Challenges you could face when looking to expand your business internationally

All across Britain, small businesses are constantly being encouraged to think big and expand their horizons by exploring overseas markets. This includes government initiatives such as Exporting is Great, a 5 year campaign launched in 2015 presenting real-time export opportunities in all sectors, across the world. This is with the aim of getting 100,000 additional companies exporting by 2020 along with providing practical advice and guidance to inspire and support the thousands of companies looking into venturing globally.

It’s great that these opportunities are being brought to light and presented to businesses in an easy to understand and accessible format. But it’s equally as important to be aware of the challenges that you could face when trying to take this next step in your business journey. Remember fail to prepare and prepare to fail.

Research economy, market trends, behaviours and policies

Before you dive straight into exporting or trading internationally, just like when you started your business in the UK, you need to research and know as much about your market as possible. This means learning about their economy, market trends, consumer behaviour and any policies or legal formalities that could affect your business. Doing this in the early stages of entry consideration will reveal any barriers to entry as well as giving you the chance to work out if there are any solutions before you incur any real costs.


Translation, cultural awareness and local etiquette

Language will definitely be one of the more obvious barriers when you think about the concept of trading internationally. Consider hiring a translator for when you need to do business deals, unless you’re fluent in the local language and can react quick enough, it’s best to be clear and concise about what you want to achieve with your business partners.

It’ll also be a surprise to many how varied the mannerisms in different countries can be. For example, in United Arab Emirates, it’s important you only shake hands, eat and pass documents with your right hand as the left hand is considered unhygienic and would be a serious insult. Another example is when passing business cards out in Japan, it is critical that you do this with both hands with English on one side and Japanese on the other, the Japanese side should be facing up when giving these out. Being aware of small etiquettes like this could avoid offending your future business partners and savaging potential deals.


A lot of people and processes will be involved with this so you should be organised and prepared with a contingency plan in place. Have a clearly thought through logistical process in mind and make sure everyone in the supply chain is aware of this, in terms of what needs to be done and when, along with all the necessary paperwork. All it takes is for someone along the line to misunderstand instructions and it’ll affect the rest of the supply chain. Once you go through the process several times more, you’ll learn to better your process and forecast more accurately. You also need to bear in mind custom laws will vary from country to country so it may help to send the shipping documents to the buyer as well as the clearing agents before shipment is sent to make sure everything is validated and compliant saving time and costs for all parties.

It’s worrying and stressful enough trading in another country you’re not familiar with, so to help give you peace of mind, why not credit check your overseas business partners before engaging in business with them? Assess the financial risk of who you’re dealing with to help mitigate any concerns you may have about customers not paying or suppliers going out of business. Our credit reports will give you instant access to accurate global business information to help you make insightful choices giving you the confidence to take advantage of opportunities overseas.

Sources: tradeready; smallbusiness