As global barriers are constantly being broken down through technology and travel, today’s world seems smaller than ever. And as both businesses and workers increasingly look overseas for their next opportunity, the challenges posed by international borders need to be tackled head-on.
At CV-Library, we’ve taken the first steps towards becoming a truly international brand with the launch of our sister site, Resume-Library, and with this in mind, I’d like to share my advice for other entrepreneurs who are ready to break down global barriers and take their business to the international stage. Our first venture into international business relations hasn’t come without its own unique set of challenges, and there have certainly been lessons to be learnt.
The main issue that most entrepreneurs will face when aiming for global expansion is a misguided belief that creating a carbon copy of their UK business is enough for it be a success anywhere else in the world. You need to smart and honest about your current business model, and determine how this could impact on your international growth. Here’s what else you need to know.
Examine your history
Launching a successful company doesn’t happen without a few bumps in the road along the way, and looking back at your journey, highlighting any mistakes along the way, and determining a new plan of action to help you avoid making them again is crucial. For example, if I look back at CV-Library’s launch, I do regret the specialist programming language we used to build the website. So, when it came to building the site for Resume-Library, we started from scratch and worked with a more commonly-used language.
Don’t underestimate the culture differences
For many (myself included), America is a natural choice when it comes to expanding outside of the UK, primarily down to the lack of language barriers. But there’s a big difference between speaking the same language, and understanding cultural nuances; researching and understanding the market won’t make a bit of difference if you’re unaware of the cultural disparities. Building up a reputable brand overseas requires due diligence in this area; there’s no other option.
Use what you’ve got
If you’re looking at overseas expansion, it’s probably safe to assume that your UK business is thriving, and that in itself is no mean feat. Use this knowledge and experience to help support your international growth; harness the power of your team, and share it across borders. Having proven experience of launching a brand on your home soil will hugely help with consequent expansion abroad. For example, one of our first steps when launching in the US was to speak with our partners who already have a presence there, to ensure we maximised the tools and networks that we already had available to us.
Understand the differences
Just because something’s the norm in the UK, doesn’t mean it will function the same way elsewhere. Check the obstacles that you could be up against, and have a look at what already exists and works in the market that you’re looking to break into. If there are issues which already exist (for example, while many UK job hunters use job sites, many US candidates have had negative experiences, resulting in a bigger challenge for us to overcome), then look at how you can tackle these and use them to your advantage. If there are already big players in your market, look at how they’re perceived; if they’re leaving a bad taste in the mouths of their clients, this could be your chance to offer something new and innovative.
Start with the details
While it might sound simplistic, make sure you start with the minor details. If you’re expanding to another English speaking country, there’s going to be more than just spelling changes to consider. You’ll have to factor in a completely new tone of voice, different meanings for common words, and, if you are looking at cracking the US market, there’s another big one; a whole other language. If the States is on your agenda, make sure you have some Spanish speakers to hand, be clear about the time zone you’re working within, and ensure you’ve got the general linguistics down. They’re small details, but if you overlook them, it could result in disaster.
Every part of the UK (countries, counties, and even towns!) has its own unique characteristics, so you can only image the discrepancies which could appear across a larger country, such as the US or Australia. Immersing yourself in the culture will be key, and you should consider bringing in experts to help you adapt your existing practices for an international market.
Finally, if you’re a business leader looking to take the next step and expand, it’s important that your current business is in a strong position You’ll have to be prepared to let go of some of the control, so investing in a trusted senior management team is essential. There’s no getting away from the fact that you’ll have to step back from the day to day details for a while, so you should ensure that you’re confident your team can run the business in your absence. While preparing for and navigating international expansion can be a tricky process, it’s an exciting one, and it should more than pay off in the end if approached correctly.