If you're a retail business owner who is looking to expand to Europe, you're in for an exciting but challenging journey. Every European country has its own unique set of laws and cultural norms, so you must do your research before making any decisions. In this blog post, we'll provide some tips on how to succeed in a new market and avoid common mistakes made by expanding businesses.
For the purposes of this article, we're specifically looking at small retail businesses that may have seen success selling their products in the United States and are now looking for a new market to expand into. This isn't going to be an easy journey but it can be a fun one that will hopefully fuel your success as well as allow you to see things from a new perspective.
Why Are You Wanting To Expand Your Business To Europe?
The first question you should ask yourself is why you want to expand your business to Europe in the first place. What are your goals and objectives? Are you looking for a new market because you're unhappy with how things are going in the United States? Or are you simply looking for an opportunity to grow your business and reach a new group of customers?
There's no wrong answer here, but you must have a clear understanding of your motives before moving forward. Once you know why you're expanding, it will be easier to make decisions about which European country or city makes the most sense for your business.
For instance, if you are an artist looking to open an art gallery in a cosmopolitan city with plenty of people visiting from all over the world, there are some incredible options to pick from. You could even test the waters by opening a temporary gallery in one of these Amsterdam pop up spaces so you don't have to worry about long-term leases and then realize it was a bad idea.
On the other hand, if your motivation to move is based on seeing shows like Emily in Paris and thinking that having a PR firm in the city of lights sounds amazing ... well maybe you should spend a bit more time developing your plans before deciding to cross the pond!
It Is Important To Pick The Right Country
There are a lot of things to consider when trying to decide which European country is the best fit for your business.
Here are some factors you should take into account:
- The size of the market: You'll want to make sure there's enough demand for your product or service in the country you're considering. Do some market research to get a better understanding of the potential customer base.
- The legal and regulatory environment: While Americans think of "Europe" as a single entity, it is still very much a collection of affiliated states, even more so than in the United States. Every country has its own unique set of laws and regulations, so you must understand what you're getting yourself into before making any decisions. It would be wise to consult with a lawyer who specializes in international law to make sure you're complying with all applicable regulations.
- The cultural climate: This is an important factor to consider if you're selling products or services that are culturally specific. Not only is this important in terms of selling products but also understanding the people who will be working for you to make your business successful.
- The cost of doing business: This is an important consideration for any business, but it's especially important when expanding to a new market. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the costs associated with setting up shop in the country you're considering so there are no surprises down the road. This is why it is so important to work with a consultant who understands the local business environment and can help you avoid making unnecessary mistakes.
Picking the right country is crucial to the success of your expansion plans. Do your homework and make sure you understand all of the factors involved before making any decisions.
Most Europeans Speak English - You Need To Learn Theirs Too
This is something that too many American tourists forget when they visit and it is even more important to remember if you want to be part of a new community. You must make an effort to learn the local language when expanding your business to a new European market.
Not only will this make it easier for you to communicate with potential customers, but it will also show locals that you care about their community. People are always more likely to do business with someone who makes an effort to understand them and their culture.
Understanding Unique Cultural Traditions
When expanding your business to a new country, it is also important to be aware of and respectful of the local customs and traditions.
For instance, in many European countries, it is considered rude to arrive late for a meeting or appointment. This may seem like a small thing but if you're constantly showing up late, it will reflect poorly on your business.
Another example of business traditions that differ from the United States is how Europeans dress. This is especially true for Americans that move to Europe from states like California or Florida where jeans and tee shirts are often acceptable in most offices. This is the opposite for most European workplaces and even when formal business wear isn't required, you will find in certain places like Paris and Milan that people dress much more fashionable and deliberate compared to most Americans who are used to just throwing on a pair of pants and a shirt.
These cultural traditions aren't just about being formal at work though. For instance, in Spain it is still common for most people to take a mid-day break. This used to be for going home and taking a nap during the hottest time of day but today this isn't always the case.
Similarly, while most Americans might take a long weekend or even a week-long vacation at different times of the year - in France, they have a tradition of Les Grandes Vacances. French workers have a mandatory five weeks of vacation time per year and during July and August, nearly everyone in the country takes 1 or more weeks of vacation time.
If you had decided to move your business to Paris in May and didn't expect this, it could be quite a disruption to your plans! However, if you were an artist and decided to spend 2 months in a French resort town or another tourist part of Europe where the French go, this might be the perfect time to set up a pop up shop and build more awareness for your craft in the French market.
Taking the time to learn about and understand the local culture will go a long way in helping you successfully expand your business into a new European market.
Reach Out To Expat Communities Before Your Make Your Move
If you're thinking about making a move to Europe for your business, it's a good idea to reach out to the ex-pat community before you make any decisions.
There are many online resources and forums where you can connect with other Americans that have already made the move. These people can be a wealth of information and can help you avoid making some of the same mistakes they may have made when they first arrived.
In addition to connecting with other ex-pats, it is also important to connect with locals in the country or city you're considering moving to. Attend meetups, join local organizations, and just try to get out there and meet as many people as possible.
Not only will this help give you a better understanding of the culture and what it's like to live there, but you might also make some valuable connections that can help you in your business.
You Don't Want To Do This Alone - Get Help From Experts
While the ex-pat community can be a great resource to get your questions answered, it is also a good idea to hire a consultant to help you navigate issues such as taxes, legal items, and import / export processes.
Many consultants specialize in helping businesses expand into new markets and they can be a valuable asset to have on your team.
Be Patient And Stay Positive!
One of the most important things to remember when expanding your business into a new market is to be patient and stay positive!
Rome wasn't built in a day and it will take time for you to get your business up and running smoothly in a new country. There will undoubtedly be some bumps along the way but if you can keep your head up and stay focused on your goals, you will be successful.
These are just a few tips to keep in mind if you're thinking about expanding your business into Europe. Do your research, connect with others, and don't give up on your dreams! With hard work and determination, anything is possible.