Tips for Overseas Business Expansion

Expanding small businesses overseas can be a risky business, but with cities like Dubai performing well economically in terms of trade and tourism at the moment, the UAE could be the place to do it. Head of the Dubai Economic Sector Committee recently stated that growth in GDP for this emirate is expected to be more than 4.5% in 2012, despite its problems with debt and a declining construction industry. What’s more UAE economy minister, Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, has a positive outlook for the emirates as a whole, predicting GDP growth expansion of around 3%.

Before considering a new market, small business owners should always take some time to carry out extensive research – this will increase entrepreneurs’ chances of success hugely. Examining how competitors perform in any chosen Middle Eastern market is a good place to start. Look at those who offer the same or similar services and see how they have been received. It is generally easy to discover useful data online. Contacts can also be used wisely to great effect and small business owners can turn to others they know who have expanded internationally.

One important consideration to keep in mind is that western business practices cannot simply be transplanted overseas. Understanding social and business cultures is key and the only way to really achieve this is by taking a trip to any given location. Spending time with other professionals can yield good insights through the exchange of ideas, while enabling first-hand experience in the business climate of any given emirate.

Language and religion are very important in daily life in the UAE and it will impress others if business owners can demonstrate that they have taken the time to learn a little about these. Arabic is the official language although English is used widely for communication in both trade and commerce in the major cities such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. Demonstrating even a basic knowledge of Arabic can lead to greater respect, highlighting that this is not just another business deal but rather an important relationship to be nurtured.

Those considering expansion should additionally be patient when it comes to negotiations and body language – business communication is not always carried out in the same manner that westerners might be used to, so take time to appreciate the differences, consider requests carefully and do not be surprised if metaphors, stories and generalities are used. What is important is that all around the table fully understand the actions and results of meetings and that there are no misconceptions.

Once you decide to move into a new market, there are many business banking services which can aid you in setting up. Consider online banking, or take some time to research a UAE bank, which can provide everything from free cash and cheque transactions to preferential rates on forex transactions in a variety of currencies. What’s more, phone banking services can usually be set up to make life easier if you are travelling around a fair bit on business.

Overall, small business owners should start with a few smaller deals to work out who is serious about doing business with their company, ensuring that money changes hands successfully and clients are happy before moving to larger projects. Expanding into international markets can be incredibly rewarding, so take the time to do relevant homework first.

This helpful article was sponsored by HSBC.

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