Six top tips for expanding into international markets

Whatever your market, there are always going to be obstacles to your success so meticulously mapping out potential pitfalls should be high on your list of priorities. Those obstacles may be large or small but they will all influence your company’s future growth, so nothing should be underestimated. But where do you start?

(1) Pre-entry: is your business different and does your product/service improve the new geography you’re entering?

Before you even consider entering into a new geographical market, make sure you have a niche. Know the USP of your product or service and know how it can better what’s already on the market. 

You are likely to be competing with local and international rivals with long-established relationships. If you aren’t adding something new then why should you expect the market to accept you?

(2) Do your research: understand the market needs and its dynamics

Work out how long you plan to spend researching the market – then double it. This stage is crucial and should not be underestimated. When Crawford Healthcare looked to break into the US, we had to get to grips with very different reimbursement processes to ensure we knew exactly where we stood.

Investigate the culture and decision-making process, which may vary dramatically from your domestic approach. And, possibly most importantly of all, gain a deep understanding of what compliance and regulation look like. Getting this wrong could be financially crippling.

(3) Financial planning – can you support the business abroad if early going is difficult?

Discuss the options when it comes to investment with your current lender and with local investors. You will be looking to secure funding based on your existing performance, so ensure your UK house is in order as well as your business plan for the international market.

(4) Make sure you’ve established a robust route to market and a supply chain that can consistently deliver

Without this, you’re doomed to failure. In healthcare and technology in particular, having the right insurance in place is absolutely essential, and every business should ensure they have a good distribution vehicle and process.

If your supply chain fails, you fail – it’s as simple as that. Work with the most trusted local partners, based on recommendation and reputation.

(5) Hire the best and hire local to the geography

It might sound obvious but having the right people in your team is fundamental to establishing a business overseas. 

My advice is simple: go and find the very best person you can to fill the role you have identified and then figure out what their compensation package should be – not the other way round. 

Experience of the local market is paramount and will give you a solid foundation for growth. Find someone who has intimate knowledge of the market and culture so that your business is in the safest possible hands. Putting someone from your existing leadership team in at the top might be a long-term aspiration but it’s important take a transitional approach that targets the second rotation of the role at the earliest.

(6) Be adaptable

A one size fits all approach is doomed to failure. Your strategy will differ depending on your sector, your new market, your customers and your suppliers. 

There is a huge amount of research to be done and information to absorb, but putting the legwork in at an early stage and being flexible with the business plan you thought you were going to follow will reap dividends as you become established overseas.

Richard Anderson is CEO of Crawford Healthcare.

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