Both start-ups and large multinationals have chosen to open overseas offices. Some of them are trying to reach new markets. Others find that it is more financially viable, because of lower manpower costs and better tax rates. For others, it is part of building their brand: having several branches around the world helps improve their reputation and gain credibility.
However, opening an overseas office does have its challenges and risks. Here are some things you can do – as the company owner or senior manager – to clear the path to success.
Get a local consultant
You can find a lot of information online, but nothing you find on the internet can match the inside information and customized recommendations of a local business consultant. They can tell you more about what papers you need, the local tax laws, consumer behaviour and attitudes towards your industry or brand, political and cultural climate, and more.
For example, CreationBC – which helps entrepreneurs and corporations who wish to penetrate the Middle East – will do a detailed risk mitigation analysis, and identify the best structure for your particular company and industry. In a very short time, you’re able to get concrete solutions that greatly increase your chance for profitability. That’s not something you can get from Googling reports on regional business trends.
Learn more about the business culture and etiquette
This is very important, even if you have a small overseas business. Cultural sensitivity can make it easier for you to negotiate with possible business partners and work smoothly with the local employees. Understanding “the way things work” also helps you make realistic business decisions, instead of making plans in a vacuum.
For example, personal relationships and trust are very important in the Middle East, so it may take many weeks or months before local businesses decide to partner with your brand. Aside from formal business meetings, you do need to socialize after work. Meetings also tend to take longer, and you simply can’t expect to go through an agenda and then rush off.
Understand the paperwork and fine print
Different countries have their own business policies and incentives, and these can also vary depending on the kind of corporate structure that you have. It’s important to get concrete business and legal advice so you aren’t surprised by loopholes and fine print. These can affect the kind of partnerships you can enter, how much you pay in taxes, and the ownership you have over your company and your intellectual property.
Customize your website and social media
In today’s digital environment, websites and social media are like a company calling card — you simply need to have one in order to have credibility.
You may already have a website for the main company, but you will need to make a localized version for your overseas customers – especially if English is not the predominant language. Invest in a translator who is very familiar with the local language and can correctly communicate your brand message. If you will be setting up social media accounts, you will also need to change your posts to be culturally sensitive. Campaigns that work in one country may be ineffective (or even offensive) in others.
Invest in industry data
You need to get a big picture of how the country’s economy (and your industry) has fared in the last few years. You may also look at the performance of your competitors, or any companies that have businesses that are similar to yours. This will give you an idea of business trends, and help you create more accurate business plans and forecasts.