Winning the Business

Joint Ventures for Winning Global Business

Five tips for building international strategic partnerships

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For growing businesses, expanding into international markets is an exciting but often strategically daunting process. Without a physical presence in a foreign country, be it a satellite office or local employees, offshore businesses are sometimes unable to enter lucrative markets.

For many companies, pursuing opportunities on their own outside their borders is a nonstarter. However, creating a joint venture or strategic partnership with a qualified, compatible foreign company with like-minded leadership can overcome otherwise insurmountable growth obstacles.

Both government and commercial customers prefer to award business to local suppliers and service contractors.

Here are five tips for your international partnership recruitment strategy:

1. Partner to meet contract terms. In many countries, qualifying for a specific contracting vehicle is mandatory for you to be considered as a potential supplier of goods or services for government or crown corporation business. For example, in the United States, RFPs are often set aside for small businesses below a certain revenue or employee count.

When a business has a suitable solution to meet a customer’s needs but cannot qualify under the terms of the mandatory contract vehicle, a joint venture with a qualified business is often a lucrative means to an end for all parties.

2. Don’t lose business because of cultural or communication barriers. Technology companies such as software as a service (SaaS) providers and device manufacturers often contract with distribution or reseller partners to avoid language and cultural barriers. Though cloud-based applications support multiple languages, local consultants are better equipped to act as local agents for contracting, support, and consulting.

3. Understand that domestic suppliers have a higher propensity to win. Both government and commercial customers prefer to award business to local suppliers and service contractors. They are governed by the same laws, work in the same time zone, and are more accessible for on-site meetings.

Growing companies should seek out opportunities for joint ventures or reseller relationships before expanding across borders. A local consultant can act as the prime contractor, while the offshore vendor/consulting company gets a foothold in an emerging foreign market.

4. Leverage existing relationships. Does your product or service address a quantifiable need and complement the needs of companies overseas? You’ve likely heard that it’s easier and less costly to sell to an existing customer than to one you’ve never done business with. People buy from those they know, like, and trust.

Even if your business doesn’t have customer relationships across borders, your business development team can target companies that do. Recruiting partners and marketing your wares to them as a revenue generation opportunity is usually an easier sell than marketing to an end user. This partner approach can take the friction out of selling and recruiting in that region once you land your first contract—provided you have a partner relationship management program in place.

5. Do your due diligence on partner prospects. Before (and after) engaging potential partners in discussions about joint venture relationships in foreign countries, be sure to do a thorough vetting process to ensure the resellers or contracting primes you align with have a good reputation and aren’t already representing your competitors locally (unless they are ending those relationships to work with you).

You don’t want to share your intellectual capital with a service provider and then have it turn on you shortly thereafter. Ensure you have an internationally enforceable partner agreement in place, with termination provisions if either side isn’t satisfied with the relationship.

You don’t want to share your intellectual capital with a service provider and then have it turn on you shortly thereafter.

Accessing the international market through partnerships and joint venture contracts can be a great long-term strategy—or even act as a first step toward expanding your company into other countries.

Remember, your partners become an extension and a representation of your brand overseas. Build relationships with foreign companies and teams that have a vision and business acumen that are similar to your own.

Mark Burdon is a Newmarket, Ontario-based business development principal at Cloudworker Writing Services. He can be reached at

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