Barrera

I already know the country, ergo I know their culture.

Unfortunately, we are confident people. There are only a few who can show off to be humble (and show it!), to have little prejudices. Overall, what humans do perfect, and often, is to say that knows somebody or something really well.

You have come across this kind of situation in your personal life in which somebody has told you “I know the people like you are” but they hardly remember your name! Indeed, you may have said that too, or at least, you have thought it.

Back in the professional life, you may live the same situation, and even more in the international fields. It is a classic mistake. You have visited a country two or three times in the last year. You have met customers, providers and local partners. Moreover, due to this meetings you “know the country“. It is easy to make this mistake. However, it is really different to live in the country for a long time (at least one year) to just make some sporadic visits to it. It doesn’t matter how many times you have visited it, is living in it how you truly know the country.

Brushstrokes of an incomplete picture

When you are building your work team in another country, be humble. You know a little of a country in which you are starting a new life. What you have seen or you have heard are just brushstrokes of an incomplete picture. You do not have the complete view of that country, of its culture. Be humble. Open your mind to learn, to absorb the new professional life, their customs.

Just an example, when I arrived to Chile, one of the Product Managers whom I worked with played the music very loud… without headphones! From my point of view this was incomprehensible, intolerable. Until I went to a meeting with a provider and I heard the music loud in their offices coming from one of their employees. Later, I found the same situation in third different company. I realized that I was in another country, and, somehow, people like to work like that (yes, may not all of them, but mostly). Along time, I was discovering new different things: each morning a customized greeting to every single employee, their pleasure to congratulate in the “professional day of Z”…

The challenge to join two cultures

Know, learn. Their cultures, what they like. As I said, two or three visits are not enough. Day by day will allow you to know the people. At last, but the most difficult part, is that you must learn how to join the culture and professional habits of your company matrix to the current country. Creating this mix is, by fat, one of the most difficult things that you need to face when you make your company international.

Costos

Surprising costs in your business expansion

When a company chooses to expand their business to a new country, they would start making an small analysis: market prospection, barriers, access to local providers, potential customers and so on. If the country seems to be atractive enough, the next step would be to make a small business plan to find out how much will it cost to start the operation. Let’s focus on the expenses. You will usually add the corporate constitution, legal documentation, accounting, legal representation…

From now on you must pay special attention to some issues that increase your costs greatly. It is impossible to anticipate all possible variations and variables that may occur, but, let’s talk about a few that you will have to face with, and, most probable, you don’t know them or they are not in your Excel expenses sheet.

Choose correctly the professional for your subsidiary

Once you decide to open your subsidiary abroad, you will have to choose perfectly who is going to be in charge of the new operation. If you move someone from your company (most probable) you will have a few expenses quite high: an important salary, a car, house renting, fligths for his/her family and so on. Most of this expenses, can be anticipated. No problem, yet. If you work in a corporate giant, then this expenses will not be so important. On the other hand, if it is a medium company with limited resourse you will have to choose well what benefits you have to give to the employer. Once again, this is not problematic, there will be no surprises here. Just a tip: don’t be stingy with your expat. He deserves a lot.

However, moving a person from one place to another have a few other things rather than money: this person will need to adapt, form the teamwork from zero, he will barely know the country and its culture. He (or she) will have to adapt to it, they will have to build a new way of life regarding all new things. He will be stressed, his performance will be lower than usual. But, this adaptation is temporal. It should not take too long.

While your professional mate goes through this process, he or she will also have to adapt to how they work, take some time to build a new multicultural team, where he must mix the culture of his company with the identity of the country or region where he is. This is quite a long process of adaptation which you can not calculate exactly, you can not add it to your expenses sheet. But, now you do know it. There is a time needed to complete this “change”, so please, in your business plan you should add some delay to the real beginning of your operations. Revenues will come later than expected. How long? It depends on how big are the cultural differences, the easiness of adaptation of your professional, his capacity to face and build a multicultural team…

You are going to delegate all responsibilities into a new guy who you just have met and who is miles away from you.

On the other hand, you could hire someone locally. Quite a common strategy in which, usually, apart from naming him as the Country Manager of the company (or similar) you choose to turn him as a share holder of the company or negotiating a great bonus based on some measurable goals. The aim is to motivate and retain him.

Recruiting in another country is difficult. But, it is much more difficult to know whether he is a person in who you may trust. You are going to delegate all responsibilities into a new guy who you just have met and who is miles away from you.

Be careful. Based on my experience as a Regional Business Developer our company has had some local partners, in some cases with awful results. Time to learn what we did wrong. Unfortunately, I can not tell you what happened but, believe, they were not confortable situations. How to avoid this? The only possible way is to increase the financial controls from the headquarters, and the CEO or his direct supervisor, you will have to travel often.