Have you been thinking of setting up a branch in the US? Traditionally viewed as the land of opportunity, it still has a lot to offer, and if you want to expand internationally it’s easier than beginning with a country where there’s a language barrier. UK and US consumers have a lot in common, but you’ll still need to overcome some challenges if you’re going to succeed.
The big challenges
Setting up abroad means having to deal with a whole new set of laws and regulations. In the US, they vary by state, county and city, so you’ll need to be specific to your location. You’ll also have to adjust your accounting methods to meet international standards and the specifics of each region where you open a branch. You’ll also need to get your head around the different ways in which supply chains work and intersect, with very few sectors mapping neatly onto their British equivalents.
One of the simplest ways to get acquainted with US procedures is to team up with somebody already based there. That could mean a formal business partnership, it could mean bringing in skilled US personnel at a senior level or it could mean a mentoring arrangement. Often investors are willing to make themselves available as mentors and lend their expertise as well as money. The trick is not to rush such an arrangement but to take time, before anything is set in stone, to discuss the situation and work out how viable your proposals really are.
Getting established in the US normally begins with buying or leasing premises there, recruiting staff and purchasing equipment. To do that you’ll need to arrange a UK to USA money transfer and make sure you’ve taken into account related tax issues. You’ll also need to arrange visas and work permits for any British staff you’re sending over there.
Research and marketing
A big mistake many British businesses make when opening US branches is to assume that things are sufficiently culturally similar that US consumers will be happy to buy UK products or services marketed in the same way as they are in the UK. In fact, that doesn’t even apply in different states. To avoid a disaster you’ll need to conduct a whole new market research programme and adjust your promotional strategy accordingly.
Establishing sales pathways
With all of the above in mind, the single most important thing you need to do before pouring money into your new venture is to ensure that you have identified clear sales pathways through which to secure returns. Just like when you were starting up your company the first time, this will enable you to run the numbers on a year’s projected profit and loss, helping you to get a realistic picture of what you can afford to invest and how long you can expect it to take before you’re able to turn a profit.
If you have a product or service with the potential to appeal to Americans, and you’re diligent about each of these steps, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make a success of your international expansion.