4 Mistakes to Avoid When Expanding Business Internationally

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 Oct 21, 2020 How-To , Trends   Africa , Asia , Caribbean , Europe , Latin America , Middle East , North America , Oceania , US Territories  Stephen Kirkpatrick

4 Mistakes to Avoid When Expanding Business Internationally

People looking to take their companies internationally spend so much time researching the advantages of doing business globally that they often fail to avoid simple mistakes. First and foremost, international business expansion is complicated. Quickly infiltrating broader markets isn’t something that organizations accomplish overnight. That’s not to say the transition cannot be done smoothly – it absolutely can with the right help – but you must avoid some of the most common mistakes to succeed in your global expansion. 

Why Are You Expanding? 

I have to assume you’re not trying to take your business overseas just to rack up frequent flyer miles. There’s logical thought that you’ve probably spent significant time ironing out. But would it surprise you if I told you that many executives jump to an overseas market because of domestic shortcomings? Unfortunately, that’s a mistake many fail to avoid. 

Adi Vaxman, a contributor to Entrepreneur, informs us that, “Businesses frustrated with the lack of growth in the domestic market may set their sights on the global market.” Vaxman directly labels this as an act of “going abroad for the wrong reasons,” and she’s not mistaken. It’ll be an uphill battle for you if you don’t already have a solid footing in your national space. However, that’s not to say that taking your company global is off the table forever. If worldwide expansion is something you feel strongly about, the next steps would be to receive input from experts in helping companies expand internationally. Just as you are an authority in your field, it’s worth gaining feedback from specialists in global expansion.  

Have You Been Listening?

I get it. Having an extension of your business separated by oceans and operating at all different hours in various time zones is stressful. But do you have teams in your global offices that you trust? Even if you trust them, do you evaluate any of their insights on the local markets? If these questions create moments of pause, you may be missing out on a valuable opportunity. Nataly Kelly writes in Harvard Business Review, “This [Trusting your local team] is extremely important, because these individuals not only know the country in question, they know your business. The biggest challenge companies face with incorporating local insight tends to be communication.”

It seems simple, really. But I witness situations like this all too frequently. And ultimately, it stems from a lack of communication. 

The feet on the ground often have the most understanding of trends in the market. They are consistently interacting with clients and potential clients – hearing what they like and dislike. Your international teams also understand local trends – they’re reading business publications and keeping up with relevant news. Frankly, not seeking out your global teams’ input is a tremendous mistake, but fortunately, it’s an easy one to avoid.

Are You Up To Speed On The Culture?

There are so many minute differences in professional etiquette that differ once you enter another country. It’s not that you’re trying to be rude or disrespectful; you may honestly just not know what’s customary where you’re expanding. But, regrettably, that’s a blunder that could end up costing you. 

Ritwik Donde makes an excellent point writing for Franchising.com, saying, “Whether it’s crossed legs at a meeting or an informal email response, the simplest of gestures can mean the difference between landing an overseas deal or going home with nothing to show for your trouble.” Knowing these characteristics may seem silly, but understand that you are no longer playing solely with a home-field advantage once you’re abroad. It’s critical to have a thorough understanding of diverse business cultures. That’s why partnering with a team specializing in this knowledge can prevent you from making unmeaningful errors that could cost you international business opportunities. 

Should You Be Getting Help?

Companies that have expanded internationally often have not done it alone. Your worldly goals call for an international expansion strategy. In fact, Jimmy Sexton says not working with strategic partners is a mistake he sees quite often. In his contribution to Forbes, Sexton writes, “It never ceases to amaze me how many entrepreneurs start doing business in a foreign country without getting proper advice. Some rely on the advice of a friend, whose expertise is inevitably limited to having been to that country one time. Others rely on the advice of their local tax or business advisor, who generally is not competent to advise on the laws of another country. And others get no advice at all.”

Taking the global plunge without a partner that knows how to expand business successfully is not only a considerable gamble, it’s an indisputable mistake. Going into international development alone, or with only the opinions of current advisors lacking global expansion credentials, is arguably the most significant oversight you can make. By not seeking a strategic partnership, you’re risking a considerable loss of revenue in addition to a sizable setback. Luckily, finding a knowledgeable team to help with your expansion is an easy blunder to dodge. Not only will they provide you expertise in all areas of international business operations, but they can also streamline your processes and create numerous other efficiencies within your global development. 

Nobody wants to commit errors, especially with a process that holds so much weight. You’ve exerted substantial effort and energy into reaching your expansion goals. It’s imperative that you don’t allow little mistakes to throw things off-schedule. Fortunately, many of the common missteps businesses commit in their foreign development are easily avoidable – it often only takes speaking with an expert. 

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