Setting up a recruitment business anywhere isn’t a task to be taken lightly, but once you start to go international things become more complicated. While this shouldn’t be a deterrent, it’s important that ambitious entrepreneurs with worldwide dreams consider the move from every angle and plan strategically.
So before you start setting foot outside of your home border, there are a few important things you need to think about, according to entrepreneurs who have been there and done that.
1. Culture and collaboration
Immersing yourself in the local culture is essential for any expanding entrepreneur. These people are your potential candidates, so it’s important for you to foster a genuine interest in your business’ new home and its culture. So get out there and meet people and participate in experiences – the market, customer preferences, and their behavior aren’t native to you so learn as much as you can. How else are you going to learn about the types of people who they want working alongside them? What kind of perks and salary are people looking for? What might work well in one country won’t necessarily be right in another.
Mike Danby, CEO of Advanced Supply Chain Group says you can’t afford to ignore cultural differences:
“Never underestimate the importance of understanding and engaging with local cultures, and don’t think to learn a language achieves this. Showing an appreciation of different cultures and embracing it can prove the difference between prosperous long-term business and failure overnight. Whilst we’ll spend time researching different cultures and ways of working, we’ve found an effective means of entering a new market is to collaborate with an established on-the-ground partner. In China and throughout Asia this has enabled us to develop an in-depth experience of how goods move through local supply chains including how deals are negotiated, checked and concluded. It means we can effectively move in and out of different provinces and across borders on time and budget.”
2. Use and grow your network
Expanding your business abroad isn’t an easy task, and it’s important that you have people in your corner. Use the Internet to your advantage before you head over there to expand on your professional network; check LinkedIn or MeetUp or see if there are any specific groups that cater to ex-pat entrepreneurs. These people will have real hand experience of setting up shop elsewhere, and that kind of advice is truly invaluable.
And you never know who might be the friend of a friend. Research has shown that people who recruit through their own network have a higher chance of finding the perfect fit. So building up a local network in your new country will not only help you find your footing but grow your business even further once the opportunities start appearing.
“There are probably already people in your professional network who could help you,” says Rodrigue Zbinden, CEO of Morphean. “Check your existing connections to see if any of them are based in the country you are moving to. If not, don’t be afraid to make those connections and reach out to people who are already established there.
“Once you have your network, whether it’s online or in-person at a networking group, make sure you’re asking all the right questions. What can they tell you about the customers’ needs in this new marketplace? Have they noticed any major differences? How high is the competition? What are the main distribution channels that they use? How did they access them?
“While they may not work in your specific industry, people who are already established abroad will be an absolute goldmine of information that you need to be tapping into.”
3. Get native assistance
Especially for small businesses, where your budget for expanding may be tightly controlled, it’s tempting to try and do everything yourself. While your experience at home will stand you in good stead, once you cross borders, things start to change, especially when it comes to local laws. Regardless of the industry, you work in, you’ll need help getting everything set up behind-the-scenes so everything can run smoothly when you start recruiting.
Alina Cincan, Managing Director at Inbox Translation, says that it’s important to have people who know the local customs and laws on your side:
“Last year, we set up a new branch for our UK-based translation business in Romania (my native country). While language was no issue, the rest of it was no smooth ride. The UK and Romania are pretty dissimilar in terms of both red tape and culture.
“Bureaucracy-wise, the main difference is the amount of paperwork (and I mean ‘paper’ in a very literal sense) required in order to set up a business. As opposed to the UK business which I set up with no external help, online, from my home office, it was a different story in Romania where I had to contract the services of a local lawyer. Just to give you an idea, according to the World Bank, UK ranks 19th (out of 190 countries) in terms of how easy it is to start a business, Romania is 111th.
“The same goes for accounting: it is imperative for a business to use the services of an accredited accountant. Even if you speak the language, you most likely don’t speak the lingo.
“Communication: while email is my preferred means of communication, those intending to set up shop in Romania should be aware that the phone is the easiest and quickest way to reach those you need to contact.
“Another significant cultural difference is addressing people by their first name – after many years of living and working in the UK, this comes as second nature to me; however, a more formal approach is needed in Romania.
“The bottom line? Before deciding to set up a business, make sure you’ve done your research and don’t hesitate to ask for help or advice.”
4. Managing change and uncertainty
No business venture is without its storms, and it’s important to be prepared for any changes that may come your way. Make sure you stay up-to-date on any changes that are coming into effect, both in your country and those you trade with and prepare well in advance if any of these will impact how you do business. How will changes affect international recruiting? Will you be able to invite people over for interviews with current visa laws? Will your ex-pat contacts be affected?
Mike Danby adds:
“One of the biggest challenges facing our business is changing cross-border agreements, duties and inspections. Yes, Brexit affects these, but there are other issues like national security, smuggling and human trafficking that either directly or indirectly affect international trade on an ongoing basis. Companies need to be on top of proposed legislative changes and have contingencies in place to ensure their business adapts quickly and effectively. We’ve developed bespoke software that enables us to forecast and adjust tariffs, project management and delivery times according to different scenarios.”
About the author: Morphean is a high-tech software development company that is based in Switzerland but has a strong presence in 12 countries across the globe, and their team can attest to the challenges, and indeed great rewards that go hand-in-hand with setting up shop in another company.