Have Business, Will Travel: How To Take Your Small Business Overseas

Posted on Sep 6 2013 - 1:06pm by Editorial Staff


If you’re a small business owner, you’ve probably heard a bit about the benefits of headquartering your business overseas. Entrepreneurial gurus like Tim Ferriss and Chris Guillebeau have long touted the advantages of an overseas lifestyle, including lower costs of living, lower payroll, lower production costs, and the benefits of living in a culture that isn’t so focused on the rat race.

In return, numerous small businesses, such as Zestee, have successfully made the overseas transition. Both businesses that require a large amount of production and shipping, as well as internet content businesses that primarily sell e-products, benefit from the move.

If you want to explore overseas options, here’s what you need to know before getting started.

Get a good lawyer and a good CPA

Small business owners have it hard enough, trying to manage sales tax, payroll tax and estimated quarterly tax. Adding in the financial obligations of an overseas business is far more than you are prepared to manage alone. Talk to a business lawyer and a CPA to make sure you stay on the right side of the law and of the IRS – the last thing you want is to lose your business because you forgot to fill out a form or pay a tax.

Decide whether you’re going to move with your business

There are two ways of running a business overseas. The first way is the one that you’re probably thinking of: you pack up, move to Singapore or Delhi or a tiny island in the South Pacific, and use the Internet to run your business the same way you’ve always done, except from somewhere else.

However, this isn’t the only way to reap the advantages of moving your business overseas. In fact, moving with your business may not be the best choice for you, either because you have family or connections in the United States or because you don’t want to go through the process of securing work visas and other permits.

Instead, follow many entrepreneurs’ leads and work with a team of outsourced employees and virtual assistants. Many small businesses, especially ones that operate primarily online, can be easily managed through third-party virtual teams like Brickwork India. The best part of working with a third-party company is that they help you with the legal work required to hire and pay overseas employees.

Pro tip: Frugal Entrepreneur has a thorough overview of the pros and cons of hiring overseas virtual assistants, as well as frequently asked questions about the process.

Get a professional moving team

If you’re transporting physical items overseas, like product inventory or company servers, you need a moving team that specializes in international business moves. You don’t want to show up at the border of a foreign country with a truck full of widgets and computers; they literally won’t let you through customs.

Instead, look into international moving companies that are designed to locate real estate for your business and safely, legally move your business property overseas. If you choose to move with your business, these companies are ready to help you find a new apartment, as well as find a job for your spouse and schools for your children.

Be prepared for culture shock

Whether you’re in-country or running your business from the US, be prepared for some new lessons in global culture. As a manager, you need to find ways of communicating with your employees that show the correct level of respect and deference – few cultures are as blunt or critical as the typical American.

You also need to manage working across multiple time zones, and understanding that most other countries have shorter workweeks and more paid holidays than America offers its employees. This is often a particular culture shock for internet entrepreneurs used to working at any time of the day or night; your employees are not going to be on call whenever you need them, and you’ll have to manage your own time appropriately to get things done.

If you’re ready for the advantages of taking your business overseas, follow these steps to get started. Although there are some initial start-up costs, once your business is fully set up abroad you begin reaping the advantages of lower costs in nearly every area. This means more profits for you and better long-term health for your business.

Have you moved part or all of your business abroad? Have you hired overseas virtual assistants? What advice would you offer to other small business owners? Let us know in the comments.

Photo Credit: Flickr/plantoo47

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Editorial Staff at I2Mag is a team of subject experts.