Business is flourishing, customers value your vision and the quality of your work, and your employees are proud to be a part of your organization. What’s the next step?
Maybe it’s time to expand the success formula, possibly via an acquisition or expansion overseas? An entrepreneur is continually seeing chances, especially in markets with real growth potential. But is the organization ready for such a step? Do you have the right people to make such a step successful? Are your business processes well enough organized to be transferable?
Growing into an international operation involves new levels of complexity in comparison to domestic expansion. Make sure you properly consider the possible consequences that making such a step could create. Failing to put the right plan in place could see you join the long list of businesses who tried, but were soon home again.
To ensure your organization is properly supported as it extends, having the right business software in place is a very important part of the puzzle. You need to ensure that all your offices – at home and abroad – are optimally connected. With this in mind, here are my six focus area for companies seeking successful, sustainable international growth.
1. Choose an integrated solution
If you’ve got people working in different countries, it can be difficult to maintain a complete overview. Letting your people work with one central, integrated solution, setup with standardized procedures, will stop you from trying to compare apples with pears. After all, what is an available European capacity overview worth if everything on a project is planned in advance in Holland, but not in Belgium?
2. Multiple currency
It might seem obvious, but if you’re going to work in multiple countries with one or more outside the Eurozone, your business administration software has to be able to handle that. And not just in terms of banking and invoicing. The optimal situation supports multi-currency at the reporting level and lets you create management level information from the whole business within your HQ local currency.
If you have multiple locations spread throughout multiple countries and treat them all as separate entities, you’ll make it very difficult to exchange employees between operations. Think for example, about the specialist in Spain that you’d like to use on a project in Switzerland. Take care that you’re able to allocate costs and revenue in your administration as best suits your needs. Having the ability to manage inter-office work efficiently will save a lot of time and frustration when it comes to optimal use of your resources.
4. Local legislation
No two countries are the same. Make sure you keep that in mind. Not all business solutions can support all the countries where you have the ambition to expand. Make sure you’re fully aware of what your software can and can’t do before you make any decisions. Suddenly finding out your office in Shanghai can’t send invoices – because of failed integration with the government’s compulsory Golden Tax software – is not what you want.
5. An locally available implementation partner
Even if you find a genuinely international vendor to support your expansion, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are also going to be present in person in your new locations. If you work with a central solution, it can be very handy if that partner is also available to help directly with the various implementations. Trying to work with a diverse range of local IT companies will almost certainly lead to delays in having the full system up and running. The inclusion of non-aligned local workarounds to problems can also become an issue, something that can hinder proper company-wide collaboration and co-operation in the long term.
SEPA is relevant for every entrepreneur. For businesses that work in Europe, SEPA is going to make the processes of paying and being paid simpler and faster. You do need to be ready though. All your activities around paying and invoicing need to be reviewed and adjusted as necessary. Your bank and your software supplier can help ensure you’re fully ready in time. If you’re investing in new software, make sure you research whether the system is already fully SEPA-proof, or is waiting for updates.
In summary, when choosing the right solution to support your international expansion, it’s not just the primary functionality that’s important. The difference will lie in how both your new partner and their solution can support you on the ground in your new locations.
Only with the right software to allow full co-operation and efficient process management, and expert local help when you need it, will you give your business a realistic shot at sustainable growth.