Middle Market: Go there. Be there.

We want to help guide you in the right direction to expand your business. We are partnering with a wide breadth of individuals and companies that can help you in this process. One of these companies is Plante Moran and one of their specialties is international consulting. In a discussion with Robert Shenton, Managing Partner, and Lou Longo, Partner, Global Services, I asked them for their insight for companies along different stages of international expansion. Some enlightening sentiments surfaced:

OCC: What would be your advice for companies who AREN’T thinking about international expansion but could/should be?

PM: We’re living in a global economy. Growth-oriented companies could be missing huge opportunities if they’re not analyzing the global market and evaluating opportunities for international expansion.

OCC: And for those who ARE just starting to think about expanding internationally?

PM: Do your research, put together a strategy, and actually spend time in the market you’re considering entering into. Having your feet on the ground is the best way to get things started and build the right team who can eventually manage day-to-day operations.

OCC: What about companies have just decided to expand overseas?

PM: If you haven’t already, make sure you have a team of advisors with knowledge and experience in the region that you’re trying to expand into.

OCC: And for those who are having problems expanding internationally?

PM: Spend more time in the region you’re trying to expand into and focus on building new relationships and strengthening existing ones –– especially in Asia where there are several cultural differences and barriers. You need to know the people you’re doing business with, and the best way to do that is through face-to-face interaction.

The overall message Mr. Shenton reinforced is that global expansion is not just about the numbers, but also about protecting the longevity of your business. “Go there. Be there.” This was a motif at our international business forum on June 7th. Every single speaker and panelist echoed the statement that taking time overseas to understand foreign customs is equally if not more important than knowing the schedule of your deliverables to your overseas buyers. As Cathleen Hare, Partner at Plante Moran, stated:

“If you’re expanding your business internationally, you need to physically spend time in the country. Immersing yourself in the culture and spending quality face-to-face time with business contacts is the most effective way to build the relationships that are essential when expanding into a new county. While there can be an endless list of excuses not to get on a plane and go there, there’s a longer list of benefits that being there can provide. Approach these visits with an open mind –– you’ll be amazed at what you can learn and the fun you might have along the way.”