So, you have taken the monumental decision to expand internationally. Over time, this may very well prove to be one of the best business decisions you have ever made. And with almost 200 countries to choose from, there’s no shortage of new markets in which to expand.
But given this abundance of choice, where to start?
Well, to begin with, perhaps it might be easiest to start by reaching out to the 34 million Hispanophones living within the United States itself. Doing so will make the job of expanding into South American countries that much easier – plus of course Spain and its numerous territories itself.
Given that neighbouring Canada shares the same language and continent as the United States, it is perhaps unsurprising that it is usually the first choice for US companies with international aspirations.
For those looking further afield, Great Britain is a logical choice for US companies looking for a European home. Over and above sharing the same language, the United Kingdom is conveniently located between North America and Asia, making communication with both possible during a normal working day. Its capital London is arguably the world’s only truly global City. The most common form of legal entity is a limited company, in which the liability of members or subscribers of the company is limited to what they have invested or guaranteed to the company. Establishing such a company usually takes less than a day.
Another attractive market to consider is Europe’s largest and richest one, Germany. However, as Walmart’s failure to break into this lucrative but demanding market demonstrates, size and money are not prerequisites for success. One elementary error they made was to hire a CEO that could not speak German. To avoid making the same mistake, make sure you hire someone that does. An additional beneficial side-effect of expanding into Germany is that is makes the job of developing your business in neighbouring Austria and Switzerland easier. This is commonly referred to as the ‘DACH’ market, which comprises of some 100 million inhabitants.
However, this market is quite small when compared to the country which according to the IMF has overtaken the USA to become the World’s largest economy – China. Home to some 1.35 Billion people and more than a million millionaires, clearly this colossal country is too big to ignore. But given the enormous cultural and linguistical differences that exist between China and the rest of the World, establishing operations there can be fraught with difficulties.
One relatively quick, cheap and easy way to gain a foothold in China is by establishing a virtual office there first. An assistant will be assigned to you, will act as your point of contact in both an inbound and outbound capacity. When not taking inbound calls via the Chinese telephone number allocated to you, they can be tasked with making outbound ones or with spreading the word about your particular product or service on the Chinese Social Media networks Sina Weibu, Renren, Tencent & WeChat. Moreover, having a presence in China will smooth the way for expansion into other countries located in the Asia Pacific region.
No one said that going global will be easy. International expansion seldom is. But the potential rewards for enterprising enterprises that seize on the opportunities afforded by so doing will have a distinct competitive advantage over those that do not. The world is indeed their oyster, and assuming that you follow through on your decision to do the same, it can be yours too.