Going local in the US

In a blog featured on Insider Media James Thornton, UK managing director of Benchmark International, discusses the lessons he learned from his recent move into the US market. (Click to view James blog on InsiderMedia.com)

A lot of business owners may think that doing business in the US is largely the same as in the UK, with no substantial cultural differences. We speak the same language (almost!), watch the same movies, share fashion trends and food preferences but, speaking from experience, these similarities count for little when it comes to business dealings on a local level.

In 2010 Benchmark International ventured into the US M&A market, initially in Tampa, Florida. Thus far, the trans-Atlantic move has proved hugely successful. Whilst we can genuinely claim the venture has proved fruitful, we have faced some serious obstacles getting there.

The decision to make the move was certainly not taken lightly: almost two years of research, planning and a lot of deliberating preceded the venture until we felt every possible issue had been covered.

One issue we did face, however, was the realisation that we were definitely not prepared for the culture of ‘localism’ evident across the US. Americans adore everything local and the widespread tribalism across the United States is something we had never before encountered.

This is why we quickly employed local professionals with an understanding of the local culture that we couldn’t possibly acquire or develop, not in such a short time, anyway.

The model we introduced in Florida, integrating true, on the ground knowledge and understanding with our company sales expertise developed in the UK, has since been rolled out across the United States and is proving successful in each area of operation.

Armed with our newfound deep appreciation for local business climates and their respective practices, we are now in the process of further developing and nurturing our existing operations in China.

As we are becoming accustomed to acceptable practices and preferences in China, we can truly say that it is our native employees in that are leading the way. Their local knowledge informs the best practices which are crucial to our success.

So, to any business considering cross-border expansion I cannot emphasise enough the importance of indigenous expertise: hire local, nurture a mutually benefitting professional relationship, and watch your business flourish.

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