Businesses are often hesitant to expand into the international economy. Without careful preparation, they are right to be cautious.
The terrain looks unfamiliar as well as the markets, legal systems, marketing strategies, competitors, language, food, ways of closing a deal, or even the way you greet a possible business partner and hand over your business card. So many unfamiliar things! Is it worth the trouble or not? Is the risk matched by the potential?
Believe it or not government trade offices can really be helpful. Set up an appointment targeting a single country or a small group of countries in one region. Ask about possible partnerships with local companies or about other companies close by that are already doing business there.
Choose where you want to bring your business and start digging. Get everything you can on that country. Contact your network for people who might be able to help. Maybe you know people who have families there. Or someone in your office is from there. Talk to these people.
Know how people there do business. Ask people you know who have had business dealings there. Read news on your target country. Program your Google to give you alerts on the country especially the particular sector you want to do business in.
Know their experiences in handling situations you might face which present high risks for you. Learn from their experience. If you can get hold of them, discuss these with them and ask how they would handle these when put in the same situation.
Discuss the risks with your colleagues. Sometimes, the risks may be too much for you when you lack the experience. However, as you discuss these areas you are not comfortable with, some colleagues may have been there before already and may be able to share with you strategies they have used to make a success of the areas that for you are seriously new concerns.
Go and visit the place you plan to do business in. Learn from the locals. Talk to them when they stare at you. A nice smile will do it.
No one else would be better teachers of how to do business in a country than the locals themselves. They are not there for your entertainment. Learn from them. Listen to their insights into their own society. Ask questions.
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