The global trade landscape has evolved exponentially and need not be a concept or ambition accessible only to large business players. Technology has played a huge part in this growth, enabling businesses of all sizes across many sectors to expand their operations beyond their country of origin. However, it’s still a daunting prospect for many small businesses, or those in early stages of operation, and is a disruptive step to take – not least because it shifts focus and resource from vital day-to-day business operations.
This pressure and impact, plus the added complexity of navigating new markets, cultures, currencies, legislation and compliance requirements, makes ‘going global’ a move not to be taken lightly. Here we outline some of the key areas to navigate when considering global expansion.
1. Build a strong foundation to maintain crucial operational business functions
While focusing on the next phase when it comes to expanding into global operations, businesses must ensure that this activity is not at the neglect or hindrance of the critical business functions that underpin the whole organisation. While thus far it may have been manageable to execute day-to-day tasks manually, as the business grows – and resource is needed to focus on this growth – automation of these time-consuming tasks is essential both to scalability of the business, and to keep things moving smoothly. Thankfully, the right technology such as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution can make the process less painful.
An ERP system can make it easy to manage time-consuming activities including accounting and finance and financial budgeting and forecasting. Having the capability to automate, for instance, generation and dispatch of invoices at recurring intervals, or schedule automatic renewals, removes the burden on staff. This frees them up to take on extra responsibilities associated with expansion – and removes the error risk that is ever-present when these kinds of tasks are executed manually.
2. Create flexibility to tackle cultural, regulatory and procedural differences
As well as potential language differences to consider when looking to go global , there’ll be a host of other cultural differences to consider. As an aspiring international operation, being in a position to be flexible to cater for the differences in culture and procedures will be crucial.
This can include being mindful of the packages and benefits employees in a new market might be attracted to, to ensure access to good local talent. Managing human resources in a new area can also be daunting, so outsourcing this service might be a good idea at the outset. The same could be said for management of payroll, although an ERP system will enable this function to be automated and operated with local compliance and in varying currencies.
3. Prepare to keep stakeholders informed and attract potential investors with real-time business intelligence
Expanding overseas is a big move and stakeholders in the business will want initial and ongoing assurance of the viability and success of the venture. Furthermore, there may be a need to attract potential investors to help with expansion plans. Being able to demonstrate business performance with good financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting will be key to this. Working with data that may have errors, or not be fully up-to-date, can be detrimental to this mission.
A big benefit of automating financial functions is the all-important real-time view that can help boost business performance, greatly aid and forecasting and ensure all stakeholders can see one single version of the truth. Such streamlining of processes, access to information and unification of stakeholders can only be achieved with cloud-based technology solutions, and will form the strong pillars the business needs to expand into a global marketplace. Being able to quickly create financial reports – showing company performance at transactional or at summary-level detail as is required – and access data that can be analysed for actionable insights will help in securing funding from potential investors. ERP solutions such as NetSuite OneWorld offers features like Real-time Business Intelligence, which facilitates the creation of reports and dashboards that combine operational and financial data, and KPIs.
4. Get to grips with compliance requirements and obligations
Expanding globally opens up a world of new financial regulations, tax and reporting obligations that can be subject to local standards and therefore require local expertise. While using the services of experts in the field, who can guide you through what can be a regulatory minefield, is a wise move, using an appropriate ERP solution with the capability to provide the most common financial regulatory frameworks is also advisable. It will be invaluable in streamlining financial reports.
Having the functionality to automatically adjust currencies, deal with tax and legal compliance differences at local level, and achieving regional and global business consolidation is a real bonus for expanding businesses. For multi-subsidiary firms expanding rapidly and moving into new territories, having the entire global operation on one single unified platform, providing visibility into all business aspects, creates efficiencies that can catapult success and growth.
5. Build the right partnerships and team from the outset
Embarking on global expansion requires having a solid team in place and choosing the right partners at the outset. It’s a mission no man nor woman should take on alone. Having a team you can trust in place in any multi-subsidiary organisation is crucial to success.
Similarly, choosing the right service partners to help your expansion is important. Using those which have specialised sector expertise is a wise move and the benefit of this should never be underestimated.
When looking to utilise software solutions, for instance, there is a plethora of technology consultancies offering different software solutions, so choosing the right one can be a minefield in itself. Opting for one that has a strong track record and solution expertise will help pave the way to success and aid chances of a smooth journey to global expansion. This is why it’s a decision worth giving careful consideration to.
Whether you’re a firm in the FinTech space, or a professional services consultancy working in specific areas, you’ll want a firm with a solid understanding of the challenges those sectors face. Whether that be ever-changing regulation, multi-project management issues or complex customer relationship management requirements, perhaps including multi-language issues. The right partner will manage the task of designing the right business architecture for your requirements, and create a system to specifically cater for your business processes and priorities – encompassing those you are aware of and those you may not have yet thought of!
At BrightBridge, we’ve helped a wide range of firms in specific sectors get the right business architecture in place to suit their needs and goals – from global learning and operational technologies company Ocean Technologies Group, through to banking and payments technology platform provider OpenPayd. If you’d like to find out more about how we could help your business make a strong first step on the global trade ladder, get in touch with our expert team now.