Doing business abroad is not as easy as it seems, especially when you are a small business owner.
There are a few risks that you will automatically think of and know how to mitigate (e.g. currency exchange fluctuations) but you will undoubtedly need to set some time aside to conduct a little research, and you may possibly have to hire freelance consultants to help you with the most complex areas.
Insurance cover and legal compliance are two risks worth considering, for example. Does your insurance allow you to do business in the USA? Lawsuits are more common in America and some insurance companies will routinely exclude the US and Canada from their standard cover. Does your return policy comply with the rules and regulations of the country you are trying to sell to? Will a gift to your potential client be considered a bribe by your client’s legal system? Does your product meet the local safety standards?
The list of pitfalls to avoid may seem overwhelming at first and hiring the right support – e.g. a good commercial lawyer and an experienced virtual assistant – is crucial. It may also be a good idea to turn to organisations or companies like Business France, for instance. They can provide you with end-to-end support, from assistance with tax matters to help with administrative formalities and investment locations.
Another aspect which is worth considering but often neglected is local business culture and etiquette. The way you conduct yourself during your first meeting or sales pitch might be a deal breaker. What is deemed acceptable behaviour in the UK is not necessarily viewed the same way by the Japanese. Setting a meeting during lunch hours in France might not be ideal unless you make it a proper, full-length business lunch.
A little effort can go a long way and learning basic greetings in your customer’s native tongue will usually be appreciated. It is always difficult to summarize a particular culture in a nutshell without falling into clichés and preconceptions, but some websites such as http://businessculture.org/ can provide some interesting insight.
If you need help with research, administration services or even French translation while you focus your efforts on establishing your business overseas, simply drop us a note. We’ll be happy to assist.