You have done well in your local market and have expanded abroad thinking that you can replicate your success. However, two years into your expansion you find that your market share is minimal, your workers are not following instructions and your competition is eating you alive. Where did you go wrong, you wonder? You have a good product, your services are top notch and there is a real need for what you are selling in the market that you have expanded into. So what is the problem and what can be done to resolve such an issue?
Sometimes, the problem is not the product nor the service being provided; rather, it is the approach utilized when communicating with employees in your foreign branch that is at the heart of the issue.
Problems with Collaboration and Communication Across Regional Locations
Communication and collaboration across regional boundaries is one of the first issues companies encounter when expanding abroad. There is simply no replacing direct input and the fluid exchange of ideas that comes with face to face meetings. With the various workforce teams in an organization acting as its backbone, erroneous implementation of strategies brought about through miscommunication via a sent email or a phone call can literally cripple the capacity of a company to properly penetrate into its desired markets. In other instances, the manner in which people communicate over long distances can have an equally adverse impact on company operations.
The Problem with Emails
In a July 2014 article on Forbes.com, it was noted that people/employees have a greater tendency to lie over emails than they did over face-to-face methods of communication. From the investigation of the author’s article, it was shown that people tended to be more honest when a physical presence was noted as compared to a merely digital point of view. This particular perspective is further reinforced by the tendency of people to want to relay news in such a way that it does not generate the ire of the person on the other end. In a face-to-face conversation this is normally not possible given the fluid exchange of ideas; however, when it comes to emails people tend to be able to take time to phrase a message in such a way that no problems seem apparent.
So the phrase “everything is fine” in an email can actually also mean “our strategies are not working and profits are going down”.
How to solve this issue?
One of the most obvious solutions to the issue would be to simply have a face-to-face conversation with the employees in order to properly brain storm solutions to issues and ensure that instructions are understood and properly carried out. However, the sheer distance involved and the fact that company managers do not have unlimited amounts of time to carry out multiple face-to-face conversations in a single year means that an alternative method is necessary to carry out such a tactic.
Video Conferencing as a Solution
One popular means of doing so would be through www.Skype.com and its group video conferencing tool wherein multiple people can have a conversation over a single call. It would be an effective means of addressing the problem since it would enable managers and employees from different parts of the world to have a conversation face-to-face resulting in a better exchange of ideas and information. Do note though that there are some issues when relying on Skype as your primary method for video conferencing, these include but are not limited to:
- Limited number of participants for video calling (maximum of 10).
- Lack of sufficient inter-connection with video endpoints
- Cannot be utilised with business media phones which are a fixture in many companies expanding abroad
Thus, while Skype is one of the most affordable solutions out there for video conferencing, it is somewhat lacking in the features needed for businesses since Skype was primarily created for the average internet user. It is due to this that one alternative that businesses may be interested in adopting would be Polycom video conferencing from Blue Jeans. They provide a selection of video conferencing solutions that are more oriented to the needs of businesses and can be utilised on wider range of devices as compared to Skype.
Whatever video conferencing solution you choose, do so with an eye towards what would fit best with the needs of your company. The most important factor is that you are able to have proper face-to-face conversations wherein information and instructions are relayed accurately resulting in you knowing exactly what is going on and developing a means to resolve a problem before it gets worse. This would go a long way towards ensuring that your company is able to properly penetrate the new market that it finds itself in.