When it comes to investment-based immigration, building a credible business plan should be the foremost priority. Of course, each immigration program has its own requirements, and those requirements need to be met, however, we commonly see prospective immigrants presenting business concepts that meet program requirements without much thought as to whether or not they are doing so in a way that is logical and believable. When adjudicators review business plans, they look at everything in context to make sure that all the pieces fit together in a manner that makes business sense.

This series presents some of the most common errors we see and how to avoid them.

Part 3: Industry Experience & Market Knowledge

An often-overlooked factor in business planning as it relates to business immigration is explaining how and why it is credible that a new business can successfully break into a new market. With few exceptions, this is a common theme when prospective immigrants are planning businesses in new countries.

As a rule, the more gaps there are between the prospective immigrant’s current circumstance and their business objective, the more justification will be needed to be built into the business plan to bridge those gaps. The most common gaps we see are:

  • language barriers
  • cultural differences (including business culture)
  • lack of relevant business experience
  • lack of understanding of the (new) local market or a path to winning customers

Naturally, some scenarios require less explanation than others. For example: at one end of the spectrum, is an immigrant from an English-speaking country, who has an existing business in their home country that already sells products or services in their newly-chosen market and is setting up a subsidiary to better serve existing customers. At the other end of the spectrum is an immigrant whose native language is not English, and who has limited direct experience in the industry they are proposing to build a business in and has little demonstrable knowledge and connections in the local market.

All is not lost, however, even in the most challenging scenarios. The deficiencies noted above can be mitigated, but prospective immigrants should understand that while strong cases can still be built, overcoming weaknesses typically requires a higher level of investment or expense.

The following are some examples of how to mitigate these challenges and to build a strong business plan in the face of weaknesses that prospective immigrants commonly face:

  • Language barriers and cultural differences: becoming fluent in a new language is often easier said than done. Prospective immigrants will typically benefit from being able to demonstrate that they can speak English at a sufficient level to conduct business, however, this is a long-term prospect. In the meantime, measures should be taken to ensure that they hire staff members who can speak English, and who have proven knowledge and experience with local business culture especially on the sales front.
  • Lack of relevant business experience: if a prospective immigrant is straying from their core base of knowledge and experience to a new industry or business, they must ensure that they undertake market research to understand the market and its needs. Furthermore, when planning for employees, that they should ensure that they hire experienced employees and managers, who will likely command higher salaries.
  • A path to winning customers: an ideal scenario is one in which a business plan can demonstrate, with some level of specificity, where new sales will come from by demonstrating demand in the form of letters of intent or letters of support from prospective customers. The best way to achieve this is with local sales help. If the prospective immigrant is not yet ready to hire employees, they might undertake helpful initiatives, such as hiring market researchers or hiring cold callers who can help them to make inroads in the early stages.

In all cases, one should do one’s homework, beginning with making a frank assessment of key gaps to develop and build a successful business. Once gaps are identified, the prospective immigrant can start planning on how to bridge the gaps in a convincing way. The less one knows about the market they want to move to, the more help they should employ, be it from friends, other connections or from hired experts.

Ultimately, one should try to find a way to turn challenges into opportunities: by developing strong business strategies to mitigate gaps, applicants can demonstrate their business acumen and creative thinking abilities, which can create a very positive impression with adjudicators.