It’s one thing to successfully set up a branch of your business overseas, find suppliers and start selling your products and services to a new market, but how do you keep it all running smoothly? It’s easy for business owners to focus on the big issues and miss the small ones. When overseas business branches fail, it’s often due to failures in day to day business operations – the routine activities that turn work into money. Supervising this at a distance can be difficult. The following tips can help.
How can you keep track of day to day production processes at a distance? Traditionally this has been done in two ways: by setting targets and by soliciting frequent reports. That, however, can itself place an additional burden on staff. Today, using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software allows much of it to be automated, making it easier for you to follow what’s going on in detail. What you won’t be able to monitor in this way, however, is HR, so you’ll need skilled onsite management you can trust to keep you informed of any problems.
Even with ERP software to streamline interactions, you can’t run your overseas operations as if they were simply an extension of your local ones because you’ll have different legal, financial and cultural issues to deal with. That means it’s essential to have a good relationship with the lawyers who support your foreign branch(es) and to ensure that you’re promptly informed of any complications. Your lawyers will be able to help you adapt your company policies to meet foreign requirements, and they can also help to ensure that those policies continue to be implemented properly.
When running an overseas operation, it’s essential to have an in-situ finance officer or finance department you can rely on for auditing, general accountancy and other requirements that need to be tailored to local regulations. You’ll also need to ensure that cash injections from the main body of your business can be managed smoothly – and without egregious fees – for as long as required. The best way to do this is usually through international money transfers, which you can handle as one-offs or automate for a set period.
Supply chain management
Once you have established reliable suppliers for your overseas production, it can be tempting to sit back and relax, however, you won’t be able to maintain a competitive advantage over companies run by locals there unless you can continually keep an eye out for better deals. Some of that can be done online or through trade journals, but you’ll also need branch staff to be your eyes and ears, letting you know when new possibilities emerge and giving you the background knowledge, you need to assess them effectively.
Although outsourcing to people on the ground is vital, expanding overseas inevitably means that you will have more day to day supervisory work to do yourself, so this is the time to assess where you could step back a bit from hands-on work at your main office to put you in a better position to oversee all of your company’s activities.