What Are the Top 3 Challenges Construction Companies Face When Taking on International Work?

International borders don’t represent to the sort of trading obstacle they once did and now that we are looking at a global marketplace it perfectly feasible that a construction company could bid for international contracts.

If you are contemplating taking this route with your construction business you might want to consider some of the potential challenges you will have to contend with as you browse construction auctions for the equipment that you might need in order to get the job done.

Here is a look at some key considerations when you venture into international waters with your construction business.

The international language of business

Although the English language is widely spoken across the globe, especially when it comes to doing international business deals, it should not be assumed that the project team you will be working with locally will automatically be talking your language.

There are likely to be a few cultural differences to accommodate and these should be approached with the right level of sensitivity and understanding. Also, it should be clarified exactly what the position is with regard to language differences and what official language is being adopted for communication throughout the building project once it gets underway.

It would be a good idea to seek out a project management framework tool that gives you the ability to use interfaces that are available in several different languages if that is what is required.

The main point to consider is that it should not be assumed that the default language position is going to be English. Even if the local workers are capable of communicating in English rather than their native tongue it is still a good idea to keep jargon to a minimum so that language does not become a barrier to a successful international construction project.

The rules remain the same

In order for a project to be carried out as efficiently and effectively as possible, it is essential that you create and maintain a framework of rules, roles, and responsibilities for each person involved in the process.

An essential point to consider here when you are organizing an international project is that how you do things in your country might not be the same abroad and it is possible that the role of a project manager is not fully understood elsewhere, or even acknowledged in certain parts of the world.

You will need to be mindful and respectful of how your international work partners might have a hierarchical structure and system that is different from the way you see it. This can mean that they do not understand or acknowledge your role as a project manager and may, therefore, not be willing to take direction from someone in that position.

It is best to clarify the ground rules and set out everyone’s roles and responsibilities so that there are no cultural clashes or mistaken assumptions once the project gets underway.

You might find it helpful to seek out someone with the local knowledge and experience required to iron out these potential issues and if they have previously managed an international project that could turn out to be invaluable to your business.

Clarifying and managing expectations and protocols locally is essential and that should be on your list of priorities when you are setting out a framework for how the project will proceed.

Managing time differences

It might seem an obvious disparity but time zones are a key issue that can create difficulties in managing a construction project successfully if this issue is not satisfactorily addressed.

As you extend your reach across international waters it is not just the challenge of managing projects that are taking place on foreign soil that you need to consider. You could find yourself in a situation where various project teams are spread around various parts of the globe and that means that there is not just a geographical challenge to overcome but a time difference issue to resolve too.

It is quite clear that time zones require careful planning and your organizational skills are likely to be stretched to the max if you are going to coordinate everything while taking account of the local time differences.

Even if the time difference is not substantially different to the clock your business normally works to at home it can still create the opportunity for communication challenges.

It is not just the issue of contacting team members with one eye on the clock that you need to think about, there is also the potential impact on agreed deadlines that you need to contend with.

One obvious example of how time differences can make the project more challenging is when you are trying to liaise with a local manager and you have to wait a good number of hours or even until the following day before you can get a response.

Coping with a project where there is a time difference of ten hours or more will mean having an understanding that every question or issue that needs resolving could take at least a day to sort out.

You will need to account for the time difference and have a plan in place for dealing with this scenario if you are going to be able to complete your overseas project with the minimum of fuss.

A good way of resolving the sort of time-based logistical challenges you face when managing an international construction project would be to seek out some project management software that does a bit of the thinking for you.

This software should ensure that you find it easier to manage a project across various time zones. It does this by automatically calculating the time difference and then adjusting the various project deadlines so that they are in line with the time zone settings of your local manager in that area.

If you are looking to expand your construction business it would seem a logical step to consider bidding for overseas contracts.


Lynne Huysamen

Mommy to a pigeon pair, blogger and online marketer. Lover of chocolate, good books and buckets of coffee.

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