How International Expansion helps you save, turnaround, and grow your struggling professional client service consultancy, design, marcomm, PR, digital or creative agency business (checklist).

Save Turnaround Grow Your Struggling Consultancy Practice Studio Agency Business International Expansion

A twelve-part blog series outlining how to save, turnaround, and grow, your struggling or failing professional client service consultancy, architects practice, design studio, marketing communications (marcomms), PR, digital or creative agency business.

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Total Business Turnaround
Part 12 | International Expansion and
Developing Business Abroad

One of the advantages of tackling new markets abroad is that it allows you to reinvent your business approach, offering a more holistic service overseas and generally being more successful. You will have to be more specific about what you do, of course, but that can only improve your business. 

Before you dive into any new market, you need to do enough market research to understand what is really needed in your target market. That way, you can tailor your marketing efforts so they will do the most good.

However, when you are entering foreign markets, your research needs to encompass far more than just the market. You need to develop knowledge of the culture and the bureaucracy you will have to deal with. 

Appointment and Insurance

Before setting up shop in some new foreign market, you have to take care of a few things first. Begin by extending the geographic limits on your professional indemnity insurance (PII) to include target area, providing the necessary appointment and scope of work documentation when you do.

PII normally only covers your immediate and neighbouring regions, for example UK and the EU, so these regions need to be expanded. Try to use standard forms of appointment, but be mindful that despite your target regions bureaucracy, these forms may be deemed too onerous.

If that is the case, you may have to resort to countersigned letters of authority with accompanying schedules of work and responsibility matrices.

Aspirations and Expectations

Depending on the market, the client may be expecting your innovative new solution to be cheaper than their traditionally produced solution. You need to manage these expectations. It’s a good idea to visit your potential clients, their offices, factories, outlets, and developments, and to take an interest in them regardless of the differences that you may experience.

Your goal should be to introduce new ways of doing things that can give your clients a greater edge over their competition and meet their expectations in ways they may not have considered before. You also need to make sure that the product you are planning on designing or producing in the local target market area can be delivered.

You should have someone skilled and experienced in the local culture and working processes leading the production of your service or product, or construction site.

This is all about building the team. 


Communication here is a key to success. Without it, things will bog down terribly. Remember that the way you do things and the issues you have to deal with at home may not hold true in your client's country.

Some of the things you need to watch out for include illogical or corrupt bureaucracies, conflicting trade rules, client aspirations and expectations, your client's accounting practices, their decision-making processes – even the actual number of clients involved and the consultant team available!

Question everything, including client decisions and requests. It’s best to continually remind the client and his team of the values and aspirations all involved.

Rules and Regulations

Part of your market research should be devoted to fully examining the local and national rules and regulations you will have to abide by when you do business in your foreign market. You do this to give yourself a broad understanding of the issues you’ll face and the processes you’ll need to go through.

Expect conflicts and contradictions. You want to know how strict the rules are, whether they more guidelines or if they are rules that must be followed to the letter. It’s best to try and get written confirmation to proceed with a change, especially if it’s related to a change that is affected by the rules and regulations of that region.

Make sure you have people fluent in the local language. It also is a great help to have a local attorney with command of both your language and his own. 

The Benefit of Competitions

Events and opportunities of this sort promote you as an international business and expose you to judges, clients, consultants, and journalists in your target market.

They also give you relevant material and experience to utilise in your marketing and PR campaigns and they show your flexibility and understanding of different cultures, especially if you win or are placed in them.

Participating in these events demonstrates your interest in the issues faced by your target market and helps to build your authority within your target network. You might even consider these events to be the the beginning of your network.

Attending Conferences

Conferences offer another important PR and marketing opportunity that you should not pass up. Attend, enter awards, and speak at conferences to get your name known. You can be part of a larger group, host an exhibition stand, a party or some other event to help with your networking and socialising.

Be sure to return favours, helping them out with competitions, judging, news items, comments, and seminars. Also, conferences and conventions always receive coverage and you want to take advantage of that. Befriend and network with journalists, publishers and media partners, as they can introduce you to many more people and may be willing to tell your story.

Enter New Markets Through Collaboration

Another way to work your way into a new foreign market is to work as a consultant or team member with a local established company. This will give you valuable experience that you can take to the next project. 

The Dos and Don'ts of International Business 

Here are the lessons, the dos and don'ts we learned while pursuing business in Europe, the UAE and India. They are based on our experiences, but the underlying principles will work wherever you are. They include:

  • Do be prepared to be patient!

  • Do learn how to negotiate fiercely – but work towards win-win results.

  • Do actively seek out contacts you know from your home network.

  • Do make sure that you have someone skilled to run works locally to ensure quality.

  • Don’t assume working in the Middle East is anything like the same as working at home.

  • Don’t ever indicate you can drop your price. Clients like to haggle, so let them work at it.

  • Don’t take it personally when you’re kept waiting for 4 hours, or a verbally agreed contract falls through. It's normal practice. Just make sure you’re aware of the culture and be prepared so it doesn’t throw you off your game.

And many more!