3 Tips for International Market Success

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Regardless of the timeline of your business, planning for the future is essential. Focusing only on the present without ambitious goals is a recipe for failure. Once a startup is established in the local market, it’s time to move on to international expansion. And for that, you need a clear roadmap.

Harvard Business Review’s study on the role of business planning in startup success found that founders with a business plan for expansion were 16% more likely to achieve viability than those who did not have a plan. Entrepreneurs focused on growing startups are 7% more likely to plan with advanced ideas.

More than 60% of climbing efforts can be successful. This impressive fact attracts investors who are more willing to invest in the projects of founders who understand that real value comes from being able to boost startups and scale them globally.

While the Internet is full of articles to help you create a business plan, I want to share some essential tips for planning international expansion. I found them based on my experience expanding my company in the Philippines and India. This knowledge will help you grow faster, more efficiently and without financial losses.

Related: 3 steps to successful international expansion

TIP #1. Assess your expansion potential

Entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that the biggest challenge to expansion is competition. In reality, only 20% of startups fail because they overextended themselves.

Our experience has shown that the main opponent in a new market is the external market environment and uncertainty. When planning, you should always consider the worst-case scenario and an unfriendly environment.

Use these three practical exercises to avoid making overly optimistic forecasts.

Long term planning. As you plan the year’s outcomes and activities, stop and think about how each aspect of your plan might not work. Brainstorm with your team and don’t be afraid to discard ideas.

For example, at one point we made the mistake of relying on the speed of hiring sales managers in new markets. We expected it to take 3-4 weeks, but it took longer. We have to consider the time of training, adaptation and needs of the employees.

Related: How to know when to hire an international team

Short term planning. When planning weekly checkpoints or sprints, compare expectations and reality. Don’t chase big, ambitious goals by setting unrealistic deadlines. The truth would hurt. In short-term planning, the most useful question is, “What aren’t we doing now? We discuss with our team what we won’t do each week, why we’re putting it off and what we’re doing.

When planning is done. Once you’ve developed a plan and done a “what-could-go-wrong” exercise, engage outside experts with authority in a similar practice. Show the finished project to the experts and let them challenge it. At our company, we ask our investors to review our plan and assess the risks. This helps us evaluate our options and helps us avoid wasting money, employee resources, and time.

TIP #2. Understand the patterns of your business

In a startup, teams depend on each other. This affects the performance of the company as a whole. You, as an entrepreneur, must clearly understand how these connections work. If one element falls, the whole system collapses. For example, a new contract with a partner could be delayed by several weeks just because the necessary document was lost during the transition.

We have faced this problem ourselves. An employee in our business development department quit for two weeks. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to get the right contact for payments and we wouldn’t be able to quickly resolve customer issues.

How could this situation have been avoided? Consider team relationships in the planning stage. Discuss who has access to the accounts. Plan for employee needs and avoid a situation where something strategically important is left with an employee.

I suggest structuring your database with internal information and adding a company rule to create critical process manuals, access guides, passwords, and contacts. This protects you from the risk of a complete stop.

TIP no. 3: Plan your recruitment

Recruiting people internationally is a critical and challenging process. At the end of the day, your performance depends on your people, and learning how to look for talent thousands of miles away is essential.

To make the talent search and hiring process successful, I suggest consulting with global market experts. Consulting individual applications is expensive, but every dollar pays.

Related: 5 things to remember when hiring international employees

Networking with other founders also works. Ask them about the peculiarities of the local mentality, frequent mistakes of foreign recruitment companies, the average salary level and the importance of the HR brand for candidates. Specify the little things, from the candidate’s preferred language to address slang.

Once you get the answers to these questions, be careful about predicting the number of people you will hire during a given period.

I faced this problem when my company expanded to the Philippines and Indonesia. We didn’t know how to hire salespeople quickly. In the first few months, we made less revenue than we could have. We quickly realized that we hadn’t planned our hiring process as well as we should have.

Proper planning is the key to successful business expansion and development. However, over-optimism in planning leads to unnecessary costs and problems. Always anticipate the worst-case scenario, plan your recruitment in as much detail as possible, and share your plan with investors to ensure you’re on the right path to success.

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