When Walmart and Target decided to expand overseas and approach the Eurasian market, they rapidly learned one important lesson: it takes a lot more than planting a flag to build a global market. The reason for this is straightforward. Foreign waters, as appealing as they might be, can’t be sailed in the same boat as home waters. In other words, there are unavoidable cultural differences that a company has to acknowledge and understand to make the most of the foreign potential.

This means that employees, investors and customers can’t respond to their own national expectations and behavioral patterns. Because they are an integral part of another cultural environment, their behavior must match the requirements and customs of their environment.

It’s as the proverb goes; when in Rome, do as the Romans do. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from swimming in foreign waters. On the contrary, if you are dedicated to respect and work with the divergences, then you can safely sail your ship away from hidden rocks and stormy weather and into the realm of foreign growth.

sailing foreign waters

Sailing foreign waters

Welcome a different work approach from international colleagues

You don’t need to define a big expansion strategy to gain benefits from overseas. Indeed, the constant presence of non-native workplace brings a sense of renewal and new perspectives to the workplace. Admittedly, you can’t build an effective team strategy if your employees don’t have adequate English speaking skills. Thankfully, though, most Millennials are used to relying on English as part of their everyday digital activities. Additionally, they can also rely on qualified tutoring to bring them up to speed with the natives. 

More importantly, a multinational team can be extremely advantageous in your approach to projects, challenges and work organization. People from different cultures work differently and think differently about the same issues. For instance, German employees work fewer hours in comparison to American staff, but they are more productive. Presumably, their attitude towards working presence is not comparable to that of a US team.

NikeRespect the new markets. 

Small businesses that decide to approach an international market can get lost in cultural transitions. While there’s a budget dedicated to translating content, some companies continue to ignore the impact of cultural values. For example, China banned a Nike ad showing LeBron in a battle with Kung Fu masters because it was judged insulting to the country. In other words, get a crash culture course before you decide to internationalize your marketing material.

Nike shoes

Discover a new business potential

Testing foreign waters can be a saving grace for your business survival if those waters are entrepreneur-friendly. Say you’re looking for a cost-effective way of running your business. Relocation or outsourcing abroad could be the answer. Countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Denmark, or even Thailand are great places for you to start a business at a low cost. Beware of the specific business acts of each location, though, as you don’t want to commit any legal faux pas.  

In conclusion, there is plenty to gain from sailing the foreign waters. From bringing a new perspective to setting a cost-effective business, sometimes the grass is indeed greener across the border.