The current pandemic has made it clear how interconnected our world really is. What started as a news story about an outbreak of a virus in a province in China has led to a pandemic that’s affected citizens and businesses of every nation.
The European Union has closed its borders to non-E.U. members indefinitely. And during the state of emergency, closed its frontiers with neighbors. The measures are meant to safeguard citizens from the outbreak threatening to collapse our health systems. But it’s clear that no country is able to survive from income generated solely within its borders. The strong measures to protect our health systems have created a larger, and potentially long-term casualty — the economy.
As we slowly emerge from our country-specific states of emergency and look to the future again, it’s important to ponder what lessons the pandemic brought and what member nations can do to keep competitive in the global market. Consider the following international business trends to give your company an edge in the future economic realities.
Investment in Technology
The tried and true ways of conducting international business still hold true. Being aware of cultural sensitivities and respecting local customs will always be essential when doing business with people from other countries. But all the cultural expertise in the world is not much help right now, due to the international travel restrictions that make it difficult to meet with overseas clients.
Technology can make up for the obstacles. Businesses should focus time and financial resources into upgrading and expanding their online presences to replace the person-to-person contact which led to the spread of the coronavirus.
Redesigning your website to provide much of the information you would normally present to your international clients in person would be advisable. Identifying which countries your company does business most with and implementing language translation to your company website makes your business information more internationally accessible.
It’s also important to find creative ways to keep the lines of communication open between you and your overseas customers. For example, if your sales process relies heavily on building relationships and face-to-face meetings, there are a couple of things your company can do to bridge the current travel gap.
If you haven’t already done so, your company could develop a webpage on its key employees and executives. Include a photo of each individual and a short biography about them for others to access. Take it one step further and add videos to your website to introduce key executives, to better explain your most popular business products and services, or to outline your company’s core values.
Besides the expanded online information, if your company hasn’t implemented an effective video conferencing system yet, it’s a good time. The alternative to in-person appointments makes it possible to hold virtual meetings with clients around the world.
You may even find that clients respond positively to video meetings and may want to continue the use of teleconferencing well beyond the pandemic. The potential success of video sales calls and remote international conferences can make conducting international business more efficient by saving you money on travel-related expenses.
Position Your Business as an Innovation Leader
It’s all too easy to look to America or Asia for inspiration on how innovation leads to rapid success and compare how your business falls behind. But regulations in other countries move at a different pace than they do in Europe.
Drone laws and regulations are a good example. Many countries worldwide have already set clear guidelines about the use of drones. Some European nations have established their own rules. But the European Union has yet to agree on uniform regulations for all member states.
The delay creates obstacles for European entrepreneurs looking to develop and invest in business applications for drones. By the time clear regulations are set forth, any competitive advantage of expanding drone technology first may be lost.
Looking at how other countries do business can provide valuable insights and ideas that could help your company’s processes, but it’s time to position your company as an industry leader by implementing Euro-centric ideas.
In other words, your business may not be able to compete with China on manufacturing costs. Or with state of the art advancements from Japan or the U.S. But the E.U. has its unique selling points that drive world demand for European products. They include design innovation and quality. If you can position yourself as a leader on your company’s core European principles and market them to the world, you’ll likely have a competitive advantage other countries can’t beat.
Turn to Your Current Employees and Future Recruits for the Answers
As the global economic market emerges from the pandemic, it’s unclear what the future holds. For companies to succeed, they must be ready to adapt to whatever comes. Adaptation and evolution may be harder to grasp for some executives and management who may have more traditional outlooks to doing business.
To combat a stagnant perspective, include your employees in the current conversations of where the company is headed. They may have different and valuable life experiences that could provide your business with unique points of view about the future market.
As you recruit future hires, consider expanding the diversity of your company. Look for hires with multiracial backgrounds or with different sets of experience than you’d normally hire. Remember, your business is operating under new and unprecedented conditions. What worked in the past may no longer be of service. The sooner you resolve your reluctance and discomfort for change, the faster your business may advance.
As part of the “new normal” for business, consider expanding your company’s recruitment of young hires. The younger generation comes with an unprecedented level of comfort and willingness to work with technology like social media and the internet of things (IoT) which could greatly benefit your company. Their points of view and ways of doing business may not work with your existing client base but may attract a whole new demographic of younger customers.
Future international business trends will require many companies to step outside of their comfort zones and adopt new methods that may not be tried and tested. If your company can embrace adaptiveness, your chances for success in the international market post-COVID-19 will likely be greater.