Business success in the U.S. doesn’t guarantee international success

Today, companies large and small are expanding their operations globally for a variety of reasons: lower labor costs, the possibility of a skilled talent pool, and the anticipation of newer, more lucrative markets.

However, just because a company is successful stateside doesn’t mean that success will automatically translate overseas. MIT Sloan Professor José Santos, who teaches the MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Strategy in a Global World, says to succeed globally companies must expand their focus beyond traditional world views.

Tips for Making Your International Business a Success


A recent article in CIO magazine—“7 Tips to Help IT Leaders Make Their Business an International Success”—offers these guidelines for going global successfully.



  • First, be sure to partner with someone who is an expert in-country. Whether you work with an agency or an individual, it helps if they understand the local customs and marketplace. And, remember that the U.S. model is not necessarily the right blueprint even if English is the spoken language.

  • A solid understanding of local labor laws, including insurance plans, benefits, and expected salary compensation is key. Working with an attorney who can navigate local legal regulations, as well as local internet and privacy laws, also helps.

  • Make sure that your “man or woman on the ground” is trained in local customs to avoid offending the natives. It also helps if your employee’s family is able to adapt to the culture.

  • Consider contracting with local talent via an employment agency to avoid complications. In addition, outsourcing jobs will give your company more flexibility and can also reduce expenses.

  • Choose your general manager with care. Make sure he or she is someone with a broad understanding of how to manage a business and also someone who can set proper expectations. Periodic visits to the new location and regular communication with onsite employees are important to maintain a connection to the home office.

  • Consider partnering with a language services provider to ensure your website is localized in the country’s most common languages for the market. In addition, work with someone who speaks the local language; don’t rely on machine translation.

  • Think about using an international shipper if you are targeting an international audience. It could be less expensive than a state-side option such as UPS or FedEx.


José Santos is Visiting Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Affiliated Professor of Practice in Global Management, INSEAD. He leads the Strategy in a Global World program at MIT Sloan Executive Education.

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