Starting a busy isn’t simple in one’s own country, let alone abroad. The average startup is mired by logistical puzzles and cash flow concerns, and those hurdles only get more complicated opening up a business in another country. To get it right, you not only have to be a savvy businessperson, but you have to be adaptable as well.
It helps if you’ve fallen in love with the country in which you’re planning to start a business. Whether it’s Canada, China, Australia or Morocco – whether they speak your language and share your basic customs or not – you have to have a deep and abiding respect for the country if you plan on doing business there. It will help you make the most of the experience, and help you connect with customers/clients.
With a level of respect and understanding as your baseline, there are a few critical things you can do to ensure success in your new environment.
Work to Keep Costs Reasonable
As you would if you were opening a business at home, forge connections with suppliers and fellow businesses to get good prices and keep down operating costs.
If you’re in Canada, for instance, and are starting a construction business, open lines of communication with a dealership specializing in leasing commercial equipment to get the best price. If you’re opening a bar in Thailand, as another example, connect with a number of local liquor suppliers to price compare. Keeping costs reasonable may take a little extra effort when you don’t yet know anyone, but that extra work will pay off.
Familiarize Yourself With the Language
You want to make it in a foreign country, then you better be able to connect with its buyers. There’s simply no way you are going to effectively open up a business in, say, Mexico, without at least attempting a basic grasp of Spanish.
Even if your chosen country speaks English, you should still familiarize yourself with the idiosyncrasies and idioms of the national patois. For instance, those in Canada might speak a little different than Americans, and both have a much different way of communicating than Brits across the pond. Understanding these differences will help with branding and marketing in your business’ new home.
Tailor Your Product/Service to Local Tastes
Incorporate market research into your business plan, however informal it ends up being. This might involve – on the more intensive end – developing customer surveys or scouring public and commercial records for market data. Or, it might just mean informally polling your local friends on what they want, how they want it, and what they’d pay for it.
Find a Local Mentor
To help you through it all, it’s good to have guidance. But whatever business guidance you had back home is not quite going to be enough. To help you in all the above points – the language, business connections and market research – you should have a local mentor. How do you get one? Be open in the business community, network with locals and be forthright about both your ambitions and your cultural blind spots.
It may be difficult, but it’s doable. With the right connections, and an earnest respect for your chosen country, your business abroad can flourish.