So, your business is expanding quickly and hurtling towards its long-term goals. Like many US business owners, you might have plans to open a new branch somewhere in the EU. While you don’t necessarily have to deal with some of the big challenges you’d have setting up shop in say, Asia, there are still various obstacles you’ll need to overcome. Here are a few things every US business owner should know before opening an EU branch.
You May Need to Get on a Plane
According to various journals and authorities, face-to-face meetings with prospective European partners is more important these days than ever before. Even in this increasingly digital age, meeting in person is near enough a necessity when trying to forge a positive business relationship with European vendors. Emails from foreign suppliers will often get moved straight to the trash folder, and even if you try to reach out with phone calls and video chat, you may have trouble standing out against your close competitors who take a more personal approach. By all means, use digital channels to test the waters and find out more about companies you’re planning to work with. However, you should move the conversation toward the possibility of a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible.
Research, Research, and Research Some More!
When you’re opening a new branch in anywhere with unfamiliar business regulations, research is absolutely crucial. When it comes to setting up shop in the EU, one of the first things you should do is visit Etias.com, Europa.eu, and similar trusted sources for information on doing business there. Make sure you’re clued up on absolutely everything, from taxes to customs to environmental regulations to worker’s rights. You don’t want to get too deep into the process, and then get taken by surprise by some nuanced bit of legislation. From there, you’re going to have to read up on the specific country and region that you’re targeting. While there are a lot of universal laws covering the whole of the EU, there are many other local laws that will dictate the way you run your business. Commercial law in Sweden, for example, is going to be a world apart from that of southern Ireland.
Learn About Body Language and Cultural Cues
Finally, make sure you comport yourself properly when you get around to those face-to-face meeting we talked about. While the cultural cues aren’t going to be as alien to you as they would in China, first impressions count for a lot in Europe, and it’s good to get clued up on any kind of nuances there are. As always, you should shake hands, make eye contact and smile, and address people by their full title when you’re first meeting them. The main difference from doing business in the states is that you should avoid too much idle chatter and hyperbole, which kind of comes with the package over here. Many European business leaders will take this as a lack of professionalism, or think that their time is being wasted.