Global Director of Sales and Marketing at Joorney. Helping entrepreneurs and immigrants reach their goals, one business document at a time.
There are many efforts made to attract foreign investors and business owners to the U.S., but not much is shared with them about how business is done here. Sure, business fundamentals are similar in most parts of the world, but there are several nuances that are important to consider.
Personally experiencing the business environment in both Latin America and North America, I’ve noticed how business can differ from country to country. For one thing, the diversity and size of the potential U.S. market—and, therefore, the need for market research and a robust marketing plan—might not be fully appreciated until you’re here. This size also means there are a lot of opportunities to scale and grow.
The pressure to succeed in the U.S. is high, especially for immigrant entrepreneurs, who have often made tremendous investments and sacrifices to do business here. This additional motivation might be why nearly 45% of all Fortune 500 companies are founded by immigrants or their children, according to a 2019 analysis by the Society for Human Resource Management. This is impressive, but many of these founders likely had to figure it out as they went along.
So, to help ease the transition into the American business landscape, here is my advice.
Reach out for help.
In an effort to save money, business owners often attempt to do as much as possible themselves. On paper, it is not a bad strategy, but in reality, people often overestimate how much they can take on. You can consider outsourcing various tasks and activities to help you in the long run. A lot of business activities require in-depth knowledge of a certain topic, and you can hire specialists in marketing, IT, law, accounting or other fields to tackle those tasks. Doing so can be greatly beneficial for your business.
Get the right permits and licenses.
There are many rules and regulations for business in America, which is why you should research what kind of license and permits you need for your business. The type(s) of license(s) will depend on your business, and rules might differ depending on where your business is located, your industry and the type of business you have. There are state, federal and local permits and licenses, and you will most likely need a few of them. I cannot stress enough how important it is to do your research and check which permits and licenses you need. Acquire them all before you open your business in the U.S. Otherwise, your business might suffer various penalties ranging from fees and fines to business closure.
Prepare for scaling.
America is a land of opportunity, which can often mean rapid growth for businesses. A lot of business operations happen on a grand scale here, and scaling your business might become inevitable at some point, especially if you take advantage of opportunities and properly prepare for them. Avoiding scaling can be detrimental for businesses, but keep in mind that scaling too early can be damaging to a startup as well.
A good scaling success story comes from Zoom. After the pandemic hit, its growth expanded rapidly. However, Zoom managed to keep up by properly scaling the business. The company’s engineers maintained its multiple data centers, which were all set to work at 50% capacity. In case one gets overwhelmed, it could easily redirect it to another, making sure operations run smoothly. Zoom managed to sustain rapid growth and make a profit when it could have easily crumbled under the pressure had it not been well-prepared.
A good tip for scaling your business is to use a software that can aid you with managing projects, administration, logistics, scheduling and a variety of other activities.
Find ways to reach your customers.
While working in Latin America, I noticed that a lot of businesses rely on word of mouth as their main marketing strategy, but this will likely not get you very far in the U.S. As I mentioned before, everything here happens on a greater scale, so in order for a business to grow, it needs to reach more customers, and planning a good marketing strategy is imperative.
Marketing strategies can be costly, which is why so many choose to rely on their customers to spread the word about their business. This marketing plan can be very limiting for your business, as the number of customers you can reach this way will eventually plateau. Developing a marketing strategy can bring your company growth, regardless if you have a business-to-consumer or business-to-business model. Marketing strategies will help you reach more customers and, consequently, increase revenue.
Understand the market trends and business culture.
Furthermore, as an immigrant opening a business in the U.S., you should not only be aware of the business culture around the states but also the market trends that are relevant to your business. Each region can have its own unique market, and depending on if your business is local, regional or national, your market research should be focused on those areas.
The U.S. is a vast country, and the way people do business varies from place to place. In my experience, closing a deal is not the same on the East Coast, West Coast and the South. While some will gladly get straight to the point, others will prefer a bit of small talk beforehand. To avoid unpleasant situations and get the best results from your business meetings, get acquainted with the customs and know what people will expect of you.
The biggest takeaway from my advice is to be well-prepared for opening a business in the U.S. There are many areas in which the American market and business activities differ from other countries, and having a good grasp of all of them will help you exponentially. If you do proper research and plan accordingly, whether it is scaling, licensing or market research, you will already be taking a step in the right direction.