I recently returned from participating in the Catalyst Seminar Speaking Tour in India. My slot was on how to drive commercial success when entering a foreign market. Working with companies from all over the world, of differing sizes and from different sectors, we see recurring themes in international expansion that cut across these including common issues, typical mistakes, as well as formulas for success.

Across the next five weeks I’m going to share five major mistakes that we encounter time and time again which can put a company’s foreign market entry at risk and typically lead to failure and financial loss.

Part 1 of 5: Home Market Thinking

The first common mistake is what I call “Home Market Thinking”. This familiar optical illusion helps explain.


There are two images in this picture. Generally, people see only one image easily (either the young lady or the old lady) and require help and a certain amount of mental effort to see the second.

Seeing Through your Cultural Lens

The point is that other countries and their markets are different in many ways from your home market and it is very easy to view the new market through your own cultural and experiential lens. What you see and what you conclude about the way that the market operates, may not be at all correct.

Sub-Optimal Decision Making

As with the image above, most people, will always see their ‘favoured’ image first and have a tendency to apply ‘home market thinking’ to any given situation, particularly in times of stress such as when investments and progress are not going to plan. It is at such times that decision makers based back in the home country must especially guard against falling back into their default view of the world and try and impose a home market solution onto the new market. This will usually lead to sub-optimal decision-making.

Get Local Assistance

It takes effort to stop seeing the opportunity and the new market through the lens of your home market and applying your home thinking. It requires effort and often help from local collaborators, and including your own people on the ground, to understand the differences and make good, informed decisions.

Part 2 of ‘5 Typical Fails in International Expansion’ will be published next week.

For advice, planning and practical assistance in international expansion, contact info@tradehorizons.com.