Breaking Borders: Understanding the Journey of Australian Companies Expanding into the United States

Breaking Borders: Understanding the Journey of Australian Companies Expanding into the United States

Read Time: 7 Minutes

Discover the key factors contributing to Australian business triumphs and learn how to capitalize on their strengths and unique global opportunities. Gain insights into Australian and U.S. business culture differences, explore international perceptions of Australian businesses, and identify crucial milestones for venturing into the global market. For an informed view, GLG hosted a webinar with experienced GLG Network Member Paul Adler, former Investment Director at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade). His comments, edited for space and clarity, are below:

In your view, what have been some of the traits of successful Australian businesses and how have they achieved that success in the U.S. market and on a global scale?

Addressing various aspects, their approach involved a deliberate pace — akin to walking before running. Prior to any decisions, they diligently conducted extensive research and embraced the notion of starting with a blank slate. They were very targeted and with a clear understanding of why they aimed to enter global business, specifying the products and regions they intended to explore. 

They actively sought conversations with other companies and business leaders who had ventured into similar global initiatives. Significantly, their discussions encompassed experiences of both success and failure, recognizing that valuable lessons often emerge from those who have encountered challenges. They tended to accept that there are disparities between cultures and countries, and within countries. They did not assume that doing business in the U.S., for example, was the same as doing business in Australia.

What steps do you think businesses should really think about in terms of being successful when they move into the U.S. market?

Given the intense competition and vast scale of the U.S. market, homework and preparation is extremely critical to grasp the nuances of the American business landscape. Rather than adopting a broad approach, such as “I’m going to go do business across the entire U.S.,” it is crucial to be targeted and focused to avoid spreading resources too thin.

Furthermore, entering the realm of global business necessitates a dedicated commitment. Success demands a clear choice: being either fully committed or not involved at all. Merely testing the waters and experimenting is insufficient. There is a need to recognize that up front and that includes allocation of resources, time, money, and personnel.

Equally vital is the cultivation of success stories. In the business world, people seek tangible evidence and reassurance that others have successfully navigated similar paths. Particularly when venturing beyond one’s domestic market, skepticism prevails. The first question in people’s minds will be, “Well, if you’re trying to get me to do it, why hasn’t somebody in Australia caught on to it?” While there may be valid reasons, having a well-prepared response is essential to alleviate concerns and build credibility. 

In terms of successes, how would you suggest or recommend how Australian organizations can really leverage the Australian uniqueness?

One notable observation is the contrasting approach to technology adoption between Australians and Americans. Australians are early adopters, readily embracing new technologies where they offer solutions to problems. In contrast, Americans tend to exhibit a degree of resistance, preferring not to be the pioneers or experimenters. Their inclination is to wait until someone else has successfully implemented the technology.

An illustrative example is the swift adoption of wireless technology in Australia. It was integrated into everyday use in Australia before gaining widespread acceptance in the United States. Another striking distinction lies in banking habits. In the U.S., a significant number of individuals still prefer going to brick-and-mortar banks and resist the use of ATMs. This resistance exemplifies the comparatively slow pace of technology adoption in the United States. 

When it comes to expansion of Australian organizations into the U.S., are there any standout reasons or trends that you’ve seen as to why organizations might fail or don’t maximize the opportunity?

A common pitfall for those venturing into global business is the tendency to move hastily without undertaking essential groundwork. To illustrate, consider planning a trip to the U.S.. It’s crucial to know exactly where you want to go and when, conducting a thorough analysis to determine the optimal destination for yourself and your company. This requires avoiding assumptions and recognizing that the best locations may differ significantly from the allure of bustling cities like LA and New York.

The second pitfall involves viewing the world as uniform and assuming that, because the U.S. and Australia are both English-speaking countries, their cultures and business practices align. That could not be further from the truth.

Are there any specific examples, certain sectors, or industry types that maybe would be better off focusing on different kinds of cities and locations?

When considering industries at the forefront, particularly those intricately tied to research and development (R&D), Silicon Valley often takes center stage. Silicon Valley is good, but it’s also saturated and highly competitive. Alternative hubs in the U.S., tailored to specific industries, boast exceptional research institutions, a thriving start-up ecosystem, and a strong focus on leading-edge technology. Cities like Austin, Texas, and the Triangle area of North Carolina emerge as noteworthy examples. And the size of those cities is much smaller than Chicago, New York, or LA, so it would be much more familiar to Australians, making them particularly accessible for Australians entering the U.S. market. 

How do you think Australians can leverage that uniqueness to really help U.S. against maybe other countries that might also be trying to break into the U.S. market?

Americans genuinely appreciate the innovative spirit of Australians, often likening them to cowboys in the Wild West. This perception aligns with the American ethos of valuing ingenuity and adaptability, discovering new ways of doing things rather than always being set in our ways. Americans respect that. I can’t emphasize enough the whole innovation and R&D angle because American companies tend to be very good in a certain part of innovation. That’s the commercialization side. Australians tend to be very good at innovation. So, if you bring the two together, that’s where you have a good marriage. This synergy is not confined to the business realm but extends to universities and various R&D settings.

In terms of Australians playing to their strengths, what would you see as some of the indicators of an organization in Australia really being ready for that overseas, U.S. kind of expansion?

Embarking on a venture into the U.S. market requires strategic considerations, and a crucial starting point is to draw inspiration from success stories within Australia. Rather than treating a U.S. venture as a trial-and-error experiment, businesses can leverage the valuable experience gained beyond Australian borders.

Engaging with fellow Australian companies that have navigated the complexities of the U.S. market provides a wealth of insights, whether in success or failure. This insight extends beyond borders, including conversations with Americans in Australia, offering a flavour for the differences in the cultures. It involves not only allocating resources but also dedicating substantial time to understand the intricacies of the market. This commitment goes beyond brief visits, to actually spending time in the U.S.. While specifics may vary for each company, the idea is to be receptive to the prospect of a long-term commitment, recognizing that success often demands more than a fleeting visit. This mindset ensures a comprehensive understanding of the market nuances and a strategic positioning for sustained success. 

About Paul Adler 

Paul Adler is a global business expert with a track record of helping Australian companies become successful in the United States. He has accomplished this by leveraging knowledge gained from working in the private sector and for the Australian government. Presently Paul is Principal of Paul Adler LLC, which advises companies on how to become successful in global markets. He focuses on the front-end decision-making process of what is needed to prepare for global business and identifies what products/solutions to provide and good starting locations. Paul’s differentiator is in the “how” to accelerate global revenue growth. Previously Paul learned about the challenges of Australian companies that want to do business in the US during his time with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) between 2005 and 2018. He was located at the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC, and spanned multiple industries and geographies across the US. He became so proficient that companies, governments, and other organizations in Australia sought him out for advice. Paul used his business development, relationship, and networking skills to win significant business in competitive markets during his 25-year career with IBM. These markets included the Pacific Rim and the U.S. government. In addition, he learned how to achieve results through consultative selling methods.

This article is adapted from the GLG Webinar “Demystifying Australian Business Expansion into the United States.”U.S. If you would like to access this event or connect with experts from our diverse and experienced network, get in touch with us.

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