How to take an agency international

by Ned Hallett
Published on June 2021

Last month we had the good pleasure of catching up with Ian from Agency Hackers to talk about a subject close (or very far) from our hearts: distance – and how to make an agency like JAM work over great stretches of it.

Of course, this is what worked for us, and there are all the usual caveats about there being no one-size-fits-all.

However, we think that for businesses like us who are doing something a little different or interesting in digital, these three tips are pretty darn good. 

So let’s get to them.

1. Backfill the cosmetics 

Now, for a second disclaimer, we should just say before we make this point, that the following things are very important:

  • Accountancy
  • Legal 
  • Proper documentation 

But at the end of the day, what’s most important is sales.

When trying to set up a new location, there is always a bottomless pit of admin that you can fall into if you try to do everything by the book.

However, it’s also perfectly possible to spend half a million on hot-shot CEOs, consultants, business and legal experts, and then sell precisely zero.

The message here is to focus on the skeleton of the business – i.e. making a profit – before you add the face and all the nice bits.

Until you’ve made that first sale, the rest is cosmetics.

2. Stretch!

Flexibility is your friend when trying to set up a business internationally.

What I’m referring to here is flexibility on employment, corporate structure, what the business actually does and what the products you actually sell are.

You might find, for example, that your complementary services in one market become your primary services in another – and vice versa.

Maybe everyone does 9-5 in one location, and most do part-time in another.

The vocabulary changes. The focus changes. Nothing is quite the same.

The key thing is to fit into the environment rather than wanting it to fit you.

For some businesses, this means not actually being the same entity at all in a new location. Although the more you know beforehand, the less this will come as a shock to you.

3. Be an opportunist!

Starting a new location is hard. And the stars are never going to align perfectly.

The Asia office of Just After Midnight came to be when CEO Sam Booth met Freddie Heygate (now Just After Midnight Asia CEO) for a beer.

Freddie had already lived and worked in Singapore and was looking for the right opportunity to move back – setting up a business like JAM in Asia was just the kind of challenge Freddie was after, and the timings couldn’t have worked out better.

In this case, and in many more, pouncing on the opportunity that came our way allowed us to do what – most of the time – would have been a lot harder.

How we can help

If you’re taking a digital agency global… we might be able to help.

International projects present a requirement for round-the-clock support, and that’s what our 24/7 full-stack service was designed to fill.

Likewise, we can fill the skills gap that opens up when raising outposts far afield, whether it’s DevOps, cloud-native development, or anything else.

So, if you’re thinking of going global, just get in touch.

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