If you’re lucky enough to have a successful small business, there may come a time when you’ll want to expand your business abroad. Branching out internationally can bring huge benefits – a whole new client base, a bigger business profile, fresh tax options, potential new business partners and, most importantly, more profits.
But expanding into unfamiliar foreign territories can also bring risks. So how can you expand your business without jeopardizing all the hard work you’ve put into building up your company on your own turf?
When starting a business abroad, many entrepreneurs make the mistake of choosing a country that might look good for their profile but doesn’t hold the sales potential. It’s all very well dreaming of having the glamorous words ‘Paris – New York – London’ under your business name but if those cities don’t hold a solid client base for your product then you’re likely to be eating into the profits of the company in your home-country.
Find out all about the cultures of the countries you’re interested in and the people who live there. If you have some idea of the trending products of the country or popular pastimes of the residents, then you’ll be on track to be able to cater to their tastes.
The name of your company may mean something in your home country but does it say the same thing abroad? Watch out for words or slogans that could spell disaster in translation. For example, an Iranian company produced a soap powder called ‘Barf’; Ford brought out a car called the ‘Pinto’ which means ‘small male genitals’ in Brazilian; and the KFC slogan ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ didn’t go down so well in China where is was translated as ‘Eat Your Fingers Off’.
Double check with a native speaker that your brand name and advertising slogans won’t offend or turn off potential clients.
You might be the only person in your country who is offering your particular product or services but across the waters you might find that your business idea is not as unique as you thought. Make sure you check up on your potential rivals first and see how you can tweak your business to stay one step ahead of your competitors. Sometimes the very fact that you’re foreign is seen as exotic or special for some customers, so find ways of accentuating those points in order to cash in on your distinctive brand.
Finding out what countries offer the best corporate tax rates is easy enough with the internet – for example, Bulgaria has a very pleasing low rate of 10% but Japan by contrast has an eye-wateringly high tax rate of 38%. But simply shifting your business to a country just for tax reasons could leave you open to tax fraud investigations. Opening virtual offices is a practice that’s becoming very popular for international entrepreneurs who don’t want to base themselves permanently in a country, but if you want to take advantage of the low tax rate of certain territories, you’ll need to be able to prove that you either have an established client base there - or the prospect of potential customers and sales leads – or that you have employees on the ground. And watch out for hidden costs too. Some countries offer low corporate tax rates but will make their money back on other taxes and charges.
One way to make sure you have all the relevant tax information is to find yourself an accountant or lawyer who is fully versed in the finance and law of the country. It’s much wiser to pay for the services of a professional at the start, than run the risk of complications later on down the line which may cost you an even bigger wad of your company cash and also your precious time (that could be better spent on your business). If you’re setting up in a country where the language is different to your own, you may find that hiring a company formations agent is a smart move. Not only will they do all the paperwork for you, but they can also set you up with lawyers, accountants, banks and serviced offices. All the best pioneering international entrepreneurs have at least a small support system of professionals to smooth the way, so follow their lead and build a team of trusted people you can rely on for facts and advice.
Whatever country you choose, make sure you have all the information available to make an informed decision so that your expansion abroad avoids the pitfalls and brings you only profits and success.
For more help in opening your business abroad, contact us on 0033 (0)1 53 57 49 10 or email us direct from our contact page and we'll be delighted to give you more advice.