Finding the right time to take the plunge and expand your business overseas is a daunting thought for any entrepreneur. With the decision comes the possibility of facing unexpected challenges and ultimately the greatest fear, failure. However, with an up and coming generation of entrepreneurs and many supportive government initiatives, it is becoming increasingly easier for businesses to establish and conduct their operatives overseas.
Today, flexibility exists like never before, and I strongly believe that my company will fare well in the American market, and thanks to our current tech and economic climate it has not been a particularly difficult idea to explore. Fortunately, I had a good friend based in Portland, Oregon who loved what I had created here in Australia and saw the value of it, to both individual daily users and also to brands that actually care about how they are viewed by the public.
However, while your business may be reaping in success on home-soil, there are many risk factors that need to be carefully explored from every angle before it is safe to finally take your business overseas. When I planned the initial expansion for The Big Smoke, I asked myself four crucial questions, that I felt if I could answer confidently, I would have a chance of successfully expanding:
1. Do I have a stable foundation?
Before taking the leap to expand operations overseas it’s important to establish whether your business is stable on a day-to-day basis. If you have a strong understanding of where your company is sitting today, and where it will find itself tomorrow, you will be able to determine whether your business is suitable for the global marketplace. When you’ve achieved a stable foundation at home, then, and only then, is it the right time to expand overseas.
2. Have I done my research?
When exploring a new market, whether locally or globally, it is important that you conduct sufficient research into the area. Without enough information you cannot formulate a clear and accurate business plan for your company, so it’s crucial that you understand your new market. When I decided that the USA was the next place for my company to be, I spent a year unpacking the cultural and market differences to ensure that our current business model would work, and content model would suit. A crucial step in the plan to expand overseas is to research and understand the market you will navigate so you don’t become overwhelmed by competitors and find yourself lost in the global market.
3. Am I prepared for mishaps?
Although not an easy task, it’s important that you explore all the areas that could go wrong when crossing the border and taking your company overseas. On our launch date, we had a number of technical and communication issues that were irritating (my fault), and could have been avoided (my fault, again), if I had anticipated even more than I had. If you anticipate what could go wrong, what could be misunderstood and what could fall flat, you will be overly prepared with resources and solutions for all the potential and unexpected challenges that your business may face abroad, giving your company a flexible pivot that so many larger organisations struggle to achieve in the market today.
4. Is it the right time to expand overseas?
If there’s one thing I learnt when taking The Big Smoke overseas, it’s to accept that there is actually no ‘right time’ to expand. There will always be more new market information to digest, industry changes to track, and competitors to watch both entering and exiting the market. But none of these constantly changing circumstances matter if you have a solid foundation and strong execution plan in place that will allow your company to adjust and pivot the ever-evolving process that is expanding overseas. For varying reasons, we would regularly change launch dates, and then only launched when we had enough resources and people power to start a sustainable model in the US. We also realised that we could actually put this off forever, but that if we weren’t careful, we could potentially lose an amazing opportunity to work with some brilliant minds.
The question of when is it the right time to expand overseas is only important to me when it is directly related to my company’s ability to deliver, and consideration of industry fluctuations come second. The truth is, I never think there is a great time to do anything, and while luck has certainly played a part in many factors of my company, it was being available and present 24/7 that allows the so-called luck to happen. In an age where we can outsource certain tasks and communicate overseas, trade over international waters has never provided an individual business more flexibility.
About the author:
Written by Alexandra Tselios, Founder and Publisher of The Big Smoke. Alexandra has a diverse background in corporate, public and creative fields. Alex is also a regular commentator on leading AM/FM radio stations across the country and expert business columnist.