Taking your small business global

18 June 2020

Expanding your business into a new territory is something many entrepreneurs dream about. It signifies not only success locally, but an opportunity to build the company into a truly multinational enterprise. But how does one go about embarking on such a project and what are the things to be mindful of? Having successfully opened its US office, Cash Flow Capital co-founder and CTO Michail Myburgh provides some invaluable insights.

“We decided a year ago to expand and open an office there. Even though a lot of research went into understanding the market and examining what would be required, nothing prepared us for the reality of going offshore. It really comes down to learning by doing. No amount of theory can prepare you for the reality of any project, especially one as significant as taking your business into a completely new market,” he says.

Myburgh believes that even though some entrepreneurs are waiting for the perfect opportunity to begin their expansion journey, things might never fall into place exactly as they want. It requires a risk and it might pay off or might not. The key thing is to make the move sooner rather than later.

“Entrepreneurs must be willing to adapt to what the new market requires. If they fail, they must learn from that and change accordingly. Even from our side, we made a lot of assumptions about how things would be that were completely wrong. But we adapted and changed our strategy to reflect that.”

One of these lessons was that Cash Flow Capital thought it would still be able to manage the credit process and the call centre offshore. However, the company quickly realised that the US market expected local employees to manage their business. The spin-off to this was that Cash Flow Capital appointed staff who knew the local conditions very well and could facilitate growth very quickly. “Expansion is always a good thing. If we had the choice, we should have made the move much sooner. For small companies, managing such a process is easier than if you are a large corporate more fixed in your ways. Irrespective, it does require a leap of faith and the entrepreneur must be comfortable around the level of risk required.”

Of course, hard work is required but the entrepreneur must push through any negative thoughts and self-doubt and keep at it. If there is no traction for the product or service, examine why that is the case, be honest with yourself, and pivot if needed. From a nuts and bolts perspective, there are a myriad of logistical issues to take care of when entering a new market.

“From our side, my brother gave up his life in South Africa and moved to the US. It is imperative to have people on the ground willing to do whatever it takes in the new market. And those people that make it work, will be a vital part of your business well into the future. We have been fortunate with success in the massive economy that is the US market. But South Africans are good at business and have what it takes to make it anywhere. But it does require commitment and hard work,” he concludes.

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