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Expanding In the US: Choosing the Right Place For Your Business

expanding in US, Irish business, costs, locationOne of the common topics that come up with the Irish business owners or managing directors I speak with is just where in the US to set up their business. Common themes are familiarity with a part of the US where they studied or worked years ago, wanting to be near hubs of a particular industry or a place that holds resonance or romance (New York and Boston get mentioned a lot!). Noticing a trend or under-served market is only the beginning. Choosing the right place for your business will support how your business grows as well as how your employees develop. This segment of your planning is an important part of the expansion process.

What is most important?

Underneath it all, the location you pick has to be consistent with the vision and goals in your business plan. There are a few things to consider as you settle on the best place for your expanding business.

  • Infrastructure: This is a major consideration. Evaluate your access to established warehouse, lab or retail space, the ability to ship easily (highways, railways, water and air) and other similar companies in your or complementary industries.  You may even want to note the specialties of local universities, entrepreneurial/innovative communities, strategic alliances or partners and/or the investor community.
  • Costs: It is a good idea to get a sense of what labor, renting or buying property and proximity of  supplies might cost in each location that you are considering. Also learn about business taxes, income taxes and other start up expenses for each potential area. It is worthwhile to compare the incentives offered at the state and local level (many towns and cities in the US are competitively looking for companies).
  • Customers: You can discover this through market research. Locating close to actual and potential customers will aid in networking and customer service.
  • Hiring locals: Besides becoming aware of the specialties of local universities, you may need to know what costs are involved in attracting employees. Certain industries attract people to settle in specific area so certain skill sets are readily available. Assess whether it makes sense to have expats or locally-based staff for compliance with employment and immigration laws.
  • Ease of travel (home and nationally): Being near major roadways and airports will support your access to customers everywhere. Also, it may make a difference when you (or any expats) want to get home without a lot of hassle or expense.
  • Quality of life: As you acclimate to the US, there are times when you are going to feel homesick and want the tastes or sounds of home. Check the area for groups from your home country and restaurants that serve authentic food. Also learn about the various residential areas (like anywhere, US cities and/or towns can vary in wealth), the cost to rent or own, cost of living and how easy it is to buy groceries, send children to school and recreational activities.

These are just a few of the considerations you will have as you look at all of the places you might settle your business in the US.

Professional help makes the path smoother

There are a lot of details to arrange. It may make sense to work with a trade organization (such as Enterprise Ireland) or a consultant who specializes in connecting companies with the necessary resources (something akin to a concierge and advocate).  It may even suit your purposes to work with both. Having someone based in your desired area sets you and your company to work with more appropriate resources. While you could do all of this on your own, time zones and frequent travel will not only get in the way of what you do best but could open you up to greater expense. Keep in mind that each region of the US has its own quirks- accents, idioms and customs. Working with a well-connected  professional can help you put real numbers and deadlines into your business plan plus introduce you to the resources you might want or need.

Choosing the Right Place For Your Business

Expanding in the US is an exciting process and can even be fun as you meet new people who are excited and interested in your business. Everyone may express an eagerness for you to choose their particular location. However, the process of evaluating each location to see if it is the best place for your organization must be more than a feel-good exercise. Combining the hearts and minds of your and your team will help you decide if your desired location supports your vision and business goals.

Related articles: Irish SME Owners…Introductory Post About Growing In the US

6 Ways SME Leader’s Role Changes When Growing Internationally

8 Tips for Expanding In the US For Irish Small Businesses

 

 

 

 

 

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Irish SME Owners…Introductory Post About Growing in US

Sometimes synchronicity is there for inspiration! Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Stuart Allcock of Applied Business Support (he is based in Ireland) and arranging with him to exchange posts. At the same time, I began working with an Irish SME who is ready to expand actively in the US. Knowing the kinds of details that just seem to pile up as a company seeks a physical presence here in the US, it made sense to write an introductory post. Sure…you know you are looking for customers but what else do you need to do at the same time?

Here is the link to my post on Stuart’s website: Keys To Growing Your Business In the US – Where To Start

(While the post is written for Irish SME owners and executives, the information is certainly appropriate for other SME’s from around the world. )

If you missed it, check out Stuart’s post about exporting to the EU: Starting Exporting To Europe – Planning It Out

As always…if you have questions about expanding here in the US, please take a look at my services page,  Expanding In the US and let’s talk. All initial consultations are complimentary as it is my intention to make your expansion here as smooth as possible.

Related content: 8 Tips For Expanding in US for Irish Small Businesses

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8 Tips For Expanding in US for Irish Small Businesses

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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