After preparing for global brand status by protecting it to the fullest extent of the law, the next step is to figure out where in the world to set up shop. This decision might seem simple, but a litany of employment, tax, and currency considerations make this choice more complex than simply choosing the locale with the biggest market opportunity.
OtterBox launched one global office right after the other, starting with the Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) office in Cork, Ireland, followed shortly thereafter by the Asia-Pacific (APAC) office in Hong Kong. This was a strain on time, resources, and people, but it was so important for OtterBox to be alongside the mobile industry around the world that it was worth the risk.
The selection of these locations had some overlapping considerations but really underscored varying philosophies on how to best enter these very different parts of the globe. Cork offered an environment not at all unlike that of OtterBox's home city, Fort Collins, Colorado, a university town with an affinity for beer. What's not to like? Hong Kong, on the other hand, is a bustling economic metropolis with a number of organizations and agencies dedicated to facilitating U.S. business interests.
Every business will have its own set of priorities, but there are a few considerations that are universal:
They're inevitable, but certain locations can offer tax benefits. Some are permanent tax code provisions that are broadly beneficial to businesses or to specific industries. Given the current economic climate, there are also incentives (tax-based or otherwise) for job creation available from national and local sources.
This is something that businesses want just the right balance of--enough to protect commerce but not so much that doing business becomes a burden. Employment law is especially variable. For instance, France limits the workweek to 35 hours--the shortest in the European Union. This isn't necessarily bad for business, but could impact certain types of companies.
As previously mentioned, OtterBox really went for global expansion full-steam ahead. Especially in EMEA, we tried to get into many markets right away but found that we were more effective when we focused on really ingraining our selves in a few key, top-priority markets. Once established in these 'taste-makers,' the other markets were much easier to penetrate.
As with any major business decision, the help of trusted advisers is highly recommended when selecting a location. Business boosters abound in any industrialized country. These folks will tell you how great it is to set up shop in their location, but business owners need to look beyond the sheen and get a realistic sense for how their company will fit into a particular locale.