Congratulations. You’ve opened the first, or perhaps even the second branch of your business overseas.
Going international is a big step, not only for you and your customers but your business partners as well.
You now have financial, legal and ethical obligations to people in an entirely different market and sometimes differences in business culture and practices can cause misunderstandings.
Unfortunately, you may not be able to pick up and travel to smooth difficulties when there is trouble because of the expense and the inconvenience involved. You still have a business to run in your country after all.
Here are some things you can do to save yourself time and money when dealing with international business partners.
Have a local expert help with day to day operations
If you aren’t familiar with a country’s language or culture but have identified it as a lucrative market you want to enter, it may be best to hire a qualified local to run your business there.
The advantage here is you’ll have someone who is familiar with the terrain, your competitors, and likely opportunities and challenges on the ground.
The going rate for local talent is also likely to be lower than having to set up an employee from your home branch in a foreign country.
Have flexible/remote work arrangements
When you hire local staff, consider setting up flexible work arrangements with them.
Offer work-from-home options, which will save you money on office rentals. If the office does not require a full-time operation, you can hire temporary or part-time staff, which will reduce your costs.
Cut costs when communicating
Keeping in contact with your foreign branches could soon rack you up some exorbitant phone bills.
If you’ve set up a PBX system at your different branches so that there is the appearance of seamless contact between them, that can cost you several thousand a month.
Modern technology allows you to communicate over the Internet with the quality of a regular phone call through VOIP.
There are also several instant messaging programmes, like Slack, through which everyone at your company can communicate for little or no cost.
Software like Microsoft Teams and Zoom gives any business the ability to communicate with everyone working there, no matter where they are in the world, as long as they have an Internet connection.
Last but not least, there is good, old-fashioned email for transferring important documents.
Communication is instantaneous and does have to cost you a mint.
Have all your legal and financial documentation in order
Because you’ve run a business before, you know there are documents you’ll have to file and procedures you’ll have to follow in your new country of operation. You’ll also need solid contracts between your business partners.
However, sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may have to file litigation against them. Your hands are already filled with running your business, now you have to prepare for expensive legal action.
Document reviews are a particularly time-consuming and costly part of this process. Reduce those with document review software like this one. You can cut thousands of dollars off of your manpower cost to research which documents you need to produce to the opposing side. You can also shave weeks off of the review process.
Do all you can to remain compliant with your new country’s tax regulations as well. Having the government file litigation against you or impose fines against you will be unpleasant.
Have an online marketplace
There was a time when having a branch in another country meant exorbitant rents to establish a physical presence. This doesn’t have to be the case these days.
Depending on the nature of your business, you can set up an online marketplace with products unique to your foreign market to make it distinguishable from your home market, complete with local domain name.
You can have a smaller, cheaper office with minimal staff to handle local matters as well as to be legally compliant as some countries require that you at least operate a physical office in their territory in order to do business there.
Connected with the above point, there is no rule that says you need to create a carbon copy of your entire business operation in your new location.
Just as you can have an online marketplace to cut the expense of renting expensive premises.
Build partnerships with local business groups
The power of partnership can be far-reaching. Networking with others in the same business as you locally can give you the inside track on discounts and the cheapest suppliers of the best quality for your business.
You might even be able to get together and buy your supplies in bulk if you pool resources.
Such actions would result in significant savings for your business.
Set up cost-effective methods of payments and transfers
You are not tied to a bank for your financial transactions anymore.
You don’t have to line up in a physical bank to send money to business partners to cover overheads. You also don’t need to use a bank to pay for goods, supplies or services related to your business.
Bank services are expensive, especially when coming to overseas transactions. Several person-to-person apps will allow you to transfer funds instantaneously for as little as a dollar per transaction. You can hold and transfer sums as large as $100,000 depending on the app.
Do your research
This may be the ultimate time and money saver.
Do your research well before you even contemplate going international. Can you afford it? Is there a market for your goods or services overseas? Are the people you plan to partner with honourable? Do they have good reputations within their business community? What’s the labour market like? Is the country stable?
You may find from your groundwork, what seems like a lucrative opportunity on paper may mire you in inconvenience and debt.
With a bit of research beforehand, you won’t have to find out the hard way just how inconvenient and how large a debt you may incur.
If you’re considering going international and taking on partners, you don’t have to go in blind. Use these guidelines to save you time and money.