As the keynote speaker at Elite Business Live in March 2024, renowned business advisor Allyson Stewart-Allen will be sharing her 3 decades’ worth of advice on how you can strategically enter new markets while avoiding the most common pitfalls.
When attempting to expand globally, Stewart-Allen stresses: “Expanding into new markets should be an activity that runs in parallel with your focus on domestic growth given the lead times required to become known in a new geography and build the infrastructure and partnerships required.”
In her view, international diversification is a challenging balancing act. “Managing the beta (risk quotient) across your portfolio of products and services is a key critical success factor,” she explains.
Plan with care
What factors should entrepreneurs weigh when plotting an international foray?
Stewart-Allen highlights four key considerations: “Some of the many essential factors that will determine your success are: Researching how the international market is similar/different to your own in terms of regulations, the business culture, intensity and nature of the competition, substitutes and not least, customers or clients!
“Realistic expectations on how soon you’ll break even. Anything less than a five-year payback period will undermine your efforts. Getting the buy-in across your organisation for the demands of an international expansion, not just at the top or among the Board members. It requires strategic planning and a solid business case which inspires your whole organisation.”
Beyond objective market analysis, she stresses that international initiatives necessitate company-wide commitment to succeed long-term.
When assessing overseas opportunities, Stewart-Allen flags financial viability and compliance hurdles as key areas for due diligence.
“The biggest risks are that there’s no real market opportunity in your target country or the extent of localisations needed make it unworkable. Another is the legislation in that country which may mean it would be very difficult for your product/service to be compliant.”
She notes that market entry strategies also introduce distinct risk profiles.
“Other risks are driven by your chosen growth strategy,” she says, contrasting the perils of acquisitions, joint ventures, organic growth or intermediary partnerships.
Research for clarity
To illuminate expansion decisions, Stewart-Allen advises bespoke market research distinctly tailored to your offering and priorities.
“The best tools are qualitative and quantitative market research diagnostics to assess the state of the market in the country(ies), how consumers/clients would respond to your offering, how the business culture works and other questions to uncover the similarities and differences between your home market and your target ones.”
Integrate global and local
In Stewart-Allen’s view, adherence to your company’s core identity must be balanced with local adaptations when expanding into new regions. “The successful businesses that grow internationally are those that recognise and account for the differences while keeping the integrity of the core product/service. Balancing this global/local challenge is not easy but requires constant review and integration while suspending judgment that those overseas markets are ‘wrong’ and those at home are ‘right.’”
To enable this balance, she urges a clear delineation between central and regional authority. “How much power you devolve to your local teams in the international countries so there’s clarity on what they’re allowed to localise for your value propositions is critical. These are leadership conversations that must be had up front rather than as an afterthought.”
Prepare and pivot
While planning for pitfalls, Stewart-Allen cautions against paralysis through overthinking.
“It’s essential to predict what could go wrong but not to be so paralysed by it that you don’t take any action,” she cautions.
“Keeping an ongoing risk assessment log means you’re not only aware of them but have a plan should there be problems. And that log is informed by the market research that you’ve done in market.”
Stewart-Allen has one final pearl of wisdom.
“As the management guru Peter Drucker is credited with saying, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ which I’ve seen for myself many times. If you don’t understand the business culture of the target country or countries – how to negotiate, communicate and influence there – then you’re likely to pay the price for that ignorance.”
In the end, cultural fluency enables strategic dexterity. “Once you are immersed in how the business cultures work in your target geographies, it informs the what and how to grow there. Making the assumption ‘it’s just like home’ is expensive, and since fish don’t know they’re in water, you’re likely to assume the water is the same everywhere.”
With meticulous planning, embracing difference, and immersion in new environments, Stewart-Allen believes entrepreneurs can turn global aspirations into thriving international enterprises.
Those prepared to take the plunge stand to reap tremendous rewards if they respect the unique complexities of cross-border growth.
We’re thrilled that Allyson will be using her expertise to deliver a powerhouse keynote speech and join the subsequent Expanding Into New Markets: International Strategies for Global Growth panel from 2.05pm on 14th March 2024. Join Allyson in this insightful discussion as she delves into key factors such as the risks to consider, along with the do’s and don’ts when seeking global expansion by getting your ticket. Click here to book your place.
Allyson Stewart-Allen is an award-winning advisor, author, broadcaster, speaker, educator and NED whose expertise in brand internationalisation is sought by leading businesses globally through her consultancy, publications, appearances and corporate education. She has helped over 260 companies across 27 countries to successfully lead international growth, and is the author of best-selling book Working with Americans. Elite Business readers can claim this exclusive 20% discount offer on the book with code “WWA20” by visiting bit.ly/WwA-2nd-edition.