Business perspectives: crossing borders

Kirchberg, Luxembourg City’s business district. Photo: Maison Moderne

Kirchberg, Luxembourg City’s business district. Photo: Maison Moderne

For any company, crossing the border into a new marketplace is a big step. What questions should entrepreneurs be asking themselves along the way?

Setting goals

Goal-setting sounds simple enough, but it isn’t to be overlooked. As an entrepreneur with an ambition to expand internationally, what are your specific objectives? On the one hand, you’ll need quantitative goals that demand careful research into the target marketplace and its economy, while, on the other hand, you’ll also want qualitative goals that require definitions of success rendered in the local context. Granular goals should, furthermore, fit within the broader framework of what you want to achieve. Think long-term, think short-term.

To meaningfully set all these objectives, research into the target marketplace is essential. This can be done with the help of communication and culture advisors, internationalisation training and area-specific specialists.

Getting help

Internationalisation can’t be done in a vacuum. Organisations in both your current and target environments hold expertise that will be vital to the process. Which of these will be most useful for your project? Chambers of commerce and economy or trade ministries are great places to start. Beyond these, places like Enterprise Europe Network specialise in assisting entrepreneurs with sourcing the right partners.

Defining your unique selling point

You’ve analysed your products/services and decided which have the potential to move across the border. You’ve looked at the underlying methods of their production and confirmed that they can handle internationalisation. It’s time now to establish a new understanding of these chosen products/services in the local context. Who are your competitors in the target market? What do customers think of them? What can you offer that differentiates you? Will customers appreciate that selling point? What will your pricing strategy be?

These are again questions that require an understanding of the target location, but also a look inwards. Companies should therefore have a think about their own strengths and weaknesses: What obstacles might arise because of the current size or structure of the firm? What work is the brand image currently accomplishing? What is the state of IT infrastructure in terms of being able to extend across borders? A good starting point might be to conduct an internal audit.

Finalising your business plan

The latter steps of the process require a detailed look at business practicalities. What are the tax and customs regulations that will affect your activities? How well are local supply chains able to accommodate you? How easy will it be to recruit local talent? What challenges may arise on the marketing side of things, perhaps related to other languages or customs? These questions and others will have an impact on your business plan and budgeting process.