Why Expats Make Great Entrepreneurs

Risks you will have to deal with when you start a new life in a new country are similar to the risks faced when you start a new business.

When I set out for China, it was never my intention to start my own business. I was looking for an adventure, to travel and to see new places most people only dream of. This adventure became more of an education than an expat-to-be could have ever imagined. I built an international network and learned to take risks. My adventure in China led to the creation of a new company. Here are the reasons why you might find yourself becoming an “expatreneur” if you decide to “Go Global”.

Starting from scratch

Moving to a new country requires an appetite for risk that only few people  possess. Creating life from the beginning in a new country also requires a degree of curiosity, a sense of adventure, and you need to be determined to see it through to the end without any guarantees of the outcome. You’ll need to build a whole new social and business network, to get familiar with the unfamiliar and survive through very difficult situations. You must deal with the feelings of isolation that can consume you being a stranger. You need to keep your mind open to different ideas and adapt to new ways of doing things. All of this while keeping your emotions under control when confronted with both complete failure and overwhelming success. Above all you need to learn to understand situations in what seems like an alternate universe, adjust to that universe, and make decisions that that will create positive outcomes for you. If this sounds familiar to you it is because living as an expat forces you to develop the skills that are shared by successful entrepreneurs.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

This is one of the most important skills you can have in business. In starting a business, you’re taking on very high risks. Not only your reputation and your money is on the line, but in many cases also the money of other people. It means you must be comfortable in a very uncomfortable situation. To be able to function at a high level under that kind of pressure is a very important skill for entrepreneurs. At the same time, it is one of the first skills you acquire while living and working in a foreign country. You have to get used to eating strange things, meeting new people and adapting to a new culture without speaking the language. Living in a new country will make you feel uncomfortable on a daily basis. If you cannot get comfortable with being uncomfortable you will fail. A study by Rosetta Stone concludes that 75 percent of all expat relocations fail. Your new life as an expat forces you to learn how to be comfortable, or at least act that way, during uncomfortable situations. This is a very important skill as an entrepreneur.

Cross-cultural experience gives new ideas.

Studies show that living in a foreign country in a cross-cultural environment gives new ideas and develops a person’s competence to recognize profitable entrepreneurial opportunities. Cross-cultural experiences show you new ways of doing things and also products and services that you may have never realized existed. Some of these are good, others bad.

Knowing the future in emerging markets

If you’re from the US or Europe and move to a developing country, you might find that products and services you know be in their infancy or may not exist at all. This puts you in a special position of knowing the solution to a need that has not already been met. They may not even be aware that they have the need yet. This gives you some options. You can import the product into your new country. Another option is to develop it there, and consider local culture, and adding features that suit that community.

Develop cross-cultural networking skills

Networking, as are taxes, is a necessary evil. It is a skill that must be developed and refined. Just having lots of contacts on LinkedIn doesn’t make you a good networker. It’s advised to cast a wide net. I assume that it is clear that the larger your network, the more opportunities you have. Good networkers stand out by finding some of the right connections, that have the potential to be mutually valuable long term, and taking care of those relationships. When you move abroad you have to develop a totally new social and business network. This can actually double your network. This network consists of locals from the new country and other expats from around the world. The people in your network can bring you some great opportunities.

Find your inner entrepreneur globally

The international expat community creates entrepreneurs because expats are, by their very nature, entrepreneurs. Expats take risks and are forced to develop and perfect exactly the abilities that starting a business needs. To work across cultures and international borders offer new solutions to age-old challenges while it ignites the creative parts of our brains. Our expanding network puts us in contact with more people in more countries which creates new opportunities. Go global and find out if you can be an “expatreneur!”  

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