1. Start your European expansion by conducting a market study and a feasibility study
A business plan that works perfectly in Asia or the US does not always suit the European market, and it is easy to underestimate administrative procedures and the need for regulatory compliance. Thorough preparation of the launch phase can avoid many disappointments and setbacks later on.
2. Choose a location where you can easily do business
Assess the administrative and business languages used, the availability of local support services and the responsiveness and efficiency of public institutions. If you are impacted by EU regulations, choose a location where it is easy to obtain all the necessary information.
3. Understand European consumer behaviour and retail structures
Consumer behaviour, public spending and the industrial landscape vary significantly in different parts of Europe. The retail structure also differs from country to country.
4. Don’t underestimate the time needed for administrative and practical procedures
Administrative procedures related to your European expansion such as visa requirements, opening bank accounts and achieving legal compliance may take more time than you initially expect.
5. Set up a team that really understands the local context
The EU market is quite heterogeneous with different languages, cultures and regulatory differences in some fields. Building a team that fully understands the European marketplace and has the right networks is indispensable.
6. Sometimes it is better to start in a smaller market that you can use as a testbed
It is not a given that products proven in markets elsewhere in the world will fit the EU market. Sometimes, rather than setting up your first office in a large EU country, it can be a better option to start in a smaller market where you can test and adapt your offering to European requirements.
7. Get involved with the local community
Being known by the local business community is essential to get recommendations and connect with business decision centres. Don’t only focus on your daily business operation – attend networking events, conferences and so on to connect with the right people.
8. Choose a place where you feel comfortable
Choose a place that feels right – not only for the European expansion of your business, but for you. If you don’t feel at home, the risk is that you will give up in spite of favourable conditions for your company. On the other hand, when the match is right, you have found the right base for long-term success.
9. Ask for help – it is available
Finding and getting access to key decision makers is often very complicated when you come to a new country. Do ask for help – it is there, so there is no reason to do it all alone.
Based on interviews about the European expansion of international companies with Tania Berchem (Luxembourg Trade and Investment Office in Taipei), David Foy (Luxinnovation), Brice Lecoustey (EY Luxembourg), James Monnat (Foundry Europe) and Leesa Soulodre (R3i Ventures) for Crossroads Magazine.