Just because your business is a success in one place doesn't guarantee it will be successful in another country, where the laws, customs and culture can be quite different. So what does it take to make it abroad? CIO.com asked business owners and managers with experience opening or running an international office or Website for their best tips. Following are the seven top suggestions for increasing international success.
1. Partner with someone who knows the lay of the land. Hiring an agency or specialist who "can help you navigate local customs, provide translations, help you size the market and provide demographics and ascertain interest in your product" can make all the difference between success and failure, says Grace Krokidas, vice president, Global Marketing, Liquidware Labs, a provider of desktop virtualization solutions.
"You absolutely need to have this kind of on-the-ground, in-country expertise when going global," Krokidas says, as "the U.S. model does not translate to other countries, even if they are English speaking."
2. Make sure you're in compliance with local laws and regulations. It is essential to "understand the local labor laws (e.g., types of insurance required, mandatory benefits, laws governing work hours/periods, customs regarding salaries and bonuses, and so on) as they may be very different from the U.S," says Lisa F. Cookmeyer, CEO, Trigon Associates, which provides full-service engineering, consulting and management services to both public and private sector clients.
To help you navigate local rules and regulations, she advises finding an attorney or someone who specializes in helping foreign companies with local rules and regulations in that target market (as opposed to in the U.S.).
Similarly, if you are planning on establishing a Web presence and selling online in a foreign market, it's important to know the local Internet and privacy laws. "We needed to set up a Web server in the EU to comply with European data privacy laws," says Alex Raymond, founder of Kapta, an online performance dashboard tool for CEOs. "Luckily it was no big deal and our hosting provider was easy to work with, but this is something that can trip up a lot of smaller companies."
3. Carefully select who you send abroad. "We all think that 'tech speak' is universal, but that is not necessarily the case," says Suzanne Garber, chief networking officer for International SOS. "Ensure that the representative you send on behalf of your company to broker relationships [or manage your office] in other countries is appropriately trained in local customs so as not to offend locals and ruin deals."
In addition to relevant expertise, you also need to "determine if the employee [and his or her] family can adapt to the new culture, food, transportation, living conditions," says Viktor Reznicek, vice president of Relocation & Assignment Services at Xerox.
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