How to Manage Overseas Business Operations

By Joseph Stark

If you are expanding your operations or just making overseas partners, it’s important that you’re prepared. From social norms to unfamiliar ground, consider how you should alter your brand, what you need to know for going overseas, and how the area will affect your business.

Do Your Research

When it’s time to expand your business overseas, you will need to understand the culture and the market of the country where you are planning to expand your operations to. In some countries, like Japan, it is considered very rude to be late for a meeting, but stylish to be late for a social event. In other countries, like Bulgaria, a nod actually means no, while shaking the head from side to side indicates agreement.

Working in the global economy is a critical function in today’s business climate. Those coming out of college are expected to know how to deal with overseas clients and business associates. For example, WSU advertises its online MBA program as one where students will emerge as a business leader with a broad global perspective. Without understanding a part of the foreign customs, culture and business practices, you won’t know what gift giving means, how negotiation is done or the significance of gestures. In some countries, the same signal we use to indicate “come here” (palm up, index finger moving), is considered vulgar.

Understand Current Events

You will need to be aware of political events in the area to best understand what security measures will need to be taken to protect your investment. Pay attention to travel alerts and warnings that the U.S. Government issues. Check in on the current news for the area in which your business has partners or operations.

Keep Your Business Clean

Many foreign countries still deal with corruption and have a major problem with expecting bribes or dirty business practices. As a business owner, you should understand the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the U.K. Bribery Act to know that your business is in the clear. As you plan out your blueprint for a business plan, make sure that your standards line up with international standards to keep clean operations that won’t result in sanctions.

Plan From Home

It will be much easier for you to schedule meetings, make plans, purchase supplies, exchange money and prepare for your trips overseas from home. If you are going to overseas meetings, do as much of the planning and purchasing in the U.S. as possible to avoid problems and confusion later. Remember to get to know the foreign weather and cultural dress in order to dress appropriately.

Evaluate Your Brand

Before moving overseas, consider who else is competing in the market. What changes will you have to make when doing business overseas to stay abreast of the competition? Your logo may need to change, for example, if its symbolism is a problem in the country you are moving to. In some countries, like Kenya, Korea and Japan, specific numbers mean bad luck or death. Knowing how your appearance, products and services will affect your target market will help you in successful growth.

Make Friends Quickly

Hire a guide to help you get around and translate a foreign language as you travel. Getting to business meetings, understanding local customs and pointing out enjoyable places to stop in your resting moments will all be great qualities in hiring a guide. A reliable guide can be found through the U.S. Embassy, but make sure you understand exactly how much you are paying per hour or per day. Also, factor in whether or not cultural tips are expected for this kind of service.

Find trustworthy sales reps and business partners before you move overseas who will help you with operations. You may feel vulnerable at such a distance and will want to know that your business is in capable and honest hands. It is very hard to teach a new person about the market, so look for connections who already are knowledgeable about the culture and the competition.

Expanding overseas is an exciting next step for your business. Start things off on the right foot and you will be proud of the direction it takes. Continue to research and get more and more comfortable with what differences and similarities you will face in a foreign country and market.

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Joseph Stark
Joseph Stark is a freelance writer, tech geek and world traveler.

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