5 tips from 5 successful entrepreneurs on taking your business global
Are you looking to take your business global, but not sure where to start? Firstly, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Expanding overseas comes with its challenges (and opportunities), especially as you navigate the hurdles, alongside the normal teething problems of scaling a startup.
Here’s 5 pieces of advice from successful entrepreneurs who have been there and experienced it all.
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1. Go local to go global – Skander Malcolm, OFX
“Quite early on you want to be looking for who’s going to be your person in Hong Kong, in San Francisco and so on. Having insight into what’s happening on the ground is invaluable to understanding local context.”
Whilst OFX started from humble beginnings in 1998, as the company grew from a FX information website to an international money transfer specialist, the business started to expand into new markets and eventually became a global operation, with customers and employees all over the world. Speaking of his own experiences of taking OFX into new overseas markets, OFX CEO Skander Malcolm says it’s important to hire very strong local leaders in each market who can help you understand the local nuances and customer concerns.
It’s important to not rush this process either. Take the time to assess the local structures that support your business, product, employee retention and policy.
2. Understand and articulate your brand story – Sarah Hamilton, Sand & Sky
“What is your brand story? Why do we care about it? And why should others?”
Taking insights from her own experiences building Sand & Sky, co-founder Sarah Hamilton says having a purposeful and unified brand proposition from the outset is essential for a company to stand out from the crowd in a global market.
There are three layers of context to consider – the local, the global and the digital. Be authentically loyal to your brand, understand how you will communicate this proposition and how it will translate across all tiers, both in visual and verbal execution. In each market, customers have different ideas on what a product is going to look like and how they are going to consume it.
Getting this part right will help you reap the benefits the long run. In fact, Sarah credits the success of her business to being steadfast on her brand and what it stands for; “We concentrated on building our brand and the rest fell into place".
3. Test the waters before expanding – Adam Mills, KoalaSafe
“The network of mentors Startmate provided was instrumental in our start-up journey. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the doors they opened and the advice they provided.”
Taking insight and inspiration from OFX customer KoalaSafe, co-founders Adam Mills and Steve Pack turned to a startup accelerator and then significant crowdfunding measures to help establish their brand and strategy. Not only were they able to develop a support network of mentors through this process, but they also gained a reliable source of market research, which essentially helped determine customer demand. To complement this, they started selling their products on Amazon, which was invaluable in gaining visibility and building an online community.
4. Don’t lose sight of the customer – Peter Pausewang, Smiggle
“Stay absolutely in-tune with your customer. Have a very clear idea of who your customers are and what they want. Then communicate this very clearly and consistently at every touch point.”
Be customer centric in your global expansion model and ensure you’re always putting the customer first. According to Smiggle co-founder Peter Pausewang, focusing on building these personal connections with your customer base, will help you understand their feedback and concerns and create a better product as a result.
Key considerations and questions to ask yourself:
- Would the customer understand what you’re trying to communicate?
- Is what you are developing help to a solve a customer pain point, deliver better customer efficiencies or improve the customer experience?
So, what can you do to keep your customers happy and loyal to your brand?
5. Invest in the long term strategy – Katie Page, Harvey Norman
“We know everything is a cycle and if you’re the last man standing when that cycle starts to turn you can do very well. Our strategy is always long term, so we stuck to our strategy.”
Harvey Norman co-founder Katie Page credits building a long-term thinking company, as opposed to a 3-month, 6-month or even 12-month strategy, as key to their success, particularly during difficult periods of global market volatility.
Expanding globally can bring its fair share of challenges. Developing a currency strategy can help you provide some protection, and take advantage of currency fluctuations, as you look to enter international markets.