If your small business is lucky enough to be growing at a rate that means you can start to think about doing business internationally, then you’re probably going to be doing a lot of research in the coming weeks and months. In some cases things are very easy indeed, but in others there are quite a lot of things to think about. Let’s take a look at some of the major considerations you need to make.
If you’re operating across the US, or across the EU, then time zones aren’t going to be much of an issue at all, but if you’re operating from one to the other, you could well only have a few working hours of overlap. This can mean resolving issues takes longer, so be well aware of what you’re getting into. Email replies might happen only once a day for instance. If you’re in B2C, then remember that the customer is still going to demand excellent service; your different time zone shouldn’t affect that, because after all, you’ve chosen to sell in theirs.
If you’re just shipping products elsewhere, directly to a consumer, then it’s usually the responsibility of the buyer to sort out things like import charges and VAT. However, if you’re moving products, services or even people to work in another country, and you’ll be selling out of that country, then there could be all manner of new taxes to think about. Hiring an expert is the best way of getting around this. It’s also worth bearing in mind that customers like to know in advance how much shipping and taxes are likely to be, so keep a record and give them the info that they need.
Different countries have different product regulations that often have to be followed by anyone selling in that country. One good example is children’s toys, which often have to meet strict criteria to be deemed safe. Food is another industry in which a product might be fine for sale in one country, but is subject to entirely new regulations just a few miles over the border. Make sure that you’re fully aware of the rules in any country you’re wanting to do business.
There are many other things that you need to be aware of too – does your insurance provider cover you in other countries (you may need to use a larger company such as Catlin XL)? Do you need language assistance? What does dealing with foreign currency mean? All are questions that need to be answered, but if you can, you’ll make a success of doing business internationally.