If you’re planning to do business in a new country, you want to make sure it’s, well, the business. That means a lot of up front planning. Here are three essential areas for you to cover.
1. Know the Climate
First of all, you have to understand the climate. That includes knowing the political setup and being aware of issues that could affect the way you do business. You wouldn’t want to wake up one day to find you don’t own your business any more.
It also means figuring out the commercial and regulatory setup. It’s important to know the rules and regulations governing the establishment of any business, as well as any tax advantages you might enjoy or traps you might want to avoid.
You’ll need to know how you go about employing local people within your business and expectations about salary and income tax. And you’ll need to understand the local pace – getting things done outside major metropolitan centers can take a while, no matter where in the world you go.
To help smooth your path, it’s a good idea to call on local experts such as tax and business attorneys so you don’t fall foul of the law right at the start.
2. Learn the Culture
While you’re at it, it’s essential to get to know the business culture. Some of this may be part of the general culture of the place (I’ll get to that in a moment) but it’s also about understanding how local people do business. If you’re starting a business in a new place, working with partners and suppliers who know the culture will help things go smoothly. Knowing how to address people, how to handle a business lunch or whether to dress formally or informally can help you avoid misunderstandings.
In some business cultures, people value getting straight to the point in a business negotiation. In others, that would be considered rude; they prefer a more oblique approach. Use Business Insider’s guide to business etiquette as a starting point.
Body language is important too. In some countries showing people the sole of your foot while crossing one leg over the other is a deadly insult and believe it or not, a thumbs up isn’t positive everywhere. Even nodding the head can have different meanings in different countries as this body language chart shows.
Within the wider culture, pay attention to religious and social customs so you don’t offend people without meaning to. It will also come in handy for understanding the people you are partnering or working with, making you more effective in business.
3. Understand and be Understood
Communication can be a challenge even when you all speak the same language, but when you don’t, misunderstandings could hurt your business. Unless you’re a linguistic genius, you won’t speak the language in every country you do business in, and you can’t assume that everyone you meet will speak yours.
To make sure you always know what’s happening in business meetings, especially when starting the business, hire an interpreter so that you always know what’s going on. Your interpreter should accompany you to any key negotiations. It may be an added cost, but it’s worth it. While you’re at it, get translations of any contracts you plan to sign so you know exactly what you are agreeing to.
Differences in language and culture also affect how people perceive your business materials, and whether they decide to make a purchase, so localize key messaging into the appropriate language for your new business location. In many cases, this also means changing the messaging: the same phrase that denotes “good value” in one country may indicate “cheap and worthless” in another.
Cover these three areas and you will set the scene for a successful expansion into a new business territory.
For more help on business expansion, see:
- The Small Business Association guide to doing business abroad
- The Business City Guide
- Moore Stephens Guides to doing business abroad
- International Business Etiquette, Manners and Culture
Finally, before you make the move, pay a couple of visits to the country so that you really get to know it. For best results, stay with a local contact so that you can experience life as people really live it rather than the artificial confines of a hotel or expat community. Only then will you truly begin to understand the climate that you will be operating in— and that’s crucial!