Businesses today need to look beyond geographical borders in order to expand. There is a whole world of consumers, customers and clients out there waiting to buy your service or product. Opportunities aplenty await the astute businessman willing to take the risk and go global.
“Going Global“ does not need to be expensive. It’s relatively straightforward and cost-effective to target foreign markets if you are astute enough and cost conscious enough. Neil Payne set up his business on a laptop in a studio flat in 2004. He now oversees a company with offices in the UK, USA, Argentina, South Africa, Germany and the UAE.
Here are some tips on how he did it:
“Marketing doesn’t need to be expensive anymore,” explains Neil. You don’t need a massive budget to get customers. A simple website, fully-optimised for the search engines and in the local language is probably one of the most effective means of entering a market at very little cost. If worse comes to worse you may lose a few hundred dollars.
2. Phone Bills
Using Skype, Google Chat or any other VOIP system dramatically reduces phone bills. With Skype you can call internationally for as little as £0.02 per minute which, compared to landlines, is peanuts. “Skype has helped us in many ways”, adds Neil. “Not only can all offices conference call for pennies, but in emergencies we can even have calls forwarded via Skype to one of the other offices ensuring we never let clients down.”
3. Virtual Working
If you fancy having a go at a market it’s not always necessary to actually have staff on the ground there. “When we first started our operations in Germany we actually had a German speaker in the UK office handling calls and emails. We still had a German number and appeared to be in Berlin through using a virtual office,” comments Neil. “Once we knew the German market was for us, we only then invested in people there.”
4. Get Funding
Governments generally want to see businesses doing well abroad. It’s good for everyone. As a result there are usually pots of funding available for companies wanting to trade abroad. UK Trade & Investment (in the UK) offer numerous incentives including Market Research, Aid-Funding and one-to-one business advice. Check what other grants may be available through local governments, enterprise incentives and the like.
5. Watch Exchange Rates
Many a decent business as been caught out by exchange rate fluctuations. “I remember many years ago when the Euro suddenly shot up against the Pound. We were losing money hand over first to our Europe based suppliers, ” states Neil. “In the end we decided we had to fix rates against the Pound so that we were always paying the same amount regardless of exchange rates.”
6. Money Transfers
Working internationally inevitably means you have to pay people in foreign locations. Avoid paying money via wire transfers. Banks charge extortionate rates. There are plenty of alternatives now on the market such as Moneybookers, Paypal, Payoneer and the like. “We used to be charged £25 per international transaction by our bank. Now we use Moneybookers and literally get charged around a £1 per payment,” states Neil.
7. Minimise Business Trips
Travel costs time and money. In the age of conference calls, emails, the internet and online demonstrations travel is no longer a necessity. You save thousands in using technology to address problems, meet with employees or sell to customers. “But,” adds Neil, “always bear in mind cultural differences. Some cultures will only ever really want to do real business with someone face-to-face. Doing so online may actually alienate them.”
8. Book Flights in Advance
If you are prepared enough you can block out a few weeks well in advance and use this time to visit a location. You will then be able to tell suppliers, customers and staff to also set aside those times to meet with you. This then allows you to book flights well in advance and save serious money.
9. Centralise Functions
If it’s possible to do so, have one of your offices deal with a certain function. For example, you may do all your invoicing from one location, all quoting from one location or all marketing from one location. This saves time and money and decreases the burden on the different locations.
10. Look for Local Partners
“My strategy for all our offices has always been that I want to find someone like me in that country; someone with entrepreneurial skills and plenty of passion. If you find the right person they can take on your business and make it their own at a fraction of the cost of immediately employing a manager for example,” says Neil. If you do not want to go through the burden of managing an office or staff, then look to franchise or partnership agreements.
About the Guest Author: Neil Payne is Managing Director of Kwintessential. Having set up his business with £100 and a laptop he now oversees offices in Somerset and London (UK) as well as locations in the USA, Argentina, South Africa, Germany and the UAE. The company provides translation services, interpreting, multilingual website design and graphic design in all languages.