Here are our five essential tips for any UK small business that wants to trade successfully overseas.
1. Do your research. Always research your target market and do your research in your own language andthe local language. The former will give you an insight into what your countrymen (and women!) think of their experience abroad, as they share some useful tips. The latter will give you a better understanding of the business habits and rules of the market and the opinion of local experts. Occasionally, you can come across local expert reports published in English, but they tend to be more of an introduction would normally only show part of the picture.
2. Use a professional translator. Never underestimate the impact of a professionally translated website, marketing materials and contracts. You may have staff who speak the language who are very good at general communication such as emails, phone calls and orientation if you visit the market. But don’t be tempted to ask them to translate your marketing materials or interpret for you during negotiations. Professional translators and interpreters will pick up on the nuances of culture and language, get the right impression across and avoid misunderstandings (or worse).
3. Appreciate that cultures are different. Wherever we’re from, we may look the same but that doesn’t mean our behaviour patterns and cultural background are similar. History, culture and traditions, climate and geographical position, population density and family sizes all influence the way that people behave and do business. It goes without saying though that you should treat everyone with respect and dignity.
4. Be open to new experiences and keep positive. But also be ready for challenges. Don’t believe everything you see on television about a market you’re thinking of entering – TV focuses on negative issues because they pick up bigger audiences. Reading quality newspapers and publications, taking note of comments below stories on websites and talking to people in forums will give you a much better impression of what to expect.
5. Make it fun and consider everything a game. There used to be certain rules when you were a child and wanted to play with others. Most of the rules were imposed on you by others and only when you learnt these could you try to implement your own rules. When you hear about cultural rituals, negotiation patterns, or even the evil of bureaucracy, respect them and for the sake of ease regard them as part of the game. Take it easy, play and enjoy it.
(first published on the Enterprise Nation website on 7th September, 2012)