Taking your small business international

There’s no doubt that the world is getting smaller, and doing international business is no longer just the domain of big conglomerates and huge corporations. As achievable as it is, breaking into international markets isn’t necessarily easy, and we’ve encountered our own challenges as a start up expanding through Asia – but we’ve also learned a lot of lessons.

Firstly, regardless of the size of your business, keeping up to date with financial technology is imperative for not only increased efficiencies, but to enable your company to scale up. As the world gets smaller, more and more businesses are looking to international markets to grow and expand, and operating with our neighbours in Asia in particular is becoming a realistic goal for many Australian businesses. However, transacting with internationals has historically added another layer of complexity to an already loaded minefield of cultural unknowns.

For this reason, regardless of which market you’re looking to break into, it’s crucial that you take the time to understand the cultural nuances of it. For us, we had to address the need to be accessible and present for our Asian customers at all times. There’s no concept of 9-5 in Asia, and to effectively do global business, you need to be able to provide solutions at the time that your clients or customers need them.

With this in mind, you also need to have a clear understanding of the problems you’re solving for your customers. Make sure you understand your product and market fit, and make sure that your offering is adapted if necessary, without losing your focus. Finding common problems that your business can solve, rather than becoming a bespoke provider, will broaden your market as well as making your life easier.

Although it may seem a large undertaking, investing in a local office and in hiring and developing the right people to service the market is also imperative. A drag and drop approach often isn’t effective if you really want to succeed in international markets. This way of establishing yourself in a market with help you to build trust with regulators and key stakeholders through demonstrating local knowledge of regulation and process – and the more people you have on your side, the more likely you are to succeed!

Lucy Liu, Co-Founder and COO, Airwallex

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