By: Philippe (Phil) Jafflin & JP Kalmeijer

Companies may gain confidence as they grow domestically but this success does not often translate internationally. What business ingredients should be present to ensure they experience a successful service or product launch abroad?

In order to reap the rewards of rapid and profitable growth, companies who develop internationally (whether via a product or a service) will most likely have all three critical legs of the stool of success present.

  • Leg 1: People (the strength of the team).
  • Leg 2: Intelligence (the knowledge of understanding).
  • Leg 3: Action (activity to get results).

The legs of the stool of success are held in place by planning, leadership, and culture.

Intelligence: The success of the new venture is directly linked to the level of acquired intelligence. It is mind-boggling how many businesses embark on very costly development projects with partial or no understanding of the marketplace and its critical success factors. What does the competitive playing field look like? Why is your company’s proposition better (in this case, ‘as good as’ does not suffice) than the established market players? Going in based on the conviction that you will be successful because you are #1 in your home market, almost certainly, guarantees failure.

People: The success of the new venture is directly linked to the quality of people and strength of the team. Do not rely on the ‘lone ranger’ approach. Many of the young, ambitious executives send out to spearhead new ventures are left to drift without the much needed support. Don’t rely on the ‘whiz kid’ – the local superstar with the deep Rolodex without affinity for the passion and culture of the company to grow the business abroad. Take the time to build and invest in a balanced team, transfer the values, and adapt to the local culture.

Action: The new venture’s success will heavily depend upon the details of your action plan. Do not confuse export sales with business development; the domestic success formula you currently use will not provide the same results. Also, do not confuse the entrepreneurial spirit with just ‘winging it’.

These 3 legs do not hold up the stool of success without the proverbial glue of leadership, culture and planning.

  • Link the intelligence you have gathered with focused action through detailed but flexible planning. “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.’
  • Connect the action plan with the team through inspiring leadership: the C-level executives must embody purpose, passion, and perseverance for the international venture.
  • Understand the local culture and adapt to it without compromising the corporate values. Never catch yourself saying, ‘that is not the way we do it’.

In summary, make the time and investment to acquire knowledge, train the right people and plan for success. Some last and simple advice, never be afraid to take advice.

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