Expansion of any type can be problematic for SMEs. It’s all about striking the right balance between consolidating what your business is already good at and looking to raise the bar – the end goal being to substantially grow your organisation’s operations.
As the CEO of an SME, this is a conundrum I’ve tackled in the last couple of years as we’ve expanded our brand not only in the UK, but in the overseas markets of Australia and New Zealand. The rewards for our perseverance and commitment to the cause have really paid off and enhanced the future of the business no end – as a result, we’re now looking to expand into the US market later this year.
Having charted the expansion of the business over the last two years, there has been a number of decisions, techniques and strategies that we’ve deployed which have really helped to smooth our path to growth – not only in the UK but in the international market.
I want to share two elements which I believe are integral to tackling the challenge of global expansion: the business environment, and the people.
The business environment
Whether you’re looking at expanding a specific area of your business or extending your offer to other regions, it’s essential to have a solid understanding of the market you’re entering into.
The first step of any new expansion project is always the hardest. It requires time and preparation, but it will pay off. Within this, there are three areas to focus on:
Know your market inside out: If your organisation is expanding into an overseas market, you need to have a good handle on how businesses operate in the area, what their needs and wants are, and ultimately what your product or service can bring to the table.
Know the culture inside out: Don’t take for granted the fact that you may be introducing your business into a new way of doing things – not just from a business perspective, but culturally too. Given our recent expansion, we’ve had to ensure that our product and website are adapted to suit the needs of all users across the globe. What’s more, when doing marketing around our brand and product, we’ve had to ensure that it is appropriate for all of the markets we operate in.
Know your own business inside out: It’s no good having a faultless understanding of the landscape you want your business to expand into, if you don’t have a 100 per cent grasp of your own business operations. You need to know the finer details in order to make fully informed business decisions.
Once you have established the business landscape, you then need to make sure what you are offering complements it. It is important to try to make your product or service more connectable with the wider ecosystem of products and services. For example, part of our growth strategy has been to ensure that our product is as agile and flexible as it can be when it comes to compatibility with other products on the market.
As a business, it is imperative that you have a knowledge of what the needs and wants of local and global markets are. As a result you will be able to make the necessary modifications to your product or service to give it wider appeal.
For instance, part of our expansion into the Australasian market coincided with our decision to integrate with a New Zealand-based company called Xero who provide online accounting software for small businesses. The decision to embark on this partnership was a direct result of analysing the markets we were operating in and deciding how best to meet customer needs.
If you have a monolithic offering then you are limiting your opportunities for growth. By trying to expand your offering – making it easier for customers to interact with your product or service – you’ll be opening the door to a wider range of potential business opportunities.
Make sure you don’t miss out on Adam Reynolds’ second article on Friday 24 July, when he discusses talent and structure.
In the meantime, why not have a read of our new export country series – where insight on doing business with the likes of Brazil, Poland and India is available.
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