How to Take Your Company International
Are you selling your goods and services overseas?
Or thinking about it for the future?
1. Pick your countries strategically
In determining your international strategy, you should consider your expansion plans. Think about where you:
Conduct significant business
Have a large client base
See your product or service area growing
Source or manufacture your products
Anticipate a large amount of counterfeits, like China, Brazil, and India
2. Look into international trademarks
A trademark only protects your brand in the country where it was issued. It doesn’t stop companies using your mark in other countries. If you are planning on expanding to other countries, you may want to think about international protection.
You'll need to make sure that you're not infringing on other companies trademarks when selling abroad to reduce your risk of a lawsuit. You'll also want to lock down your brand name, as losing trademark rights in a foreign country can significantly impact your business growth. It can disrupt the manufacturing and shipment of your products, prevent international licensing, increase direct competition, and decrease your ability to develop a global brand.
You have to apply for trademark protection in each country. Although the Community Trademark (for the EU) and the Madrid Protocol (for 97 participating countries) make filing trademarks easier.
Typically, you have six months after your home country trademark application to reserve your foreign trademark application. After that period, the foreign trademarks are issued to the first application filed.
3. Find a distributor
You can distribute your products internationally in a variety of ways. You can open your own foreign branch, hire an agent, work with a large international company, or form a join venture with another brand. You can find connections through trade associations, foreign chambers of commerce in American, and American chambers of commerce in foreign countries. It's a good idea to look for a distributor who has a reliable history of selling similar products to your target market.
4. Follow country regulations
All countries have their own product regulations. For example, Europoean Union countries have stricter regulations on food and package labelling. China requires all cosmetics be tested on animals. Find the international regulations for your products to determine if you can meet the requirements
5. Learn about importing + exporting laws
When you're shipping products in and out of countries, there are a variety of legal rules you'll need to follow. You'll need to consider everything from shipping methods and packaging to tariffs and duties. We'll be breaking these regulations down soon.
6. Check your agreements
Working with international companies is similar to working with American companies, except much more complex. You have the laws of both countries to consider so there is twice as much risk for your company. It's a good idea to have an attorney review your contracts first to make sure it follows all applicable laws and that it's as profitable as possible for your company.