Setting up a new life in a foreign country shares many of the same risks and traits of starting a new business. The growing number of expatriates who have become business owners has led to the coining of a new term: the ‘expatreneur’.
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Expatriates – more commonly referred to as expats – are those who have chosen to move from their native country to another. More often than not the word ‘expat’ is used when referring to a professional who has moved abroad by personal choice or by request of their employer.
Expats therefore have an in-built appetite for risk, readily accepting the challenge of starting their lives again in a foreign country. Becoming an expatriate also requires a healthy dose of curiosity and determination, as well as an adventurous streak, which may explain why 40% of Fortune 500 list companies were founded by immigrants or their children, including Google, eBay and Intel.
Successful expats are able to overcome the disadvantages of being somewhere new, quickly establishing a social circle, overcoming isolation, adjusting to new ways of doing things, and persevering through difficult situations. These skills transfer directly from life as an expat into the arena of business, giving expats the ability to keep an open mind; to adjust to different environments, cultural values and expectations; and to hold themselves together in the face of either great failure or success.
Expats are able to understand difficult and confusing situations, adapting themselves to their environment and creating positive outcomes for themselves, which is essential in business. For further information about the characteristics and personality traits of the expatreneur, please refer to the embedded PDF.
The very act of living abroad can spark great ideas, making it easier to identify potential business opportunities. Cross-cultural living exposes expats to entirely new ways of approaching a problem, learning new ways of doing things and using a range of different products and services. Some of these products, services and approaches to life might be brought back to the entrepreneur’s native country, or alternatively, the expat might introduce existing products and services from their native country to their new home – which is often the case when moving from a developed country to a developing country.
Moving to a developing country has many entrepreneurial benefits, as the expat has the benefit of having ‘seen into the future’. Introducing existing products and services into an emerging market is an opportunity to meet a demand that does not yet exist. However, a successful business venture will also consider the local people and their culture, adding relevant or appealing features that cater specifically to that community.
In business it is essential to be able to build a large network, as the bigger the network, the more opportunities will present themselves. Expats are constantly working on their ability to network when they move abroad, as it is a skill that they utilise in all areas of their lives. By practicing and developing strong networking skills, expats are able to find relevant contacts and build strong and mutually beneficial relationships.