As an African CEO doing business in the U.S., you will meet many unexpected challenges when it comes to business. While you may feel confident that you have a proven business model and that your product line will easily meet the needs of American consumers, this is not enough to do well in that country. The rules of business negotiation and meeting government regulations are far different than that to which you are accustomed.
Assuming that you create a business division in the United States and hire American employees, here are 7 things you need to keep in mind to be successful.
If you have U.S.-based employees because you are doing business within the United States, you must understandÂ tax credit and incentives to avoid paying at a higher tax rate. You may be eligible for tax credits and incentives based on which state and county within that state you are doing business. However, itâ€™s not always easy to identify what incentives youâ€™re eligible for, and even if you are able to successfully identify the best incentives, it may still not be clear what business and economic development incentives to capture.Â
In order to avoid overpaying on taxes, you have to identify all the tax credits and incentives that your business is eligible for, understand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit screening process, and maintain your compliance status within the stipulated time restraints. The way taxes are handled in the US may be far different than the way taxes are handled in an African country.
2. Business relationships
Be wary about expecting long-term relationships in business. While you may find a few business people who are honorable and who are always true to their word go out of their way to establish long-lasting business relationships, these are the exception rather than the rule. Often you will find business people who are eager to engage when they need something from you but just as quick to disengage when you are no longer useful.
3. Industry guidelines
You must stick to industry guidelines rather than hope an exception will be made for you. Industry guidelines are often rigid. Suppose, for example, when selling your products to a big retail chain, buyers make their purchase decision by March for the following year. If you talk to them in April, they will not be interested. They will not make an exception to their buying policies for you. In a way, this is good because itâ€™s predictable, but it can also be frustrating if you are used to working in countries where there is more flexibility. You will find that itâ€™s easier to work within the rules than to find a way around them. For most Americans, these absolute guidelines are seen as the most natural way to do business.
4. Speed of implementation
Since America has been doing business for centuries, you can find almost any business know-how to grow your business quickly. As a brand new business, you can quickly learn the best practices used by established businesses to appear to be a mature company within just a few months of starting.
American employees are both easy to work with and frustrating. They are easy to work with because they do everything according to the rules and regulations you have laid down. They are also frustrating to work with because if a situation arises that has not been clearly defined within your policies, they will not exercise any initiative to think outside the box. Corporate America has trained the average American worker to do everything within given parameters or face the risk of being fired. Employees will do nothing more and nothing less than you have instructed them to do. This works fine if you have developed proven business processes, but it can create chaos when an employee is placed in a situation that they have to show some initiative.Â
If your company also has European divisions, this will be quite a contrast. Europeans workers will often do what is necessary to get the job done whether or not they have been clearly instructed to do it. They have the attitude that since they were on the front line, they were obligated to show initiative to resolve the problem. For American workers, this is incomprehensible.
American consumers will also take you by surprise. They appear to be willing to buy anything on credit. Spending future income that they have not yet earned may be baffling to you, but to most American consumers the idea of frugal spending, budgeting, and saving for unexpected expenses are old fashioned ideas. You will be amazed at how willing consumers are to buy your products if you have a good sales process. The flip side of this willingness to buy is that consumers donâ€™t hesitate to ask for a refund of their purchase if it is not exactly what they expected it to be. They will demand a refund even if it is not your fault that they had unreasonable expectations or if they have already used the product and it and cannot be put back on the shelf.
If you can get a celebrity endorsement for your products, your product will fly off the shelves. The idea that if somebody famous endorses a product it must be good is so ingrained in the American psyche after hundreds of years of advertising that the fastest way to grow your business is to get a celebrity to make a public endorsement.