Any business can be a global business. In some small way, an artisanal creator making small trinkets can become a global trader simply by selling their products to customers overseas. The difference between them and, say, Microsoft is very much one of scale. With that said, there is a difference between selling a few things to overseas customers who find you online, and looking to reach those customers yourself. Taking your business global, as we’ve seen, requires due diligence and a lot of effort.
It may also require some assistance. In fact, if you’re going to treat it seriously, it will almost certainly mean you’re going to have to enjoin some help with the challenges that make global business such a learning experience. Becoming a truly global business – one that can handle orders and enquiries from St. Petersburg as comfortably as it can those from St. Albans – means looking into getting assistance from some of the experts in a range of fields.
A thriving global business can see great results not just in its bottom line, but in terms of cultural richness, which make all of this worthwhile. Some of the challenges you may be able to face yourself – and you’ll gain great experience through doing so – but to make sure you hit the transition out of the park, it is important to arm yourself with all of the assistance you could possibly need to make a global impact.
Translation is not something you can automate
If you’ve ever looked online for bad translations, you’ll be aware that trusting technology to render something from one language into another can be a bad idea. Sometimes the results will be hilarious, sometimes insulting. As often as not, they’ll just be downright nonsensical. Even though online translation software is unarguably improving, it’s still not something you want to trust when you’re working at the level of a business.
Even Coca-Cola met teething troubles when trying to sell their product in China, with original renderings of the product name translating as “Bite the wax tadpole” or “fasten the female horse with wax”. They eventually sorted the problem by consulting with native speakers to get a transliteration that made sense. The key lesson here is that you should not seek to unilaterally translate any advertisement, description or document without the assistance of a native speaker or, at the very least, someone with an academic qualification in the target language. Yes, it will cost money, but if you’re serious about selling in other countries, you’ll be serious about being understood.
There is a deeper importance to real translation than just not wanting to look silly. If you are trying to sell a product in another market, and your literature reads like something that’s just been fed through basic translation software, it reflects badly on you. Potential customers could justifiably feel like you’re happy to take their money, but don’t take them seriously enough to bother speaking to them on their level. That’s not going to win you friends.
The world is awake 24/7, and you can’t be
Large companies with huge numbers of staff can operate on an around-the-clock basis, different shifts clocking in and out at different times of day, so that no call need be dropped and no query go unanswered. If you’re a sole trader, or have a small number of staff, then you can find yourself hamstrung in trying to reach areas of the globe that are on a different schedule. If you’re working on London time, then a customer in Melbourne is ten or eleven hours ahead of you (depending on the time of year). Will they keep coming to you for their needs, or will they look for a provider that’s on the same clock?
As your company grows, any business looking to go global will be wise to look at adding an international division to deal specifically with the fact that the world never sleeps. To get around that, you could take advantage of dynamic software such as the Click4Assistance chatbot that can answer queries automatically and set your customers’ minds at ease wherever they are in the world. Some queries may be so complicated that they need to be escalated and dealt with more delicately, but that’s true of any business.
Legal experts are valued for a reason
Particularly for a UK business, overseas trade can be complicated. At the time of writing, it’s unclear exactly what the trading relationship of the rest of the world will look like in one month, three months, or a year’s time. If you intend to trade globally, you’ll need clarity on the issue of exactly who can sell how much of what to where. All that we know now is that those questions have certain answers now, and will have different answers going forward.
It’s exceptionally hard right now for a UK-based business to know what their responsibilities will be as time goes on, which means it is all the more important to have recourse to legal advice on this very matter. Business lawyers have been poring over all the information that has emerged up to now and will continue to do this work as more emerges. These lawyers have put years of study into being able to interpret the weighty legal documents that regard the flow of trade. You’ve got enough to be focusing on with your own business, so trust the complicated legal stuff to the lawyers for the moment.
As with any other part of your business that you outsource, you should by all means oversee the legal ins and outs from a manager’s position. Not only will this allow you the confidence to move forward, it will also allow you to learn a great deal about this aspect of global business. This knowledge will stand you in extremely good stead as you seek to progress your business in the future.
Make use of partnerships
Taking your business global isn’t always about making your brand bigger. You can get your products into the homes of people worldwide without necessarily having a specific presence in other countries. One way to achieve more global reach without having to increase your presence is partnering with businesses in other countries. They can then carry your product or provide your services in their stores and other outlets.
There are significant advantages to a partnership with an overseas company. Primarily, you will benefit from their knowledge of the local/regional market; this kind of knowledge can take decades to accumulate, but by partnering you will benefit from it immediately. It also allows you to see how your products and services perform in another market, and even potentially gain feedback on how they could be retooled to achieve greater success on a broader landscape.
The final, significant advantage to partnering with an overseas business is that you can potentially offer their products and services in your area. This allows you to broaden the spectrum of what you offer without needing to go through the process of conceptualising and manufacturing another product. You can choose to merge with an overseas partner, or simply maintain a looser partnership; either way it’s good to have someone “on the ground” in another market who is representing your interests.
Be ready to open another office
Sometimes, there is simply no substitute for a physical presence if you want people to take your business seriously. As has been the case for musical acts that become huge in the UK but want to crack the US market, there is only so much you can do remotely. Eventually, you may need to base yourself there to some extent.
For a band, this would mean touring incessantly, being prepared to play venues much smaller than they were used to back home. For you as a business, this simply means having an office in your target country. If that country is one as large as America (or for that matter, India, China, Russia, Indonesia or similar), you may need more than one office, or to be prepared to start very small and work your way up.
You can head up the overseas office yourself, or take control of the hiring process in your new country so you get someone who best represents your brand. Either way, it is important to give potential customers the feeling that they are dealing with a company that has some “skin in the game”. You don’t need to open an overseas office the moment you decide to go global. In these testing economic times, that would be unwise for any but the most well-resourced companies. But if you want to really lean into the global brand, you need to consider it as a step along the way.
Becoming a truly global business is not something that you’ll crack overnight, but with the right moves and the right connections, you can make it work for your company and enjoy the boost in profile and profits that you’re hoping for.