Taking your business global is an exciting time that comes with a unique set of challenges. There is no rule book for expansion; and the journey is often riddled with complex processes that may not always yield to success. Certain regions are more difficult to penetrate than others. Factors like economic climate and government policies towards foreign businesses come into play. Yet, 81% of American companies are optimistic about the growth of their ventures offshore.

Due to cost-effective labor and a massive consumer market, countries like China are an appealing destination for foreign investors. I brought BRIC Language Learning to the country after struggling to find a local language school that catered to my needs. In setting up my company in China, Mexico and Brazil eight years ago, I ran in to the pitfalls that I hope to help your businesses avoid.

So before expanding your operations internationally, ask yourself these essential questions:

Do I have a general understanding of local business regulations?

The first step is to have a good grasp of local business regulations. It’s not imperative to gain expertise but you should at least know the basics of setting up a company in your target country, and of course, when and where to seek help.

In many emerging economies, regulatory environments are overly complicated. In China, for instance, one of the first things you need to do is register your Chinese company name. Fortunately for international brands like Coca-Cola and Benz, their Chinese names not only sound close to their English pronunciation, but also have relevant and appealing meanings in the Chinese language. Coca-Cola or ‘Kekoukele’ in China means “tasty fun” while Mercedes Benz or ‘Bēnchí ‘means “dashing speed”.

Today, registering an appropriate Chinese name that does not sound similar to other Chinese brands has become more difficult. But according to Flora Zhu, Head of Corporate Services in the PRC and GM of the Shanghai office at JCK & Associates, a leading consultancy firm based in Hongkong, “It’s not the end of the world, you can use a brand name or trademark different from your registered name for promotional purposes, such as on your business card or shop sign.”

Do I need an international business partner?

In nearly all instances, you do. No matter how much you’ve researched a foreign country’s business landscape, it’s best to enlist a local partner who has deep business knowledge and experience in your industry. This isn’t to say that you need a JV venture or another form of a legal partnership. In some cases, it can be as simple as hiring a consultant who more or less acts as an extended arm of your business.

As you go about filing paperwork for your business, you will likely face government bureaucracy. I once spent an entire afternoon at the Administration for Industry and Commerce in China trying to copy my signature from 20 years ago for use on a government document. After flying back to the US, I was told that I had to come back as my signature had been rejected again. I had to make a return trip to Shanghai and start over from scratch.

In other situations, it can be more than the cost of a plane ticket and hours at a government office. Take Uber’s plight against the taxi industry as an example. The ride sharing company has faced suspensions and multiple legal battles in countries like Hungary, Italy, Taiwan and the Philippines. Where Uber has gone head-to-head with taxi operators and transportation agencies, the company is forced to forge partnerships with operators of taxi fleets such as Howa Taxi in Bangkok and ComfortDelGro in Singapore to continue its services on the ground.

Will I find the talent I need in another country?

This is one of the most important questions to address when setting up a company overseas. Running a business in a foreign country makes hiring and keeping talent much more problematic. When I was working as the General Manager and Vice-President of Asian Operations at an American manufacturing firm with offices in China, I was responsible for all of our hires.

At one point, we looked for someone to fill a regional manager role for 2 years. We ultimately failed as we couldn’t find someone with both the engineering background and the right soft skills. Applicants with suitable technical abilities don’t necessarily have the attributes needed for interacting with clients, expatriate and local staff. Also, while finding an engineer in China is easy, as it has twice the number of STEM graduates as the US, the level of engineering background is relatively lower compared to US graduates from technical fields.

Once you have filled your talent pool, you have to make sure you are keeping up with competitive market salaries to retain your employees. In many foreign countries, “job-hopping” is the norm. Staff will come into your organization for 1-2 years, then leave for a higher paying job. Again, they stay there for 1-2 years and use that salary to find another higher paying job elsewhere.

How will I adapt the brand to the local business culture?

This is another reason why you want local talent. Your brand identity in the US may not translate well in a foreign country. The international business landscape is littered with multinationals that suffered humiliating failures abroad because they didn’t know the market they were going into. A common mistake related to this is limiting your circle to expats. Once you’re on the ground, you should immediately and regularly commune with the locals. Doing so will enable you to pick up nuances in communications style, culture and other attributes particular to your new market.

Apart from your lifestyle, you should also find ways to embrace the local business culture. Being a naïve Western entrepreneur could hinder you from inking deals and acquiring customers. The Arabs, for example, treat personal and business relationships as one and the same. They prefer doing business with people they know and like; engaging in enthusiastic conversations and demonstrating at least basic knowledge of the local language can get you far during this expansion process.

While the process can be difficult, proving the validity of your product/service in a foreign market is a great accomplishment; just make sure to address the right questions and find an alternate solution when what you’re trying isn’t working out.