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Prepare to go global with these key considerations for your expansion plan
If you are thinking about expanding your business internationally, it is an exciting opportunity to diversify and grow. However, taking on international markets can be challenging and before your business embarks on this mission, there is a lot to consider.
From deciding on the right country or region, to handling unexpected obstacles, discover the key considerations for the early stages of expansion below, with helpful pointers from our own Head of International Operations, Jenefer Morgan.
Determine why before figuring out how
With every international venture, there will be problems that crop up along the way. But when things don’t go to plan, you must remind yourself of why you set out on this mission in the first place.
Whether it’s the opportunity to diversify, the return on investment from reaching a new audience or something else, determining the driving force behind your plans keeps you motivated and focused when challenges arise.
Develop a “playbook” to conduct thorough research
Whether this is the first time you have expanded abroad or the next stage of a broader expansion strategy, documenting the steps you take during the research phase is vital.
“For Growth Lending, our playbook enables us to assess a new opportunity using a standard set of metrics so we can benchmark accordingly,” says Jenefer Morgan. “Your playbook should cover everything from your business plan to your target market, competitors and any other relevant information.
“You should also include who will make decisions on certain activities and outline what success will look like and how it is going to be measured. You’ll be able to refer back to this throughout the process and use it as a benchmark for each time you consider a new geography.”
Capitalise on the knowledge of locals
In-person or online events, in the region you want to expand to, can offer local expertise from the outset and enable you to grow your network more quickly.
Choose events hosted and attended by individuals relevant to your sector to maximise potential for learning and the chance to make valuable connections – the more events you can attend, the better!
Before Growth Lending launched in the US, Jenefer attended an ‘Expanding into the US’ event, hosted by a US law firm: “It gave me valuable insights and enabled me to grow my network rapidly, as well as providing the opportunity to assess how we were doing against other businesses taking on the US,” she says.
Leverage your networks
Reach out to both your personal and professional connections to pick their brains. If people cannot answer your questions they will often know someone who can, so ask for an introduction.
Jenefer advises building your network with contacts who have:
- Lived and worked where you are planning to open an office
- Expanded their business into the same territory you are considering
- Chosen not to expand their business into the territory you are considering
- Expanded their business before (particularly if in a similar industry to you)
Build a reliable panel of advisors
From lawyers to accountants and other business professionals, paid expertise offers support when you need it most.
“Invest time into these relationships as their goodwill can go a long way for smaller requests and nuggets of wisdom when you are not expecting it,” says Jenefer. “I have found our panel of advisors to be very generous with their time and input and while we of course pay for formal work, such as the drawing up of legal contracts, the positive relationships we have built mean we accrue additional input and insights beyond these formal scopes of work.
“These relationships can also be mutually beneficial – I have a wealth of knowledge about doing business in the UK that I can share with advisors when needed too.”
Prove your commitment to the expansion
Actions always speak louder than words, especially when hiring new employees. Consider what your business can do to reassure other stakeholders that you are serious about the expansion.
Tangible trust signals such as securing funding, relocating employees from your domestic territory and setting up a physical office all help demonstrate your commitment to this new region.
Alongside this, integrate into the local business community by joining associations and other groups.
Accept you are unconsciously incompetent
As a newcomer to an international market, you have to accept that you are unconsciously incompetent. This means you should never assume something is the same as at home.
Problems may arise that you can’t foresee and you may have to adjust your strategy. Ensure you have built in contingency for additional resources and costs when things do not go to plan and outline who you can turn to for help.
“Adopting a learning mindset can be very useful in these instances; if something unexpected does happen, learn from it, tweak your playbook and keep going,” says Jenefer.
You learn as much from the regions you do not expand into as the ones you do
As the old saying goes “every failure is a step towards success” and this could not be more true than when an area you have researched isn’t the right fit.
When researching new geographies, there is so much to be learned from the countries you don’t expand to.
While it can be easy to feel as though you have wasted time exploring a non-viable option, all the reasons that a location is not the right fit can be exactly why an alternative location is. Going through the process, regardless of the outcome, offers valuable insights that you can carry into each new expansion effort.