Who do you need to meet and what should you look out for on an exploratory overseas business trip?
This is the second chapter of Planning an Exploratory Business Trip . You can find Chapter One here.
So you’ve decided where to go, when and how to get there.
Of course, exactly who you best need to meet depends on your business. This is where your consultant in your home country (maybe I or one of my colleagues) will really be able to help — they should know the place themselves, and have contacts there who’ll help you with understanding the culture, assessing the trustworthy and the downright dodgy, and generally sorting the wheat from the chaff. But you can of course organise everything yourself if you want.
You’ll probably want to meet people from the government or its Investment Promotion Authority (IPA), and I’m sure the local Chamber of Commerce will want to meet you. There may also be a British-focused Chamber.
I advise caution, though. Although I’m sure you’ll get good information, they often appear to promote certain companies and individuals that might not necessarily be right for you — or could be expensive options. Spending time in such meetings could easily waste time and disrupt your schedule.
Most importantly, I believe that you need to start by looking for local companies that are in a similar business to yours.
You should aim to set up meetings with two or three of them. If you’re likely to become a competitor, you may have to disguise your intentions, but most will happily answer questions. There’s no better way of learning so much so quickly about the market and the challenges and opportunities you will face.
If you’re thinking of transferring backroom operations or even doing R&D, I suggest you meet a couple of local outsourcing companies.
Even though you’re unlikely to become a customer, it’s the best way of learning how this type of operation works in the country.
You’ll also need to meet some professionals such as accountants and lawyers. It’s best to meet at least two of each, even on your first trip, as you’ll find you get different information (and wildly different prices!) from each. And you’ll need to find one you can work with long term, as you won’t want to be changing in the first year.
My advice is to look for medium size local businesses rather than the big international firms.
You’re more likely to get to see a senior person, get more useful information and you’ll definitely get a better feel for the country and its business culture
If you become a customer, they’ll care about you more — and whichever one you choose will be a lot cheaper!
Now, where and when to meet?
In my opinion, it’s really important that all your meetings should be in the local person’s own office. I know that it’s tempting to accept offers to come to meet at your hotel. First time around, though, that’s a huge risk.
The front person may be totally convincing. But whether you’re going to be a customer, a competitor or associate, you really do need to see what their operation looks like.
I’ve visited offices that were so temporary, the plaque on the door was stuck on with blu-tack, others that were like returning to the dark ages, one that was like meeting the politburo — oh, the stories I could tell…. (well, you’ll find some of them amongst the articles here on GrowInternational).
Next, decide how will you get around between meetings.
Distances and traffic in strange cities can be deceptive. Does the city have Uber, Taxify or an app like that? I’ve done 6 meetings a day in Santiago, but would struggle to do 2 in Mumbai or Cairo.
There’s much more to think about. If you’re thinking of making an exploratory trip and want more suggestions, get in touch with me via our contact page — I’d be happy to help.
Just one closing piece of general advice.
Get out and around the city. Don’t stay in your hotel. See how the locals live. You don’t need to fall in love with the place — but you do need to understand it and see it’s good things.
Thoughts and comments? Leave them below, or get in touch via our contact page.
Remember, international expansion is easier than you think.
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