Bringing your business into new territories can be thrilling and terrifying at the same time. While no amount of Google searches can prepare you for the on-the-ground experience – no matter which country you enter – there are a few things you can do to better prepare for the challenges of going international.
Before delving into a different country, it is imperative that you are absolutely confident your business will add value to that particular market, and that your product or service fills a unique need people in the region will benefit from and respond to.
Cultural differences could affect your business’s viability, so it’s important to research the culture surrounding the product or service you’ll be selling to ensure that there’s a market and a need for it.
Besides familiarising yourself with the region’s legal requirements, it’s also key to know about unique social practices, religious observances, and the political landscape in order to avoid breaches of code that could lead to losing business.
For instance, we’ve just opened up offices in the Middle East and have adopted the phrase Insha’Allah, meaning ‘God willing’, which is regularly used in business conversations.
Showing a willingness to learn, adopting local phrases, being interested, and being seen to try to fit into the local landscape shows respect. The worst thing you can do is belittle your host country by showing arrogance or ignorance of their local practices. What it comes down to is a simple concept: If you want respect, you must first give it.
Aside from Dubai’s thirst for innovation and technology, one of the other significant factors in deciding to expand my business, Engage Works, into the UAE market was having two people established in the region who I already trusted and knew, who would help mentor me in the new territory.
They’ve been able to provide guidance, help direct me towards the right people, steer me away from the wrong ones, and without this insider insight, everything would not only have taken much longer, but the risk factor would’ve been a lot higher.
They’ve also made it easier for me to connect with others in the expat community, which is great for learning business insights, as well as a means of personal support as we’re all a long ways from home.
While the learning curve is steep when it comes to doing business in a foreign land, the benefits, experience, people – and hopefully the business that follows – will be that much more rewarding. Adaptability is vital, as long as you don’t lose sight of your USP, which is you.
Further reading: The power of saying no in business