Global expansion isn’t just for the big dogs of the business world. Small business is ripe for international growth, especially as remote work has blurred the lines previously defined by geographic borders.
If you’ve got expansion on your mind, it may be time to consider making your next move internationally.
Potential customers can come from anywhere. Likewise, so can employees. Why not make your business available and attractive to them, no matter where they live? However, before you start daydreaming of serving an expanded clientele, you need to create a plan to help you reach them.
1. Research your target markets.
Any good plan begins with research. Likewise, preparing your small business for international expansion is no exception.
While making a broad goal of going global may be inspiring, it doesn’t do much to provide strategic direction. Where would your offering fill an underserved market niche? Consequently, identify which countries are your prime targets for expansion and take it from there.
Tap into your existing data to determine whether it will provide the answers you need. If it won’t, you’ll need to conduct a more extensive research effort so you can target the right market segments.
Don’t skip this step. Heading into an expansion plan without a base of knowledge is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, take your time, prioritize your questions, and document your findings so you can make the right decisions the first time.
2. Secure your ideal talent.
Your international small business expansion will present unique opportunities and challenges. One significant hurdle to overcome is talent acquisition.
Your stateside employees are great, but you may need to add international talent to serve your expanded clientele. As a result, time zones, cultural customs, and physical proximity are all things you’ll need to take into account.
Unless you establish a physical presence in countries you hope to serve, you’ll need to utilize employer of record services to secure top talent. By contracting with an EOR, you’ll be able to hire employees in multiple countries while minimizing your administrative burden.
Your EOR will take care of the paperwork and navigate employment and benefits laws, saving you time and money. With all of this taken care of, you can focus on hiring the right people, no matter their location.
3. Get the right tech.
Communicating with your customers and your teams is essential no matter where you are in the world.
Nail down your technology and communications best practices so you can nimbly serve your customers. If you aren’t sure where to start, begin examining how your internal teams work together.
Identify small business collaboration tools that can serve remote international teams.
Consider how you’ll manage workflow and touchpoint opportunities with teams working on differing schedules. Determine what devices, software, and tools are needed by your expanded team to accomplish their tasks. Adopting cloud-based solutions will help ensure that your chosen software performs well in all locations.
4. Learn international small business practices.
Cultural customs are dynamic and require careful attention, even if your business is known to be headquartered stateside. A sensitivity flub could tarnish an otherwise sterling reputation, so it’s important to be mindful of social norms.
Prioritize learning about workplace practices in the countries where you plan to do business. Create standards for your small business team to lean on as they do business with international customers.
The goal here is to be welcoming and courteous to all of your potential customers, no matter where they’re based.
Make similar efforts with your international employees, taking note of any specific needs. This may manifest in observing certain holidays, establishing particular work hours, and/or being mindful of word choice.
The additional research and training required to fine-tune your practices are worth it when your team and customers feel respected.
5. Plan thoroughly.
You’ve identified your expansion target(s) and hired employees. That means it’s “go” time, right?
Not so fast. Jumping into expansion without a comprehensive plan is almost sure to fail. Work with your international team to identify specific steps toward small business expansion and assign dates to each milestone.
If you reach a rough spot, pause your plan and assess the situation with your leadership team.
Most plans need to be adjusted once you get into the execution phase, especially as you encounter real-life issues. As Gen. Eisenhower famously said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” While “worthless” is a bit strong, you will want to develop a thorough, measured expansion plan that’s able to flex with reality.
As the world gets smaller, your small business scope can get bigger.
Global business growth is exciting, especially if your small business was once a dream.
Immerse yourself in the international small business landscape and keep tabs on best practices. Observe trends in the markets you plan to enter and adapt your offerings accordingly.
When you’re prepared, you can be an early adopter of new ideas and practices. In doing so, you can establish your brand as the go-to in your category.
Network with other smaller businesses that have successfully scaled on the international stage to learn from their triumphs — and mistakes. Connecting with those who have real-life experience can help you avoid big problems. With a solid plan, the needed support, and the right talent, your opportunities truly are limitless.