Starting a business is tough. But starting it in a country where you are a stranger and more of a tourist has its pros and cons.
Here are top tips to keep in mind while starting a business in a foreign nation:
- Develop contacts: It’s all about contacts and more contacts baby…whether you wish to sell your stuff, services or to open a new consulting firm. The more people know you, the better and easier it becomes. Start with one and build a network from there.
2. Don’t skip events: Meet-ups and Networking events should be your top priority while you are still building a base in the country and getting to know its culture. While some may be free, spend a dime or two, if you have to, to attend key events and meet people. And don’t forget to follow up by sending them a thank you note or text.
3. Learn the culture: While others such as students and tourists may take time to learn about the country, its etiquettes and culture, you may have to do a crash course. Spend a day or two in a local library reading about the history and culture of the country. The more you learn, the faster you will grow. Or get a part time job to learn about the working culture of the city.
4. Act Local: While its good to cut costs and bootstrap your startup in the early stages, it’s always advisable to act local, eat local and get mobile. If the public transport is great, you don’t need to spend a dime. If not, you might have to buy your own two/four wheeler. Eat local, speak local and drive local. This could be your mantra to get to absorb the new culture. Once absorbed, you could act as a bridge between the two cultures.
5. Pay forward & care: While business could be about cut throat competition and money, this might be time to pay forward before you can reap the results. Make friends, go out and do things for free. Your work may be pro bono but you’ll make great friendships which you may reap later in the years to come.
6. Share office & home: While it may be fancy, to buy your own office, work in a co-working space for a few months, to absorb the vibes of the city and make friends in the business community. It will also save you costs in the months to come, when things could get tight. If you are single, sharing home with a local could be a great way to save money and learn about the city. It will also give you a new family with whom you could share your joys and daily struggles. Sharing offices and homes could be a great way to learn quicker about the place and may be to get your first client.
7. Hire Local: If you have a budget, then hiring an intern or a full time employee/s may not be a bad idea. The locals would understand the culture or the customer better than you. It will also take the daily operations burden off your shoulders to network. Make a lawyer your friend for great advice on the regulations of the land.
8. Family first: If you are moving bases with your family, focus on relationships which may go through a strain. That’s the first strong bond you have to maintain, before you can build another, and another. While bootstrapping your finances and startup, its the strength in your core relationships that will make you over come all.
9. A Daily Health routine: A new place might be amiable to your body or not. The new weather, water and food might take time to be adjusted to. If you are moving to a developing country in Asia and Africa, this might be moved ahead to the top of your priority list. The last thing you can do is defocus from health and make a beeline to the doctors. Focusing on health might be the first step to building a great mind that can overcome all the challenges.
10. Educate yourself: Teach yourself a new skill, attend a vocational course or just read great books. The time spent learning will add value to yourself even as you get your first customer or tweak the business according to the region. Last, but not the least, learn as much about your target customer as you can. Spending time daily in a district where most of your customers operate from, may not be a bad idea.
Above all, have trust in yourself and travel. The most beautiful thing about starting up in a new country is that you don’t bring the legacy baggage and can experiment with a fresh mindset, which sometimes the local entrepreneurs are afraid of.
The other most beautiful thing is that you get to travel and learn. While for other businessmen, each travel or meeting is just rote, for you each experience may be magical.