As cities and businesses across the world become increasingly interconnected, there has never been a better time to take advantage of opportunities to grow your business overseas. Although it can be an intimidating concept, taking the leap and branching into new cities can open you up to invaluable new markets and opportunities for growth.
As founder and CEO at Laundryheap, I’ve overseen the expansion of Laundryheap’s operations into 25 cities across 10 overseas markets in the last nine years. The process has taught me that having a watertight process in place to help you launch successfully in a new market is critical. It takes all of the guesswork out of the equation.
That’s why, at Laundryheap, we’ve developed a “New City Playbook”: a checklist which we work through every time we launch in a new city, to ensure we’ve got all our most important bases covered.
If international expansion is on your horizon, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create your own “New City Playbook”.
Identify your key steps
No two business models are identical. So in order to build your New City Playbook, you first need to decide on your priorities. I’d recommend splitting your Playbook into clear categories, such as “People”, “Facilities”, “Equipment”, “Marketing”, “Customer Operations” and “IT Updates”. But the areas you need to work within will depend on how your business is structured and what your product offering is.
Within each of these key areas, start building out a checklist of the actions required to get that business function set up overseas. For example, under “People” you might need to rework employment contracts for the new country, deliver training, or make some crucial hires. This initial thinking will provide a solid foundation for your Playbook as it evolves.
Hedge for any potential challenges
Once you have decided on your priorities and have built out your checklist, the next step is to pinpoint any potential challenges that may occur as you launch overseas, such as language barriers or hiring and procurement issues. Run through the list and flag where pain points might create delays. You can then start working on solutions with your team, to ensure a seamless transition into your new overseas market.
There will inevitably be some challenges that you cannot foresee, and will only learn to overcome through experience, having tested your Playbook with a “real-world” international launch. But being as prepared as possible is an important first step to ensure you’re ready to tackle any challenges or set-backs head on.
Don’t forget quality control
When building your Playbook, it can be useful to build “quality control” points into the process. These quality control checks should be easy to replicate in every city you may launch in, so you can maintain high standards across every market. The checks you deem necessary will depend on your business operations: you might look to check in on team performance, operational efficiency or speed of product delivery. I also recommend implementing an efficient customer feedback system so you can assess how well the launch is going to pinpoint any issues as soon as they arise.
Set a timeline
You may wish to factor suggested timelines into your Playbook to ensure international roll-outs happen efficiently. Assigning internal deadlines to different actions in the list can help teams stay on track and have a clear understanding of how long each action should take. Clear timelines can also help you give investors, customers, new employees and other stakeholders a clear picture of when you’ll be up and running in your new market, so they can plan accordingly.
But remember: the best laid plans don’t always come off, so build flexibility and some “buffer” time into your launch schedule for the unexpected delays that will inevitably arise.
Test your plan and iterate where needed
Plan as best you can, but only by getting started and testing the process will you be able to refine your New City Playbook. As you enter new markets you’ll be able to take your learnings and evolve your checklist until it feels watertight.
It is impossible to predict exactly what will happen when expanding a business overseas, but having a New City Playbook to hand is a useful starting point to help you and your team cover all your bases and set yourselves up for success.