I am the Managing Partner of EB5 Affiliate Network – a national EB-5 visa firm with 2,000+ foreign investors from 60+ countries.
Knowledge and trust are fundamental to developing global business partnerships. In my work with EB-5 partners across the world, I follow these five steps to ensure that we meet our business goals with the help of our global business partners.
1. Research, research, research.
The key to operating in the global business marketplace is knowing your markets. Investing in market research conducted by a local firm is a good first step, but be sure to educate yourself and your leadership team about things such as the geographic location, political and economic forces, social and cultural norms and technological penetration in the target country.
While you should focus on hard data related to economic and political factors such as legislation, fiscal policy and business regulation, don’t overlook the most important facet of any business: people. Understanding local social and cultural norms allows business leaders to account for cultural differences when building relationships with partners and new clients. Strong relationships are built on mutual trust, which can also facilitate risk-taking and business relationships.
From a practical perspective, it’s important to know whether technology solutions are as widely available in the target location as they are at home. Broadband services are not available everywhere, and digital devices are extremely expensive in some regions. This digital divide exists not only among countries but also among regions within a country and people of different ages, income levels and educational levels. In other words, something as simple and readily available as video conferencing might not be available in the target country, which would mean adjusting your communication plan.
2. Develop a clear strategy.
Use the information you gathered during the research phase to establish whether your product or service is likely to be successful in the market you’ve chosen. If so, as part of your expansion strategy, develop a clear strategy for your global business partnerships by defining what you need from these partnerships and how they can help you achieve your goals. What do you need these relationships to look like, and how can you foster success?
Be sure to communicate your expectations and objectives to your global partners. Never assume that everyone understands what you need or want or that they share your goals.
Although an initial strategy is crucial, remember that not only do the markets change but also the needs of your clients and business partners might change over time. Thus, be flexible and adapt your strategy as needed so it remains relevant.
3. Visit the target country.
The cost of visiting the target country will pay dividends. Through an in-person visit, you can experience the business climate and culture in person. You can see what obstacles you might encounter and find ways to overcome them, and you can assess the local facilities. In some cases, it can be helpful to meet local suppliers and service providers, as using local talent can facilitate your business entering the local market and being accepted at the community level.
4. Build business relationships in person.
One of the most important benefits of visiting the target country is meeting potential business partners and networking with industry professionals in person. In many cultures, face-to-face meetings are important in building trust. On a basic level, potential international partners might feel more secure after seeing that you are who you say you are and that you have the skills to do what you say you will. An in-person visit will also enable you to determine whether potential partners who look good on paper are the right people to represent your company.
In-person networking can be equally useful. Your host might be able to introduce you to local industry leaders and regulators. Being able to follow up on, for example, a licensing application with someone who has met you and can put a face to your name is often helpful.
While at least one in-person visit is vital, plan follow-up visits or invite your partners to visit you. This is helpful in maintaining and strengthening business partnerships, not only through in-person contact but also by allowing your business partners to visit your facilities and see your operations in action.
5. Maintain business relationships through effective communication.
Once you’ve established a global business partnership, keep building trust through frequent and effective communication. Clear communication ensures everyone is working toward the same goal and that your business partners stay engaged. A lack of communication can create uncertainty, which erodes trust. Be transparent about business challenges and changes—and your strategy for addressing them. Ask your business partners for their input and ideas, and adapt your strategy accordingly to increase buy-in.
From a practical perspective, choose means of communication that are readily available to your business partners. In some cases, a regular email update coupled with a weekly phone call might be the most practical way to keep in touch, depending on the needs of the business. Others might prefer weekly updates via a video conference. Ensure that the virtual workplace you create is accessible to all.
Effective global business partnerships are based on trust. By following these five steps, you will be able to build trust on a foundation of cultural understanding and extensive knowledge of the local region and markets. Although this approach involves significant personal effort, it’s worthwhile—and people generally appreciate the personal effort, which further builds trust.