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Best Practices When Preparing Your Company For An International Expansion

Forbes30u30. I am building an edtech platform StudyFree that connects students with international educational opportunities worldwide.

Starting a business is not an easy task. Doing it abroad is exponentially more challenging, but might be necessary for your company at a given point.

When venturing out to new places, flexibility is key. A different country entails different laws, mentalities, cultures and lifestyles. To achieve success in new markets, businesses should consider what I see as the three pillars of global expansion: The first is the mindset; the second is the specification of target markets and product adaptation; the final one is an original approach, as Amazon has done. In India, where many people had no reliable internet access and purchases were made primarily with cash at the time Amazon launched its site in the country, the company offered local merchants training, network connectivity and the best digital real estate.

These three pillars should translate into recruiting strategies to ensure the company has the right talent to face the challenges of succeeding in international markets. Beyond identifying candidates who fit the job description, it’s beneficial to ensure team members can demonstrate out-of-the-box thinking, understand and embrace the values of customers in those markets and thrive in an environment with a lot of unknowns.

In this article, I will share my personal experience preparing for global expansion, as well as a few best practices I suggest keeping in mind as you navigate your own expansion.

Team Mindset And Culture

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Team mindset and culture are, arguably, the most difficult yet important expansion components. Even if a company does a great job optimizing its processes with efficient corporate policies, the cultural code simply cannot be ignored.

When bringing together people from different cultures, leaders must be prepared for misunderstandings and conflicts. Different cultures have different attitudes toward criticism, daily accountability and small talk. Uniform rules probably won’t work, as they might simply be impractical for certain workers. I would advise hiring people in different departments depending on their backgrounds. Trying to learn about someone else’s culture and traditions is also a great idea. It’s important to remember and celebrate all holidays if possible.

An Ideal Candidate Profile For Entering An International Market

The biggest challenge I believe international companies face while offering their product in global markets is making it relevant to a diverse group of consumers. Regardless of the product, all companies are built by people, and it’s the team that fuels the company’s growth. Therefore, it’s of great importance to onboard talent that is familiar with the local mindset, understands the needs of local consumers and shares their values. To create a global product that is relevant across international markets, it needs to be created and managed by people of diverse backgrounds.

To me, the ideal candidate is someone who has already worked abroad or at an international company. I would prefer them to someone with stronger skills but who has worked only at a local company, communicated only in their mother tongue and has only been exposed to their own culture. Within my company, all communication is in English, and we have a weekly English club that allows employees to advance their informal communication. We also encourage our employees to be open-minded, flexible, adaptive and respectful of other cultures.

Here are skills and knowledge I recommend looking for in a candidate to ensure they can execute an international project.

Fluency in one or more foreign languages: Language barriers can either partially distort or truncate information or completely halt established communication altogether. If the candidate currently speaks a foreign language that might not be relevant for business purposes, it is still worth taking a closer look. From my perspective, it’s possible they will want to learn the one that is necessary for conducting business.

Experience studying or working abroad for more than a year: You need ambitious and goal-oriented people in your team, and I find that those who have been abroad long-term generally succeed in self-set professional challenges.

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Openness: It is essential to the company’s success that the candidate can freely share their own experience and plans to introduce something new into the workflow.

The ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances: In the ever-changing business environment, especially when it comes to startups, the ability to embrace the unknown and thrive in changing circumstances is key. Innovation and progress would be impossible without change, and it’s of vital importance for team members to demonstrate flexibility and adaptability.

Intellectual hunger and curiosity: It is in your best interest to let go of the lazy and tired. Companies need candidates who understand the difference between treating symptoms and disease, have their fingers on the pulse and align the end product with current market demand.

Perseverance: You might want to give up every day. But remember that your budgets will not always be calculated perfectly, a sales funnel for the Spanish-speaking market may not suit an American one and vice versa. Regardless, you and your team should be ready to persevere and start over.

A proactive position: Look for people who view not knowing something as an opportunity for growth, as well as those who actively seek outside help and expertise.

Strategizing your international growth will help to strengthen your company’s position in the home market. Customers choose products and services from all around the world, hence the global competition with foreign companies in your own country. The key to smooth expansion and successful operation is preparation, preparation and more preparation.

So get ready, and enjoy your international expansion journey.

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