8 (practical) steps to opening an office in a foreign country » SMEInsider

8 (practical) steps to opening an office in a foreign country

Business taking off? Seeking the next adventure? Perhaps it’s time to look to overseas opportunities. Here’s a step-by-step guide to laying down your first roots on foreign shores.

1. If you’re thinking of expanding overseas, it’s presumably because your product or service is doing well at home. While that’s fantastic news, it’s no guarantee that this will translate into success in another cultural context, so you’ll need to start from scratch when it comes to your market research. The good news is, though, that some products can sell just as well but to very different audiences – so, for example, a product initially designed for teens can take off among young professionals, or vice versa. Try to avoid harbouring preconceptions. Of course, if you already export overseas, you can take a look at your sales trends to get a better idea.

2. Once you’ve drawn up your shortlist, take a look at the official government and trade websites for each country. Here you should find sections specifically about foreign business opportunities, including any incentives on offer for startups and SMEs, or for your particular sector.

3. Now, check the all-important basics for the country or countries that you’re most interested in: immigration rules, finance and tax regulations, employment law and so on. Restrictions on imports or exports are particularly important to know about!

4. Once you’ve picked the cream of the crop, go there! Take time to get a feel for the market, the culture, the kind of communities you’ll be selling into. If you’re selling a product, try to picture where it might fit in on the shelves, and in which shops. Take a detailed look at the competition. This is probably a good time to find out if you’ll need to brush up on any language skills, too.

5. To help you find the right location, track down a decent local property agent. Do your homework to find someone trustworthy, who knows the area and comes highly recommended. If you have contacts in the area, ask their advice.

6. You’ll need to go through the same process to find a local lawyer to handle your contracts once you’ve picked a property to rent or buy.

7. … And again, to find an accountant. It helps to pick someone located near to the new office – you want to make it as easy as possible to see them when you’re there! Make sure that you clearly explain exactly what it is you need from them, and ask as many questions as you can about rules and regulations for the area, particularly on employment.

8. While you wait for the final preparations to be made, take the opportunity to start building your office team. You’ll probably want to tap up some of your best current staff to find out who is willing to make the move to the fledging location, or at the very least to spent time training the local team. That said, local knowledge and expertise will be essential to making the project work, so start putting out feelers now. Recruitment consultations and headhunters, LinkedIn and local networking are all great places to start.


  • Expanding your business overseas shouldn’t always be seen as a daunting process. While it is a big step for any business, through careful research and planning, it’s
    achievable. For me, the foundations of any successful move is the
    infrastructure – is your business built to cope across boundaries? For example,
    communication between head office and the new offices is essential – it may
    sound simple but relying on email sometimes just isn’t enough. Video
    conferencing is becoming increasingly popular. Regardless of boundaries you can
    host meetings as if you’re sat in the same room even if you may be on a mobile
    device, on a site visit or in the office. While of course there are other key
    components to success when opening an office abroad such as the right team and
    market knowledge, businesses need to make sure they have the correct technology
    in place to make sure they can communicate with colleagues regardless of where
    they are.