Managing your business in Europe

Working with partners in different countries

For a small business, it often makes more sense to find a partner in a foreign country than to set up your own office, especially if you do not have a lot of resources. The advantages include:

  • few upfront costs
  • local knowledge - this can help in the sales and marketing of your products
  • pre-existing route to market
  • no need to register a company or submit tax returns in separate countries
  • customer trust

There are various European Union (EU) initiatives designed to help co-operation in different countries.

There are several operational aspects of a cross-border partnership that you should consider, such as:

  • the terms of the contract
  • the targets and objectives
  • the processes that need to be in place
  • how the relationship should be managed
  • how often you need to meet up
  • how you will integrate your IT systems - seeĀ managing your financial systems and integrating your IT systems
  • any issues that may arise from cultural or language differences

Working in different cultures

It is important to understand any cultural differences between the countries where you operate. Several factors can lead to the success - or failure - of your business, such as:

  • Deadlines and payments - the time taken to pay invoices can differ greatly between countries. If long delays are part of the culture you will have to allow for this in your cash flow.
  • Business manners - staff in some countries may work more or less formally than in the UK.
  • Working hours - not all countries work the same business hours as the UK. You may have to be flexible about working hours.

Try to learn as much as possible about the culture and people in any country you operate in. You can also see how other businesses are run and ask questions to ensure your business has every chance of success. You should consider market research for the country you intend to expand into or set up in.