In conjunction with the immense and dramatic crises in the world, we are already seeing a cooling down of the economy. The first startups and scaleups are cutting their workforce to prepare for the coming months and years. Investors are becoming increasingly cautious. The era of blitz-scaling and easy money is mostly over.
Now it's about fast yet sustainable expansion and scaling. To achieve this as a startup you really need to master all complexities of growth - on a product, market, and organizational level. We at weGrow support startups and scaleups on all these levels to achieve fast and sustainable growth from day one when going international.
When entering into new markets it's highly beneficial to de-risk new market entries and to choose the right markets - meaning the ones where you will succeed the easiest - first.
Entering into a market, investing in building a workforce, market entry, sales, and marketing, and then performing poorly or even needing to leave the market after a while was always devastating and costly for a scaleup, but can become even more so in the coming years.
Personally, I've been there when we scaled a startup I was working for at the time from 100 to 750 people in 1 year. We opened 17 markets at the same time - and failed 18 months later in most of them. It was not pretty and damaged the company tremendously over the long run.
And you shouldn’t forget that as a scaleup you also always need to think about your investors and the coming investment rounds. Whatever you promise in terms of growth, you need to realize it in order not to lose trust by existing and potential new investors.
So the question really is how to scale healthy, sustainable, and fast. Let’s make it more practical and take a closer look at the no-go’s which every scaleups should avoid when it comes to scaling their business and going international successfully.
No-go’s when going international:
The one-size-fits-all approach: Not localizing your brand - how can you gain trust if you don't even speak my language, literally. This is a huge conversion killer many underestimate. You only have 1 (!) real chance to enter a new market. Don't mess it up by not localizing your brand.
Forgetting about the people: Your employees are representing your brand, THEY are the backbone of your company, and THEY define your culture in the end. This resonates in all levels of doing business, internally & externally. Especially, when operating internationally and having several locations in different countries, where the founders and management team can’t always be present, this becomes even more crucial.
Burning too much money and too many people: It's all about how you household with your resources while driving fast. You need to learning as fast and cheap as possible what works in different markets and ESPECIALLY what doesn’t and then scale the winning approach.
Overplanning vs. underplanning: Both don't work! You need to find a good middle ground. Endless project plans withouth validations in the market will bore everyone. Just running and running and running without a plan might lead to circles, frustration, wasted ressources, and failure.
Operating purely on an opportunity: A driven approach? - yes, this can get you far. A bit of analysis, strategy in combination with good people and mindset will get you even further.
Underestimating management time: Yes, you as a manager, founder, or CEO will be stretched and squeezed at all ends. Prepare yourself and your family for it. Find good people that can support you and lead.