Global innovation and expansion: avoiding 5 common mistakes

The path to international business success is littered with horror stories about both startups and established companies who failed in their attempts to expand into foreign markets. And although they’re likely to get your heart racing and have you abandoning your plans for world domination, really these examples are more useful than all the success stories combined.

Namely, because you can learn from these companies’ mistakes, avoid their pitfalls and hiccups, and, basically, do a better job than they did.

With that in mind, I’m detailing five common slip-ups likely to derail your business’s global expansion and sharing tips on how to dodge them. Take a look.

#1: failing to invest time and money into planning

Before you make any announcements or get too caught up in daydreams about life as a hotshot, globetrotting business superstar, take a breather and dedicate time to planning.

Yup, we know it’s not necessarily the most fun part of owning a business, but it’s one you should be pretty familiar with by now. As well as financial predictions, logistical considerations and goals, do your market research.

By spending time and money really investigating your future markets, you’ll be better prepared to handle their difficulties and have a much clearer idea of your next steps. It’s also the best way to avoid making any blunders regarding cultural sensitivities.

#2: getting tangled in financial issues

Unless you happen to be the kind of person who actually enjoys numbers, spreadsheets and dreaded tax returns, the complicated financial aspects of taking your business global will no doubt already be causing you plenty of sleepless nights.

As well as speaking to UK trade and investment advisors (they regularly host training and information sessions for businesses expanding into international markets) to put your mind at rest, create a department with the expertise to manage your finances.

That doesn’t just mean increasing your accountancy team (although you probably should), but also getting the right kind of bank account. Offshore banking, for example, is a great way of dealing with multi-currency transactions through just one account.

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#3: being tripped up by legal problems

Meeting laws and regulations are a major concern for every business, especially so when you’re moving into a market and country you aren’t familiar with.

Again, the government offers some helpful guidance in regards to legal issues and your responsibilities when it comes to trading internationally. But your best bet is to seek professional legal advice from experts living and working in your target countries.

They’ll be able to give you the most up-to-date and reliable information, from the licenses you’ll need to ensuring you give your employees the wages and holidays they’re entitled to.

#4: not putting the right people in place

Remember, you can’t do everything yourself, so getting the right team of reliable, experienced and highly-skilled staff in place is essential.

You’ll not only need employees in your current headquarters who’re capable of meeting the day-to-day demands of your existing business, but people on the ground in the countries you’re expanding to.

If your budget is tight, there are plenty of freelancers out there that you can hire on a temporary basis (use reputable sites like Freelancer for workers you can trust).

#5: moving too fast

Last but not least, be patient. You may have ambitions to see your logo and products in every corner of the globe, but trying to successfully move into too many different markets and countries at once is a recipe for disaster.

It won’t happen overnight, and that’s ok. Take your time, focus on one step at a time and don’t overstretch yourself.

Bear these five common mistakes in mind as you take your business global to streamline your transition into foreign markets. Of course, you’ll probably still experience your own failures (no path to success is without its troubles), but you’ll be much better equipped to handle them.


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