Think you want to go global? 4 tips from a serial entrepreneur

- August 15, 2023 3 MIN READ

Five times young rich-lister, Celebrity Apprentice advisor, founder of Superist – owner of 21 global agency businesses and growing, Nick Bell knows a thing or two about taking a business globally and he shares his top tips with KBB

I first went global about ten years ago, having recognised the opportunity to take what I had built in Australia and adapt our model to overseas markets.

In the early days, expansion was tough. Opening offices in Asia in particular, was a real eye-opener. My market research had shown that this market represented vast commercial opportunities, but heading over there to set up our office and hire staff was nothing like it had been in Australia. It was tough doing business in an entirely different culture, and there was certainly no welcome mat laid out for us. I remember once, early on we didn’t have funds for a fit-out, so I just laid the carpet myself!

Was it hard? You bet. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Each of our offices around the world has been profitable within months, and putting in that extra personal effort has not only shaped me as a person it’s helped me build a workforce of 2,000 across Superist’s stable of 21 agencies around the world.

If you’re a founder looking to go global, here is a selection of my most significant learnings and advice before you get started.

West is best, to start out

Though it’s obviously dependent on your industry, my advice to newcomers in this space is to stick to Western (or at least Westernised) nations in order to test your market first. Adapting to a similar or comparable overseas market is always going to be more straightforward and, therefore, achievable than expanding into an entirely new market with a vastly different culture.

Avoid developing nations altogether. Strict government controls, legal and regulatory complexities, volatile financial markets, and cultural and consumer/behavioural differences mean they’re inherently hard for ‘outsiders’ to do business in.

Do your due diligence and research

Before you set off overseas, explore Australian government incentives to help you expand if you can. Are there any programs or grants that can help you expand internationally?

For example, the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG) is designed to support Australian businesses in promoting their products and services internationally. Austrade provides various services and resources to assist businesses with international expansion, including market insights, export advice, and strategic advice. Or look out for specific grants particular to your industry.

Leveraging local benefits in overseas countries is also a great place to start when choosing a foreign nation in which to set up a new business operation. Ireland offers five years tax relief for startups, for starters.

I’m also inclined to open a small office with a small team ‘on the ground’ to get some revenue going in order to assess what is/isn’t working, what we can offer to the local market, do some marketing, and generate some leads and opportunities before actually investing more money into marketing and expanding the team.

Hire carefully and train thoroughly and with purpose

Since it’s physically impossible for me to maintain a visible presence within the 21 businesses I run at any given time, I employ at least one truly trusted individual to run each office for me.

These team members undergo a rigorous training program for 6-12 months prior to leaving them to manage any business operations on their own. This gives them sufficient time to really know me, and understand the broader business, its processes, and what we are trying to achieve.

Build a sense of belonging

Company culture starts from the top down and the inside out. So making the time to bring people together to build a sense of belonging that is consistent and resonates through your entire organisation is essential.

We recently hosted Superist’s management team at a retreat in Bali, welcoming attendees from Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Austria! We participated in some incredible team-building exercises as well as a lot of fun games and adventurous experiences that both challenged (anyone who’s ever done fire walking, you know what I mean!) and really bonded us as human beings.

Of course, the real highlight for me of our time away was spending time with quality people out of ‘work mode’ and having an opportunity to acknowledge and applaud a bunch of truly like-minded, genuine leaders from all over the world.

For Superist, a long-term investment in culture across the business has meant that despite language and cultural barriers, we’re able to continue to invest in new businesses, further scaling and diversifying Superist’s global network.

If you want to go global too, you can. Just be crystal clear on your vision, be willing to put in the time and effort needed to realise that vision, and make sure you have the funds, resources, or backing you need to make it happen.

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