Previously, in our focus on market expansion, we talked about competition. Today, we’re going to dive into operational mechanics: administration. Budget, networks, and teams.
Budgets, networks, and teams all fall under the topic that most everyone considers boring: operations and administration. While startup ideas are fun, implementing them isn’t so much. Yet, they are vitally important to the survival and success of a company. Without sound operations, the success of an enterprise is impossible.
So how does this figure in for those startups wanting to expand globally? Let’s take a look:
Budget: Startups don’t normally have big budgets. Especially in an era of “lean startup,” even those enterprises that have managed to raise money are looking to use funds efficiently. Frugal is the first order of business. That’s not helpful when you’re looking to expand globally. Global expansion requires lots of costs, most hidden and unexpected. A foreign country may require you to spend money that you don’t on your own. Prepare for it. How? Here again, homework is critical. Before going into a country, talk to those already operating in the country and what they spend their money on; what are their costs.
Network: A foreign place, as well, foreign. Even if you’ve visited it before, operating in a new place will be different and no doubt a challenge. To successfully enter a foreign market, find local experts who can help you navigate. You may be the best expert in a given field. But when it comes to understanding a different place, check your hubris. A local will always know his or her community better than you, especially if that place operates in a different language. Make a list of who you know in that country and then ask those people who are the best people to talk to about expanding your business. You want to talk to lawyers, public officials, salespeople. Also, talk to other startup founders in that place.
Team: Not all talent is created equal. Country A and B may have the same engineering talent, but that doesn’t mean that they will have the same experience and working environment. That was true of Bulent Celebi when he launched AirTies in Turkey. While the engineers in Turkey were on par with those in Silicon Valley, Turkish engineers had long operated in a top-down “patron” environment, where questioning leadership and experimentation was frowned upon. Bulent had to spend time bringing in people from the outside to build a culture and train up a team that replicated the environment in Silicon Valley. Ask yourself how teams work in a given country. Make sure that you have the right people placed to not only help you build and develop your product or service but who can also sell it. Some countries require more customer support. Understand your needs and expand accordingly.
These five elements: market size, market development and dynamics, culture, competition, and operations are key to expanding globally and going to scale. It is important for an entrepreneur to treat each independently and give it a thorough analysis. Take care to analyze, but not get locked into paralysis. Action is always the best approach. You learn from your mistakes.