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Using an Agent to Setup an Overseas Office

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 17 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Using An Agent To Setup An Overseas Office

Trading overseas in a market your business is not familiar with can be a time consuming and expensive process. One way of reducing your costs and ensuring your expansion abroad is successful is to use the services of an overseas agency. Setting up an office for your business in another country can be much less traumatic with the help of an agency as they have first-hand experience of the overseas market you want to enter, and have local knowledge you can draw upon to ensure your business can compete effectively.

There are a number of key advantages to using an overseas agency:

  • The agency you use will have intimate knowledge of their home market your business can draw on to ensure your services or products meet the demands of customers within these new markets.
  • An agency can ensure your business meets all legal and regulatory requirements of the market your enterprise wants to trade within.
  • Good relationships that your overseas agency have with suppliers in their home country can help your new office gain the best rates for purchases.
  • The agency can help you recruit the right people for your overseas office from the labour force in their area.
There are a number of key disadvantages to using an overseas agency:

  • Managing an overseas office from another country can mean you have to set-up and maintain complex logistical systems.
  • Customer services can be costly to maintain across more than one office. Overseas customers may not like having to use international phone calls to reach your head office that isn’t in their country.
  • Fine control over your business’s brand and market exposure is handled by your overseas office and the agency that runs it, but close control isn’t as good as having a presence yourself in the market you want to sell to.

How to Find and Choose an Overseas Agency

Buying overseas agency services for your business should be approached with all the due care and attention you would use when buying any services for your home business. Always ask for client lists from your overseas agent to check their credentials. And always ensure you have a clear service level agreement in place that covers every aspect of operating your overseas office.

There are a number of organisations that your business may find useful when searching for an agency to help you open your new overseas office. UK Trade and Investment have personnel in most major countries and can perform local searches on your behalf. You should also contact any trade associations that exist in your particular market sector. Often they will have specific knowledge about an agency you could use to help you open your new overseas office.

For general contacts the British Chamber of Commerce and the Foreign Office in the country you want to set-up your new office abroad have contacts you can use to locate an agency. The bank your business uses may also be able to help as they often have overseas commercial teams that have lists of agents abroad that can help you set-up your office. And don’t forget that trade visits can be a great source of information. The contacts you make while attending these events could lead to the ideal agency to set-up your overseas office.

Contracts and Your Agent

When you have located an agent to help your business set-up its overseas office, you must formalise this agreement with a contract. It is important that both parties are clear about their responsibilities and that this is spelled out in clear and concise language in the contract you will both sign. Take legal advice as contracts with overseas service providers need special attention to ensure they are legal and can be enforced in both territories.

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