The Challenges Of Opening An Overseas Office

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Of all the ways that the internet has opened up new horizons for business owners, perhaps the most immediately apparent is the international angle.

With a few exceptions in some areas, the internet is the same the world over – you can navigate to the same pages and see broadly the same content as someone sitting thousands of miles away.

One consequence of this is that, more or less, any business can become a global business if they commit to the idea.

That being said, there is a difference between a business that operates globally and a global business. In the former case, it is simple enough to fulfill an order once in a while for a client who lives in Australia.

In the latter, your business needs to be targeting customers where they are – so in the case of this comparison, it would mean learning enough to specifically market yourself in Australia, and potentially even opening an office there.

There are advantages to opening an office in another country – but it’s vitally important to remember that there are also challenges.


Staffing and oversight

The past year has seen something of a freeze on international travel, which has been tricky for business owners with concerns overseas.

However, the truth is that even if you are allowed to travel as and when you want, it’s not always practical – and that means that if you are opening an overseas office you’re going to need a trusted lieutenant who can run it.

You can pick a member of your current staff and second them to lead an overseas operation.

The question is whether this will be a permanent move, or whether they’ll spend a period there training up staff and hiring the person who will run it long-term, using their enhanced knowledge of the region or country.


Legal requirements

The processes of starting and running a business are similar wherever in the world you are, but the challenge is in the detail.

Setting up payment structures, signing off on advertising deals, ensuring health and safety compliance, all of these are necessary wherever you are – but they can be subtly different, and you’ll need to understand how.

If your new office is in Australia, then you’ll need to know the answers to questions like “what is BAS?” and “How do I apply for a tax file number?”.

It’s straightforward enough to learn these details, but you must make sure that you do, and in a timely fashion so you don’t find yourself broadsided by demands later on.


Knowing the landscape in detail

If you’re committing to making your business truly multinational, then you’ll need to make the staffing multinational too, and let staff be confident in giving their input on what will work on their turf.

Even a company as huge as Coca-Cola can make mistakes: their initial advertising slogan in China was supposed to read “drink Coca-Cola” but ended up reading “Bite the wax tadpole” because it wasn’t run past a native speaker ahead of release.

Even if you are opening an office in a country that speaks English predominantly, there are cultural differences you’ll need to be aware of, and empowering your representatives to make decisions on what will work in their country may be a nervy prospect, but it is essential.

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