Irish small business owners, expanding in the US, exportI was just reading the other day in The Irish Independent that the Irish Export Association changed its forecast from positive to negative. They attributed the contraction to weaker demand in EU and US markets as well as other international markets. It may not sound like the best time to consider doing business in the US but it does give you time to prepare. You already know that preparation is a key piece for growing in your current market. As one of my Irish clients discovered, there are a lot of details when entering the US market. Here are eight tips to make your process smoother.

8 tips for expanding in the US

1. Know “why” – Your reason for expanding in the US is the cornerstone for the effort you will put into this venture. Identify your strategic intent and business goals for why this is a good move for your business. Be sure that you are operating from a sound business reason and not from the extremes of naivete or cynicism.

2. SWOT and/or PESTEL analysis- The US is a big country and, despite some consistent cultural qualities, there are a number of sub-cultures due to geography, ethnicity, race, politics and economic class. Conduct a SWOT analysis to clarify what is going on within your business and a PESTEL (also known as a PEST, PESTLE) analysis to clarify what is going on outside of your business. There may be regulations, demographic trends or other information that you need to know.

3. Do your marketing homework- Americans don’t think or experience emotions like Irish people. As an example, the ads that run on RTE or UTV use different emotional touchpoints than the ones on American television. Even language (even though we all speak English) is used differently. This applies whether you’re selling food, software or medical devices.

4. Hiring/outsourcing- If you decide to hire someone or outsource,  first learn about benefits and legal responsibilities. It may be useful to speak to someone who specializes in human resources to make sure your company doesn’t violate any regulations or laws.

5. Legal entity- It is often necessary to establish a US-based business entity when expanding in the US as it may be more cost-effective, increases options for funding, reduces how much you travel and other considerations. For example, a foreign small business who establishes a legal US-based business entity is eligible for assistance from the US Small Business Administration (the SBA).

6. Work with someone who can help you with the details- The are a number of brokers and organizations that can help you expand in the US. However, many of them require a fee upfront before they help you. Another (and less expensive) option is to work with a non-profit group like The Business Coalition who can provide advisors and/or a liaison for immigration/visas, business law, rental space (offices, manufacturing, living), transportation,  mobile phone companies, explain cultural differences and other business needs during your growth phase.

7. Develop and write a plan that outlines funding, personnel, risks and goals- There are a lot of details to keep straight between the business goals, who is responsible, legal requirements, regulations, schedules and so much more. A written, living document allows you to see progress, benchmarks, accountability and potential problems so you  can respond appropriately.

8. Your role and identity will change- Becoming the owner and/or executive in an international business is a transition for everyone. As you interact with new people who may be from a different country or economic class, it is not unusual to feel as if you are in over your head or are somehow a fraud. Just traveling back and forth will open up experiences that are good and bad. This is where the CEO Mindset will serve you so you can manage your stress, exhibit confidence and adapt to your new status.

Smoother process, less stress

While these tips may not the workload any less, they do provide you with an outline. There will be easy victories and perplexing problems. But it is an exciting venture well worth preparing for so someday you can say, “yes, we serve customers in Ireland and the US.”

*Update as of 8/15/2013- Sometimes things change on both a micro and macro level. This is more the macro level.  The Irish Times reported today that Ireland and the Eurozone emerged from recession during the spring months of 2013. Irish exports played a major role in growing the economy.

image: iStockphoto Andrew Johnson

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and executive coach who guides established small business owners and executives in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US to use the CEO Mindset and be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are re-focusing your small business or expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about growing to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary consultation here.

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