Think HBR

Is it time to ‘go international’?

Front Cover December Man Globe3
Allan McKeown
Prosperity Advisers Group
As the global market place continues to shrink we are often asked by our business clients how they will know if they are ready to make the strategic decision to enter international markets.
Limited growth opportunities domestically are resulting in many businesses again thinking about expanding into Asian markets or further afield. Based on our experience of over a quarter century working with a range of business clients that have successfully launched overseas, we offer 10 milestones that you need for a solid foundation for international development.
1. Have a clearly defined market and competitive advantage
Know what makes your concept or product different from the average business in your sector. Are there any cultural, geographic or economic differences in the target foreign country that will affect the likelihood of success of your product or service? It is essential to show prospective international partners or joint venturers that you can compete in their marketplace. Have a proactive “going international” business plan. Establishing a robust well researched business plan and a realistic budget for international development is essential to improve your chances of success. Don’t underestimate the length of time it will take for you to gain a foothold in a new country and ensure you have sufficient working capital to last.
2. Have strong senior management buy-in
Make a strategic decision to build the foundation of a successful international business on an ongoing basis, versus making a couple of deals only for the initial sales. Your senior team is critical to the success of your business operation.
This is one of the single most important steps in your process of going international with your business. Without the most senior people in the business convinced that this is the proper strategic step, do not even think about an international program.
3. Have a good record of domestic success
Expanding overseas is a step to take from a position of strength not weakness. The effort required to establish offshore will place even further strain on a weak existing business and doom the expansion to failure.
4. Have documented training, support, and marketing programs
Systems are the foundation of a successful enterprise and this is even more so when supply lines lengthen. You, in effect, have to transport your business model to another country and culture. The stronger your systems, training and support, the better the concept will transfer in the form you want it to operate.
5. Have an intranet for cost-effective training, support, and communication
This is simply the most cost effective and controlled method of providing international training and support to you offshore team members. An intranet is 24/7/365, and cuts across all time zones. This is very important in international markets where the team in that country may feel isolated or detached. A well-resourced intranet and regular skype or video link ups will promote the ‘one business’ feel and promote consistency.
6. Have system standards and reporting processes in place
We are always amazed to find businesses that have good systems standards and monitoring processes in Australia but they do not enforce the same standards abroad. Daily sales updates, monthly or even weekly reconciliations, together with staff and customer feedback surveys will enable you to keep your finger on the pulse.
7. Prepare to research your market and competitors
Find out who the local competition is and how you are better than they are. There are numerous trade, professional associations, research houses and professional firms that can assist in that regard. Prosperity Advisers for example is a foundation member of the Leading Edge Alliance that
has personal global connections through 200 firms in over 100 countries. Partners in these firms have a sound knowledge of not just the local regulatory environment but they can also open the doors to reliable local contacts that can fast track the establishment of your overseas venture.
8. Prepare to conduct due diligence on overseas candidates
Know who you are dealing with to minimise surprises in the future.
Law requires that you know who you are dealing with in international markets and that they are not involved in illegal activities. There are several services available to help you find out the details of your prospective overseas management, partners or suppliers.
9. Apply for trademarks to protect your intellectual property and your brand value
Apply for trademarks before starting to market in a new jurisdiction. Never let joint venture partners or management ‘help’ you register your trademarks, as direct ownership by you or an entity you control will help avoid squabbles over intellectual property down the track.
These are common sense business practices. It takes time and money to prepare properly to go international. The good news is that with careful planning and disciplined execution, the investment can pay off quickly, and you can build additional brand value and revenue streams for the long term.
For further information contact Prosperity Advisers Group on (02) 4907 7222, email or visit
Allan McKeown Allan McKeown

is CEO of Prosperity Advisers Group. He has over 25 years experience providing corporate assurance and business advisory advice and services to a wide array of clients. Allan's career started with global accounting firm Ernst & Young. He also co-founded Sneddon McKeown Chartered Accountants in 1989 and was appointed to the role of Managing Partner in 1991.