Running your overseas business from America can pose some unique challenges. These complications can be compounded if English is not the operative language in your country of business. Those who overcome these hurdles enjoy the best of both worlds – a US lifestyle alongside a robust inflow of income from a foreign business.
Establishing a business abroad does require some initial travel. You may need to take multiple trips to your target market and even have to stay abroad for extended periods. Once you’ve done your research, understood the market, ironed out your strategy and hired some reliable personnel you’ll be ready to setup shop. Before you can start operating though, as a foreigner, you’ll be expected to comply with formalities related to permits and taxation. Most countries will also require you to obtain a specialized visa which will be classified under investment, business or work. The visa category will depend on the country and the type of business you want to run.
Once your business abroad is up and running you may be able to automate portions of it. However, be prepared to take occasional trips overseas to ensure the continued success and growth of your business abroad. In the course of managing your business from US soil you may find yourself addressing the following issues.
Bridging the demographic rift
Assuming you’ve bypassed the lingual challenges by setting up in an Anglophone country, you’ll still need to address cultural asymmetries. Moreover the time zone contrast could be considerable. For example the time zones in London and California differ by eight hours. Be prepared to manage your overseas employees during hours which may seem unusual by US convention.
Regulatory and personnel matters
Effective delegation is essential to operate your business remotely. As you delegate responsibility, you must also proportionately transfer some authority. This may include giving a dependable overseas employee some power to represent you, to act on your behalf and to make some business decisions. You must find and hire trusted professionals with the requisite skills. This is especially true of domains which may be out of your expertise, primarily local tax law, labor law and other administrative formalities. Hiring certified and experienced local professionals to deal with regulatory matters may greatly help streamline things and make your job simpler. You may also need one or more skilled managers based overseas, depending on how actively you plan to be involved in the daily running of your business.
Managing employees can be demanding enough without the added complication of geographic separation. To manage an overseas business you must establish reliable and effective communication channels. This applies not only to phones and email, but also to postal communication, which is often inevitable. You must also setup secure channels for money transfers which would be necessary to ensure a steady income stream. Moving money across borders on business scales often necessitates elaborately framed mechanisms which should operate in compliance with the laws of both countries. You may be required to prove that your business has a physical presence by registering your business with physical addresses (not merely a PO Box) in both locations.
Business has often been compared to warfare. You will need strong allies in the form of adept channel partners. Having collaborators with skills complementary to yours can be central to the success of your business in a distant geography.
Managing an overseas business online
Some of the challenges of owning and running a business abroad can be mitigated by going online. For example, clear and uniform online branding can help overcome many cultural nuances and improve the acceptance of your products in a foreign culture. Web based payment mechanisms and online currency conversion can simplify most transactional aspects. By transacting online you may also be able to eliminate some middlemen and reach your customers in fewer steps, thereby shortening your lead times and improving profitability. If you can redesign your services such that they can be administered fully or partly online, you can enjoy much more direct control over the end user experience. Depending of you fulfillment model an online business may also largely free you from time zone contrasts.