Since the pandemic, the nature of the modern workplace has shifted dramatically, toward more work-from-home policies and flexible schedules. Technology has quickly evolved to adapt, making it possible to do many jobs remotely from just about anywhere. As a business leader, this makes it easier than ever to grow your business globally. With enough capital and a few clicks, you can have eyes, ears, and warehouses all over the world.
Growing your business beyond borders can mean a few different things, from outsourcing staffing to introducing your product abroad. Maybe your country lacks the tech talent to innovate your app, so you want to hire experts with PhDs overseas. Perhaps diet trends are killing your artisanal cookie’s popularity, so you want to try exporting to a more carb-friendly country. Here are a few keys strategies to keep in mind however — and wherever — you choose to grow your business globally.
Let Someone Else Handle Your Overseas HR
Hiring employees across borders can bring with it a host of challenges. Employment laws — like those involving salary requirements, termination, and sick pay — vary widely from country to country. Calculating taxes and paying workers on time and in their local currency can pose logistical and technological hurdles. You may also want or need to provide healthcare and other benefits, which carry their own set of complications.
Your current team might not have the expertise necessary to tackle all the nuances of hiring global talent. You’ll need HR, legal, and accounting staff with in-depth local knowledge of each country your workers call home. Many companies delegate these responsibilities to an intermediary called an Employer of Record. An EOR serves as the official employer of a company’s overseas workers, handling payroll, local regulatory issues, and more.
Adapt to New Languages and Cultures
When you bring your business abroad, you need to make sure your product or service makes sense for each country. You can’t just translate everything to a new language and call it a day. You’ll need market research to make sure what you’re offering is in demand and culturally appropriate. Then you’ll need localization experts to adapt your product and brand messaging to avoid awkward translations or local faux pas.
You’ll also need to plan for differences in local customs that affect how employees and clients interact in each country. For example, in Latin America, punctuality doesn’t carry the same importance as in the U.S. or Germany. In some countries, employees might greet each other with a bow or kiss on the cheek instead of a handshake. Respecting local customs and cultures can go a long way toward your company’s success in expanding abroad.
Adopt New Technologies
You’ll need a lot of different technology solutions to work effectively across borders. The good news is your team is probably already using at least some of them. Make sure you’ve invested in good project management software to stay on top of tasks without unnecessary meetings and calls. Use chat solutions like Slack to bridge non-language-related communication gaps and give employees a low-stress way to check in. You can check out the Edulize for more useful tips such as this one.
Consider real-time translation software to subtitle meetings or help remote workers in different countries communicate amongst each other. Use high-capacity cloud storage to quickly share files and documents with any member of your team. Be aware that internet speeds may be slower in some countries or electricity might not always be reliable. Consider alternatives to high-bandwidth video conferences — like chat, email, or even WhatsApp voice notes in a pinch.
Work Across Time Zones
In addition to using solid software, you’ll need protocols and etiquette for managing meetings and projects across borders. For instance, make sure you clarify which time zone dictates the final due date of a project. “I need it by end-of-day” could mean something totally different to you in New York versus your employees in Estonia. Likewise, be considerate about meetings and message response times — your midday all-hands meeting might be way beyond your employees’ bedtime.
To accommodate an especially global or fully-remote workforce, you might want to consider more flexible scheduling. This could mean letting employees dictate and track their own hours or deciding not to count their hours at all. You could have mostly asynchronous work schedules, with just a few fixed deadlines, meetings, or client calls. You could also offer staggered start and end times or try shorter work weeks with longer days.
Stay On Top of Local News
When you have employees in multiple countries, some of them might be working from high-conflict regions of the globe. A political crisis could destabilize some of your workers’ lives in an instant. Current events could make it more difficult to travel or get paid, or — justifiably — pull focus away from the job. It’s important to stay on top of current events and remain sensitive to your global workforce’s needs.
Your company might also need to divest from a country or project due to sudden conflict, instability, or unrest. For example, during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, many companies chose to cease operations in Russia. Ukrainian remote employees also needed paychecks, even if they couldn’t continue to work. Consider contingency plans for pulling employees out of risky areas or for compensating staff when working just isn’t an option.
Staying Open and Curious
Taking your business overseas is a complex process, sure to bring many bureaucratic and logistical hurdles. But with the right partnerships, preparation, technology, and research, it doesn’t have to be impossible. A good rule of thumb for overseas expansion is to always look at everything as a lesson. There’s always a new skill to learn when you’re exploring new business opportunities or navigating your way through another culture.