Expanding your business can be a daunting time as a small business owner or entrepreneur but at the same time, it can also be very exciting. The fact that you’re even considering some form of business expansion must mean business is going well, and that you’re doing something right. However, there are many things to consider when taking your small business to the next level, especially if you don’t have any prior experience with business expansion. Luckily, it’s far from impossible and today we’ve put together a guide on things that every small business owner needs to consider before expanding.
One of the first things you have to consider is how much expanding nationally and internationally will cost your company. It comes with a variety of costs to conduct your operations overseas, from commercial space to travel, customs, shipping, and production. These expenses range considerably across countries and international regions, as well as unique expenditures that apply only to international expansion.
You don’t want to face unforeseen cash flow problems, so it’s a good idea to build a list of all the expenses to ensure that they balance with the future income and profits you will earn. If expanding your business financially seems like a good idea, then with the right planning it might prove quite successful.
But if it appears that costs, including start-up costs, would take years to recover, it makes more sense to concentrate your resources on local expansion or diversify your products/services instead of entering the international market. Sometimes starting smaller and gradually working your way up proves to be a smarter financial option with business expansion.
Employment regulations and tax laws
When it comes to taxes and employment, various countries and regions have different regulations. For example, through OSHA, the US has stringent regulations on employee safety, while other nations may have relaxed laws regulating workers’ safety. And, it isn’t always that easy. For example, Mexico has a variety of different entities that control employee safety, each with its own laws that are often inconsistent.
You also need to think about other laws when it comes to health and welfare benefits. It is now more important than ever for employers of all sizes that sponsor group health and welfare benefits, to have a formal plan document (ERISA Section 402) and Summary Plan Description (“SPD”) (ERISA Section 102). To remain compliant, all employers must also issue various required notices to employees. For these health and welfare benefits, you will need valid Compliant Wrap Documents to ensure you’re abiding by the law.
You can not afford to disregard these legal rules, since they affect everything from the recruitment and selection of employees in each country to the proper filing of your tax returns. You will need to remember how your home country handles internationally earned money, as this could have a direct effect on earnings. When planning an expansion, minimise risk and look at these regulations earlier instead of later. The sooner the procedure regulations reach the decision, the better.
If you’re expanding your business overseas, there’s a large chance that your brand is brand new and will have little or no recognition. Your brand consistency is important, but you also need to think about how your brand will appear in foreign languages. What might mean something great in your native language might not in another and therefore could directly affect sales of your product. Take the time to conduct thorough research on how your brand is going to appear internationally to those that might not have heard of your brand before.
This doesn’t, however, mean that you need to change your branding. It simply means that you may have to tweak the wording or names of your products to suit the new audience. You should continue to try and keep your branding as consistent as you would normally, as changing it could directly affect sales in other areas. Keeping your brand as recognisable as possible is imperative.
Clearly, your marketing efforts have been pretty good so far, especially if you’re planning on expanding your business. Much like with your brand consistency, you need to adapt the marketing strategies and messaging to match standards (and laws) in different countries while expanding internationally. Language is an obvious factor, but success can be greatly affected by the deeper sense of messaging across some cultures. There’s a rule in marketing: think internationally, behave locally, which translates into a single brand that adapts advertising to suit distinctive aspects of the culture. Also, hiring a local marketing company allows locals to put the brand in the best light.
It’s important not to forget the customers that have helped your business this far, and this is often forgotten by expanding businesses. If they now turn away from you, expanding might end up being an expensive catastrophe. While an expansion is a great time to make a fresh start with your business, don’t do so at the expense of the people that helped you get to where you are today.
It will always go down badly with some people if you implement some kind of change into your company. There is no such thing as the perfect plan, but to make your expansion a success, you can’t let this fear stop you from introducing the improvements you need. Strike a balance between your new market being pursued and your current one being preserved.
A great way of keeping your existing customers involved in your business expansion is by rewarding them for their loyalty. You could send a mass email out to your customers providing them with a small discount on their next purchase. Not only will it show that you’re thankful for their custom, but it will help drive more sales to your business. Noone can resist a discount!
What are your competitors doing?
No matter what kind of industry you’re in, you’ll always have competitors. Even if you’re not physically at war with them, the simple fact is that it’s your business against theirs. What are they doing right? Who are they targeting? What are their marketing efforts like? Have they expanded overseas? Is there anything you could use as inspiration for your expansion? There’s nothing wrong with keeping a close eye on your competitors to better your own business.
Businesses collaborate to help expand their market and of course, make more profit. Therefore, if you’re trying to transition out of the small business category, collaborating with another business could really help boost your visibility, especially if you’re teaming up with an already-established international business. Approach businesses that you could see yourself working with, and make sure you have an idea or two in mind! For example, if you’re a smart home technology distributor, you could approach events organisers with the intent of letting them use your technology at their events. Be creative!
Preparation is key
Nothing bad has ever come from preparation for something, and the same goes for your business. Detailed research into the marketplace you are planning to enter should be involved in your preparation, along with product testing (if applicable) and marketing research.
Ultimately, the last thing you should be doing when it comes to expanding your business is rushing into things. Take the time to make sure it’s the right decision financially and lawfully and you’ll find that things begin to fall into place. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your business expansion.
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