make every decision in a business growing globally, especially in technology where the pace is so fast.

3. Pursue new markets with big opportunities

The most valuable markets are always the biggest, but often more difficult to crack. Identifying the best target audience to market products and services too is critical as these can often vary based on country. Think big.

It was recently predicted by eMarketer that by 2016, India is expected to overtake the US as the largest web user. This makes India a key target for any budding technology entrepreneur looking to expand internationally.

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international business, the world

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4. Pursue opportunities where there is a lack of innovation internationally

Innovation is a word that has been used the world over, and remaining innovative is critical to international expansion. It is no use having a so called ‘innovative’ product selling in one country that someone else has already set-up in another. Taking this product international will be much more difficult as you could face stiff competition against an already established supplier.

If you have a business idea or product that is innovative and completely different to anything else on the market worldwide, there is little excuse to not taking it global. When I set up Corporate360 this was very much in my mind. I saw a market gap which needed filling, not just in Singapore, but worldwide.

5. Ensure funding is available before you start

There is nothing more upsetting for any entrepreneur than failure. It seems to be programmed into our psyche, the determination to succeed. Maximising your probability to succeed is essential, and you would not want to fall at the first hurdle. It is therefore critical to have enough funds to startup and some more to back yourself up. The costs of marketing, taxes and legal fees of expanding abroad can quickly rack up, making having enough bank in your war chest critical.

Taking your business to that next level is never particularly easy, but knowing what to expect and being ready will make it a whole lot easier. In my experience, business leaders simply need to be brave and bold. There is nothing wrong with taking your time over it, getting business plans right, and ensuring you have the right team ready to support your expansion. Remember, every business is different, and so is every market, the important part is making your business fit.

by Varun Chandran, founder and CEO of Corporate360