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Published On: Mon, Jan 29th, 2018

Moving Your Business Abroad? Be a Boy Scout

When you started your business on your own turf, you had many hoops to jump through. You had to register as a company with your state, with the IRS, and perhaps even your county/city. And that was just the beginning. There were a lot of documents and regulations to study and comply with, not to mention all of the tasks involved in just getting a business launched, up, and running.

photo/ Gerd Altmann

Now, multiply all of that at least ten-fold as you consider expanding overseas. It is time to embrace the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” Here is a brief and possibly incomplete rundown of the things you should do to be an effective “boy scout.”

 

  • Research Laws and Business Practices

 

You are obviously aware that laws differ, country to country. These will impact everything from how long it takes to get a business set up to tax laws and regulations, to banking laws, and legalities regarding contracts. Other issues, such as renting or purchasing property, can also be tricky.

Your best approach is to find an attorney in your target country, certainly one who speaks your native language and who practices business law. This can be a “tall order”. But if you can find another business that has set up shop in that country, you can probably get a good referral.

 

  • Dig Deep into the Culture

 

A lot of businesses that attempt to expand to foreign countries do not meet with success. Sometimes, it is because the owners and other staff do not immerse themselves enough in the local culture, so that all of their activities, especially marketing, honor the cultural values and nuances of that country. What is humorous in your home territory may be offensive in another. Even colors, logos, and mascots must be checked.

This process can take huge amounts of time, especially if there are not native “experts” to help. Even translations can go terribly wrong. One famous example is that of the California Milk Advisory Board. They had a marketing campaign with the slogan, “Got milk?” It was paired with some great visuals and quite a hit. When that same campaign went to Mexico, however, the slogan translation came out as, “Are you lactating?”

This points out the need for  high-quality translation services for everything you write, speak, or put out there. You have choices to make here. You can hire a translator on a permanent basis, or use one of the top-rated online translation services. Just be certain that you get expertise in translation niches. There may be a big difference in translating documents such as employee manuals and legal translation online that must be completed by those with legal expertise. If you use a service, be certain that they have all of the niche experts you need. And, if you use individual translators, you may need to locate one specialist who can translate a document and another who can translate your marketing content appropriately.

Good native translators will also give you good insights into a country’s culture and be willing to explain them to you.

  1. Stability of the Country

While it may certainly be attractive to set up shop in a country with lax laws and regulations, if the political situation is not stable, it is risky business indeed. More than one company has seen its assets seized and its accounts frozen because of an unpredicted, rapid change in political power. And even without such a change, governments can often act without warning. In 2013, the government of Cyprus was being bailed out by the EU and decided that it would impose a 10% additional tax on all bank accounts that exceeded $100,000. Many foreign companies lost 10% of their assets overnight.

 

  • Solid Legal Advice Cannot Be Overrated

 

As mentioned before, getting the best legal advice possible is absolutely critical. In some countries, businesses even find ex-pat lawyers who are practicing there. If you use a native lawyer, even one who speaks your language well, it is still advisable to have an interpreter and your own native lawyer with you during discussions and the drawing up of legal documents. And once those documents are drawn up in the target language, get a second opinion before signing anything.

 

  • Get a Personal Feel for the Business Climate

 

Traveling to your target country in advance to become more culturally aware is a good thing. But there are other reasons for doing this as well. You need to analyze any competition that may be well-established and ensure that there is still “room” for you.

Another goal should be to contact with local business leaders and the organizations or groups to which they belong. Attend a few meetings, establish some relationships, and you will be able to use these resources later on.

Meet with owners/executives of other businesses from your native country, for they, too, can serve as critical resources for all of that detail that can’t be discovered in the legal processes.

 

  • Plan to Hire Locals in Strategic Positions

 

Two of the most important functions of a business, no matter where it is located, are marketing and customer service/support. And it is especially important for a non-native business. Be certain that, as you make plans for staffing, you reserve key positions for local hires. Even creating some positions that involve liaison activities with government officials/agencies and the public at large could prove highly valuable.

Be Deliberate and Patient

Expanding a business to another country is not easy or rapid task. In fact, you may have to develop an entirely new business plan; you have to develop a budget; you have to account for all of the previous six activities listed above. You cannot be over-prepared for this venture.

Above all, be patient. These ventures take time if they are done the right way. The goal is to be successful. And the more time you spend up front, well in advance of the launch, the more that success is achievable.

Author: Margaret Reid

Margaret Reid is a freelance writer who is seeking to discover new ways for personal and professional growth. Currently she`s working in the company The Word Point and trying to improve herself in the blogging career. Margaret is an experienced and self-driven specialist who cannot imagine her life without writing.

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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