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Doing business in the US: 13 smart tips to minimise risk


The United States is relentless in making its vast markets seem enticingly available, yet every mistake when doing business there can be costly.

Here are the top 13 things you “must do” prior to taking the plunge and doing business in the US.

  1. Select the best and most experienced business manager in the company to move to the US and be responsible for US deployment.
  2. Prepare a 24-36 month operating budget that will have US operations self-supporting after year one… and add 30 percent more to cost of operations.
  3. Establish your primary office in a US state located near your target market/customers. And research what local (city or town), state or federal tax benefits you might be eligible for in the state you are selecting.
  4. Develop US-compliant commercial documents for customer contracts, employee contracts, licensing agreements, product warrantees, whatever documents that are necessary for you to do business with customers.
  5. Incorporate your business in the US – customers, bankers, etc., will require it.
  6. Establish a relationship with a law firm that has experience with businesses like yours, and with US Visas.
  7. Establish commercial banking relationship with a bank best suited to and most knowledgeable of your business. This is not necessarily the largest bank.
  8. Obtain corporate insurance through a knowledgeable agent that covers your product liability, US employee accident coverage, etc.
  9. Obtain healthcare insurance for US-based employees, (Australian healthcare does not cover employees, even Australian citizens, working in the US)
  10. Establish relationship with an appropriately sized accounting firm that is familiar with your business and will address all quarterly and annual commercial and employee tax payments in the states in which you operate your business and/or have employees.
  11. Make the selection process of US employees a top priority of management, with the objective of selecting the best. It will save money and accelerate growth. Be cognisant of state and federal regulations on what is legal and what is illegal in hiring and “sacking” employees.
  12. Establish a network outside of your business relationships through association with business organisations such as the Association for Corporate Growth.
  13. Plan to revise your business plan and financial operations plan after six months of operating in the US.

Doing business in a market as large and vibrant as the US can be extremely lucrative. Plan it well and the odds will be stacked in your favour.

Steve Anderson started as a journalist, working first at The New York Times and the next 30 years interpreting business to investors. He is now Managing Partner, Marquis Advisory Group (San Francisco and Sydney).

Photo: PDR