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Successful Leaders Think Globally — How to Expand Your Business Abroad For Maximum Success Given the incredible long-term opportunity it presents for these businesses, leaders need to think and operate globally as quickly as possible.

By Folley Ogundele Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Conduct research to identify where your business stacks up.
  • Consider leveraging remote workers or utilizing freelance contract-based professionals who are local to the market.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For many small business owners and entrepreneurs, operating internationally from day one is crucial to long-term success. But starting a small business domestically is hard enough, how can these leaders be expected to go global so quickly?

Contrary to popular belief, expanding a small business internationally is a much more manageable process than it may seem. While there are obstacles to overcome — banking differences, culture or language barriers, lack of capital and import tariffs — entrepreneurs and small business leaders can employ a few tricks to overcome these challenges and start operating abroad.

Given the incredible long-term opportunity it presents for these businesses, leaders need to think and operate globally as quickly as possible. Here's what to know about getting started and ultimately expanding your business abroad.

Related: 5 Easy Tips To Expand Your Online Business Internationally

Outline market opportunities and business needs

An important part of growing your business to international markets is starting with a strong understanding of where you stand against competitors in a new country and assessing demand for your product or service. Conducting market research is a great way to identify where your business stacks up and what to expect from your potential move abroad. By outlining your target audience's specific needs and preferences in different countries, you can tailor your offerings to meet their requirements and gain a competitive edge.

You will also need to assess the specific needs of your business in the new countries you are expanding. You'll need to comply with legal and regulatory requirements in operating overseas, which will vary country by country. Carefully review and understand these requirements before you commence work in another country. Getting everything set up from a compliance perspective, first and foremost, will build the foundation you need for the future.

Many countries have resources for small businesses looking to expand into that market. The US Small Business Association has an excellent guide that outlines this process and provides a great starting point for those in the US.

Related: 3 Steps to a Successful International Expansion

Think differently about your workforce

In addition to this initial market research, leaders should consider their current workforce. While many small businesses and entrepreneurs are teams of one, having a local presence in the markets you're expanding to is still important.

If possible, hire a local team to have on-the-ground support from folks who understand the cultural nuances, market dynamics and language of the target country you're moving into. This facilitates smoother operations and helps build trust and credibility with local customers. Depending on the business size or expectations of success, consider leveraging remote workers or utilizing freelance contract-based professionals who are local to the market. This can offer flexibility while minimizing overhead costs.

Ultimately, embracing and building a diverse and multicultural workforce brings fresh perspectives, fosters innovation and enhances your business's ability to adapt to local markets.

Related: Here's How to Make Your Expansion Into New Markets a Success

Create a network to learn from and grow with

Alongside establishing a strong local team comes building a network of like-minded entrepreneurs and leaders who have already expanded their businesses abroad or are also looking to do so. There is so much to learn from others who have come before you and found success, and cultivating this network will be a massive benefit throughout the global expansion process.

You can build this network by joining industry-specific trade associations, attending conferences and participating in international business forums. This will help connect you with individuals with firsthand knowledge of operating in foreign markets. Their guidance and advice can help you navigate the international expansion complexities and avoid common pitfalls.

Collaboration and knowledge-sharing within the entrepreneurial community can foster growth and open doors to new opportunities. Remember to share your experiences with the groups you join to help others.

Put the right tools in place

Tying all of these pieces together comes one of the most important factors when expanding globally: having the right infrastructure in place for your business operations. Luckily, there are incredible tools available to help any business build this successfully.

There are many options available for all businesses to select when it comes to building their suite of tools, which will vary based on your services and offerings. Everything from cloud-based collaboration platforms, project management tools, online banking resources and communication software exists to help facilitate efficiency across your business. It can be overwhelming to see everything out there, and a good first step is to outline the different tools you currently use against those you likely need.

There are also several essential tools to consider at the top of your list — especially for financial management and banking. International payments are a particularly challenging area for many businesses as they go global, with traditional services often lacking transparency on fees and taking way too long for transactions to process.

My company, Wise, provides international payment solutions for small businesses. By leveraging the existing power and infrastructure these companies provide, you can have more control and autonomy over the financial aspects of your business operations without added hassle and stress.

As you become more established, you can also invest in ecommerce platforms and digital marketing strategies to help cultivate a strong online presence in new international markets, expanding your reach and driving customer acquisition.

Your business can find success abroad

Overall, expanding your business internationally is a feasible and exciting endeavor. While challenges exist, entrepreneurs and small business leaders can overcome these obstacles by adopting the right strategies. With careful planning, market research and a willingness to adapt, businesses of all sizes can seize the opportunities presented by international expansion. So, take the leap and unlock the untapped potential beyond your borders.

Folley Ogundele

VP Commercial

Folley Ogundele leads the sales organization at Wise Platform, which currently partners with more than 60 banks and businesses globally.

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