We were delighted to welcome five small business owners currently interested in expanding into new territories overseas, to join us for the first in a series of intimate mastermind group sessions for ambitious entrepreneurs.

The purpose? The attendees came together to address mutual pain points, brainstorm with each other and generate practical solutions to relevant challenges based on their business goals.

Facilitated by John Galvin, CEO of Galvin International, it turned out to be a great lunch for everyone, and brought up some interesting points to take away and work on. The participants harnessed their collective knowledge through an open and engaging discussion, while providing insight into each other’s experiences and exchanging constructive advice.

Where do the challenges lie?

Small business owners looking to expand internationally will typically face a number of organisational challenges, such as attracting the right employees, communicating their company’s message, gaining exposure for new business opportunities and remaining competitive in multiple regions.

Here’s our summary of the key discussion points covered by the participants over the course of the session. (Spoiler warning: Network, network, network!)

Initial stages — where do I start?

  • When choosing a new territory for your business, think about what types of customers you’re trying to attract and identify where there’s a demand based on their needs. This will help you make an educated and measured decision on the best location to pursue.
  • Language barriers for crucial aspects such as speaking to customers, branding, operations and legal documentation may arise, so assess whether there is a need to either add further language resources to your business, or tackle territories where this pain point won’t be a factor.
  • Ensure your overseas management structure will fit into your existing framework. Then once your plans start taking shape, consider working with local advisors, service providers and external partners where necessary to help you make the adjustment.

How do I build a distribution network?

The challenge of finding distributors will often be made easier by researching, testing, learning and building relationships — there is no right or wrong answer, and likely the best option will be specific to each individual company.

  • You should be aware that it is important to find a distributor who is going to be engaged with your business and your own needs.
  • Define what your goals are for the distribution network as early as possible. Then put a clear and open agreement in place, with metrics to determine what performance levels or results you’re aiming for.
  • Ensure that the financial implications are balanced and comfortable for you, and use the distributor as a foundation to build knowledge and add extra resources within your new local markets.
  • Additionally, remember to proactively work to develop a trustworthy and committed relationship that can add genuine value to your business overseas.

How do I find the right clients?

  • It’s wise to start by replicating your existing strategy first. Don’t re-invent the wheel if you don’t need to; go with what already works and try to take that into new territories — if it doesn’t translate well to the market in that location, learn from it quickly and find a new strategy. Keep it simple and don’t repeat your mistakes.
  • If you do decide to adopt a new approach overseas, be sure to test and experiment with strategy-led initiatives — whether using word of mouth, finding partners, or relying on online marketing, make sure a plan is in place, then follow it through consistently and accurately.
  • Networking is also hugely important when working abroad, and can provide an understanding of the market to attract local customers. Building a network takes time and effort, but it will pay off in the long run. Don’t forget to leverage your existing relationships to branch out — look for referrals, introductions and recommendations from trusted contacts.
  • For those that don’t have the time to go out and attend events, travel or actively meet new people face-to-face, technology can also serve as an alternative to the networking process for business owners. Digital tools such as LinkedIn, Skype, or useful mobile apps like Treatings can be extremely valuable when settling into new territories to build a network and engage your target audiences.

Of course, this is just a summary of what was covered by our small business owners in the 90-minute lunchtime session, but the true value of a mastermind group is often achieved over time by engaging in follow-up actions, meetings and feedback.

Originally published at blog.yniche.com on October 21, 2015.