Sooner or later, many successful SMEs arrive at a tipping point where the opportunity to expand internationally arrives.
Sooner or later, many successful SMEs arrive at a tipping point where the opportunity to expand internationally arrives. For some, it has always been part of a long-term strategy while for others, interest from abroad reveals unexpected and exciting possibilities.
As many business leaders have seen, turning opportunities into reality is no easy task. The barriers to success can be significant, irrespective of how strong domestic commercial performance has been. Whether it’s lack of experience, inadequate processes, or the absence of growth infrastructure, some organisations – understandably – are overwhelmed by all of the things that are needed to go global including HR, tax, legal and compliance challenges. Not to mention, finding the talent that is needed in a new location.
Despite the varied challenges, however, the options for businesses focused on international expansion have never been more wide-ranging. According to a recent YouGov survey, 43% of small businesses in the UK are looking to expand their presence on the international stage. In addition, growing businesses are twice as likely to be looking for overseas opportunities as those not in a growth stage (66% vs 33%).
Hiring local talent
For many, hiring the first person outside of a domestic territory can be a daunting prospect. But in some cases, the trigger for international growth is that the company needs to establish a local office and has found the ideal candidate.
In others, finding that first person can feel overwhelming. However, the availability of online recruiting and employment platforms has transformed the ability of companies to get feet on the ground in their new markets. For instance, we have an extensive recruitment partner network to give customers access to an unprecedented selection of recruiting specialists in key markets around the world. The bottom line is that hiring local talent is not only more practical than ever, but can be done quickly and compliantly and can serve as the jumping-off point for sustainable growth in new markets around the world.
But once a candidate is identified, how can leaders put all the processes in place to ensure success?
Embrace remote working
The biggest enabler of international expansion has been the growing acceptance of remote work. Our 2021 Global Employee Survey found that 48% of employees felt happier about work since working remotely. With a declining reliance on face-to-face, in-person meetings and an increasing comfort level with supervision from afar, location has become less essential, or perhaps less relevant.
The advent of remote work accelerated interest in locating employees in dispersed offices around the world.
Understand local rules
In building an international presence, businesses must also focus on complying with local rules and regulations. Many businesses today are expanding globally with practices that openly violate the employment and tax laws of their host countries. These companies are often blissfully ignorant of the significant risk and future liability they engender by taking a laissez-faire approach to global expansion.
For instance, getting established in a new location is often anything but straightforward. The process can vary dramatically from one country to another, taking anywhere from three-to-twelve months and requiring compliance with a diverse set of rules and regulations. That lead-time can not only diminish enthusiasm for the project, but also the prospects for growth, and what business leaders often imagine as a basic administrative process leaves them bogged down by bureaucracy and unfamiliar responsibilities.
For each of these scenarios, organisations that build the right support and advice networks that can help them deliver on key strategic and operational goals are more likely to succeed. In doing so, they can minimise the risk factors and focus on their strategic priorities, such as building market share, revenue and customer satisfaction.