With the advancement of internet technology and cloud software, global connectivity has never been easier. In the past it seemed that for a business to have an international team they needed to be a large enterprise and this form of global presence was too far out of reach for a startup or SME. However, we are now seeing more and more smaller businesses operate on an international scale, despite their limited infrastructure, adopting the perspective of 'thinking globally and acting locally'.
Running a business across multiple international markets presents a number of significant challenges; from effective time management to ensuring the teams are working efficiently. In order to overcome these hurdles, business owners must have the right strategies and software in place to ensure that the company is operating effectively on a global scale.
One of the most obvious obstacles of having multiple teams in different markets is the time difference between each location. Communicating with a team four hours ahead and another that is five hours behind can mean that the idea of working 24/7 may not seem too much of a stretch.
However, the solution isn't to just accept that there aren't enough hours in the day. Instead you should consider how you are utilising that time effectively? I run teams across multiple markets and typically coordinate my days to suit the various time zones. For example, I wake at 4:30 am to focus on my Asian businesses first thing in the morning and then my businesses in the UK and Europe in the afternoon before concentrating on the US markets in the evening. Some people might be put off by the idea of such an early wake up call but if you truly love what you do, it can make those early starts worth it.
This notion of time shifting is becoming much more common amongst business owners who are abandoning regular working hours to accommodate their international clients and teams; integrating calls and emails throughout their day. Being able to allocate and prioritise your time will ensure you get the most out of your endeavours, but also mean you're not working 24 hours a day to achieve maximum output.
Of course, it is important that your teams, service providers and clients know that you are in a different timezone to them so they don't expect you to be on call all day long. However, one way you can alleviate some of this stress is to have quality second tier management on board to facilitate the day-to-day running of the business so you can focus on the wider strategic decision making. Again, the key is to use your time effectively and work smarter, not longer.
Bringing the right people on board will enable smooth running of your business and it's important to have somebody you trust to manage the team and be responsible for its daily operations. Finding quality second tier management will allow you to address the challenge of coordinating your international teams. After all, trying to micro-manage a team that is eight hours behind will only lead to more stress.
Additionally, you can rely on your management to have a better understanding of the local market which is often an obstacle for a newly expanded business. Many entrepreneurs choose to go into a new market because they recognise the monetary opportunity but lack an adequate knowledge of how business is conducted in that region.
Running a business that operates across multiple time zones is no easy task. However, it can be incredibly rewarding knowing that you not only own a successful company but one that has an international presence. Whilst collaboration tools such as Skype and cloud services make managing different teams easier, you should never underestimate the value of being face-to-face with your team and therefore invest in visiting each location once or twice a year and hiring a non executive Director to oversee operations if need be.
Running an international business doesn't mean you need to stay up all night waiting for people to reply to emails and you shouldn't expect your team to do the same. You simply need an effective communication strategy in place, the right management and the ability to stick to plan.