For European businesses looking to expand their offerings to organisations in North or South America, the time difference has always created challenges. While the uptake of remote working has perhaps moulded an openness to working across time zones, it has yet to fully eliminate the cultural and physical barriers to it.
There often comes a time outside of the traditional working day when a client will have to deal with an emergency and schedules won’t quite align. It is difficult to always be on call, and this is where service providers can lose value if steps aren’t taken to properly manage time differences.
That said, there is every reason to believe that businesses can adapt and continue to find ways to operate.
Starting on the right foot
The decision to work with a company in a different time zone means accepting some level of compromise. Flexibility is a big factor in this, but if managed in the right way, there is no reason these relationships can’t be successful.
It is important to establish ground rules from the start. Both parties should be open about expectations early on, especially when it comes to things such as contact time. In some relationships it will only be necessary to meet as a team once a week; others might feel it best to meet each day.
The alarm bell should only be sounded in situations where it has been agreed that the failure of a particular application is mission-critical. Once established, it is important for service providers to react quickly and have already mapped out who will respond in each situation.
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Bridging cultural and linguistic barriers
Working with people across different cultures and living in different parts of the world will no doubt enrich what a business can offer its customers.
Communication skills will also see marked improvements. English will typically be a natural choice when it comes to communicating across teams, but whether it be English, German, Spanish or French, communicating with teams in these languages daily is a great opportunity to enhance how teams interact with one another. This opportunity to share beliefs, knowledge or cultures is often absent when the entirety of a team resides in the same country.
By working with people in new locations and offering existing staff the chance to move further afield, teams will find it easier to tap into new markets.
Competing in a crowded market
Competing for international business with on-location service providers can be a tough task. To sustain close relationships as a service provider there is a strong case for expanding and setting up locations in new regions.
While attitudes towards remote working have shifted, there is still a place for a physical office that people can use to host clients or as a collaboration space.
This doesn’t have to come at the cost of flexibility. For many people, the opportunity to fit work around familial responsibilities and other caregiving commitments has been a positive consequence of the past few years, but it is important for team relationships to offer people a place to strengthen their collaboration skills. Many people still appreciate the opportunity to have a place to meet and talk business.
This is an important part of expansion and working with partners in other countries. A new office mustn’t solely be four walls set in the city painted a different shade of white, but instead a hub that provides structure for collaboration and ingenuity, and one that opens the door for new opportunities.