International Expansion – Do You Have What It Takes?

Each Athena Executive Club meeting includes Business Development Training. These short sessions are designed to share useful tips, facts and ideas covering a wide range of issues relevant to executives and entrepreneurs. Athena Executive Members come from a diverse range of backgrounds with an immense wealth of knowledge and experience which we all benefit from during these member-led training sessions.

In May, Sally Forrest, owner of SoulCentre, Asia’s Premier Personal Development Centre, guided us through the process of expanding a business internationally. SoulCentre is currently undergoing expansion to London, Paris, San Francisco, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta – Sally candidly spoke about the successes and lessons she has encountered along the way, as well as some considerations for business owners.

1. Passion for your brand

  • Love and believe in your brand – then share that with everyone who will listen!
  • Do you think you have what it takes to internationalise? If you don’t have some of the key skills needed, do your colleagues or team members?
  • Be open, honest and consistent in all relationships (good and challenging ones!) Remember everyone is unique and you won’t always agree!
  • Can you take the hard knocks and rejection? Can you multi-task?
  • The skills that make you successful now – are they the same skills you will need to manage a worldwide organisation?
  • Keep focused on what you want to achieve

2.       Why do you want to go international?

  • To rule the world – you first need to get your own house in order!
  • Get your structures in place before you launch!
  • Are you profitable at home? If not, it might not be the right time to expand.
  • Are you running the business that you wish to replicate successfully or are there some processes to work out first?
  • Be solid at home – never build or expand on unstable foundations!
  • Protect your brand. Think about your Intellectual Property (IP) and make the (substantial) investment needed to protect it. Consult the experts.

 3.       How to go international?

  • Will you work with people as owners of a franchise of your business or will they be your employees? This is a huge decision needing careful consideration before you do anything. An owner of their own business (franchise) will take more responsibility, will probably be in it for the longer term and will have more of a customer focus.
  • Will you consider investment for your business? What will an investor’s expectations be and are you prepared to manage them?
  • Do your due diligence – ensure there are no conflicts of interest and that any investment you receive is financially secure and a right fit.
  • An investor will be less concerned about delighting your customers and more interested in when they will get a return on their investment – are you ready to handle this?
  • Go for low hanging fruits first and try it out before taking a big plunge.
  • Remember that a onetime transaction can become a lifetime relationship – say yes to life!

4.       Manage the brand

  • Do you have the skills to manage and inspire?
  • Brands to not fail people – people fail brands!
  • Be consistent in your approach
  • It’s not what you say that matters, it’s what your customers experience

5.       Systemise and replicate

  • Put strong systems in place first
  • Be disciplined in your approach
  • Find success in following the systems
  • Generate operations manuals which reflect the countries / cultures in which you are doing business

6.       Cash flow

  • Do your financials and consult the experts
  • There are always added expenses you need to consider – hardware, software, staff etc.

Final thoughts…

  • One you have agreed on a plan, focus 100% on it until it is up and running successfully
  • Constantly questioning and changing things is counterproductive – stick to the plan first and change it later if necessary
  • If all the people you work with want to do is change what works – it’s not a good fit, so get out now!
  • Can you manage the complexity of an expansion?

SoulCentre Logo

About Sally

Sally Forrester

Sally is a former senior corporate executive turned social entrepreneur, founder of SoulCentre and author.  After 17 years in senior corporate roles both in the UK and Thailand, Sally decided that the time was right for her to give more back to life. She left her career and tirelessly worked to open an Orphanage in Thailand, which is now fully operational. Her life passion is to support individuals to achieve balance and harmony in their lives on a physical, mental and emotional level. She inspires clients to take an honest look at all aspects of their life and take responsibility for their life, happiness, health and healing.

Sally opened SoulCentre Pte Ltd in Singapore in 2004 with Vikas Malkani, and today it is seen as Asia’s Premier Centre for personal development and life skills.

Sally also co-founded the transformational children’s programme, SoulKids®, which gives children at a young age the skills needed to grow into confident, happy, self aware adults. Sally is also an author and has been interviewed in and is a regular contributor to numerous international publications.

Connect with Sally online and via SoulCentre’s Facebook page.


The Athena Network, Singapore

Asia-Pacific’s Leading Business Community for Female Executives and Entrepreneurs Focusing exclusively on female executives and entrepreneurs, The Athena Network provides a platform for members to share knowledge and experience across a diverse range of industry sectors, and to collaborate for mutual success.

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