Beyond Borders: Five Tips For Expanding Your Business
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The advent of modern travel, technology, and communications mean that expanding your business internationally is a realistic prospect for many entrepreneurs. However, while logistically it may be easier than ever to operate in multiple markets, there are still many serious considerations to be made before embarking on such expansion. Market research can only tell you a very limited amount of information relevant to your specific business, and several other steps should be taken alongside this. Here are five tips for entrepreneurs ready to expand into new markets in 2020 and beyond.
1. Market knowledge Developing a clear understanding and respect of the local culture of the market in which you want to expand is critical. This means becoming familiar with local customs, governance, and legislation, working practices, and the way in which business is conducted. The best way to do this is to physically spend time in the market or markets you have identified for growth.
In the Middle East, one convention unfamiliar to those outside of this region is how working practices change during Ramadan. Business continues throughout the holy month, but it can be conducted at different times to the norm. It is not uncommon to attend meetings at 11pm at night during Ramadan, and if you are new to the market, you have to be ready to adapt your schedule to those of fasting customers and business partners, showing your respect for the local culture.
2. Understanding the opportunity Having acquired knowledge of a new market, you should be in a position to understand and identify the real opportunity for your company, based on the cultural and business mindset. This is the time to evaluate your product: is it truly fit for this market? If not, what changes can you make to ensure it is?
Products and services have to be tailored to the consumer in the new market, no matter how successful the original model has been elsewhere. In the hotel industry, adhering to brand standards is absolutely critical for hotel operators, but this doesn’t mean brands aren’t able to adapt. In most budget to midscale hotel brands, for example, you will find much larger guest rooms in the Middle East than in their equivalents in the US and Europe, because of different guest demographics and demand in this region.
3. Develop a network of influential decision-makers Securing the right partner or partners in your new market is important– chances are you can’t expand alone, and working with someone that has “been there, done that” could fast track your growth. You’ll also be wise to rely on local talent with knowledge and experience of your market. They can read between the lines of that culture, helping you once again with knowledge and understanding. Visibility is also important, via your involvement with local media, events, and business communities.
You’ll need to establish your profile and reputation, based on very little physical evidence, and reaching out to local consultants and peers within your sector is a valuable exercise. Meet as many key players and local dignitaries as you can, embedding yourself within a new network. Throughout all of this, show humility. You may be excited about what your product can bring to the market, but acknowledge that you are the new entrant, and that you genuinely need the insights of these new contacts to grow your business and open doors for you.
4. Patience, patience, and more patience As all entrepreneurs know, growing your business is inextricably linked to having a clear vision, and committing to plans that directly support and achieve your goals. If expanding into new markets is an integral part of how you will deliver your vision, you will need to be steadfast, patient, and resilient.
Your first attempt may not be successful, nor may your second or third, but evolve and learn from each process, and you will achieve what you set out to. Agility and flexibility are also key, as you will have to be willing to adapt to moving timelines, and manage your existing business around new opportunities.
5. Show your long-term commitment to the market All of the above approaches combined will help to demonstrate an unwavering, long-term commitment to your target market. Successful expansion relies on the adequate allocation of time and budget to travel to the market, enabling you to get involved with the local business community.
This brings confidence to local investors and consumers, helping you to gain their trust as they become familiar with your business and professionalism. Invest the time and resource now to fully understand everything from the geography to the geopolitical climate, and you will be in a strong, secure position for future growth.