Ready for a foreign office?

Nikken Sekkei, a Japanese architecture and engineering firm is a great example of a company that has successfully established foreign offices in countries like China, Russia, and Turkey.

How was this possible for Nikken Sekkei?

Through strategic market positioning.

Opening a foreign office involves establishing a physical presence by an architectural firm in a different country. This move is often motivated by various factors, including an increased international client base, expansion into new markets, and access to foreign talent.

Benefits of Opening a Foreign Office

  1. Increased access to international projects: Expansion into the international market is not only great for gaining exposure but is also an opportunity for your firm to diversify its portfolio.
  2. Broader client base: A foreign office allows architectural firms to grow their client base by tapping into new market segments and establishing a broader geographic presence.
  3. Diversified revenue stream: Dependence on a single market can be risky. By establishing a foreign office, your firm’s revenue is diversified, thereby mitigating some of the risks associated with focusing on a single market.
  4. Opportunities for professional growth and development: Opening a foreign office exposes the firm’s employees to international projects, different cultures, and various regional design trends – thereby improving professional growth and development.

Challenges of Opening a Foreign Office

  1. Legal and regulatory hurdles: Getting into legal issues can be time-consuming and costly, particularly for firms without prior experience in international business.
  2. Language and cultural barriers: Operating in a new country brings language and cultural challenges, which can manifest as communication difficulties, misunderstandings, or friction in business dealings.
  3. High costs and financial risks: Opening and maintaining a foreign office involves considerable financial investment and risk, including rent and utilities, staffing, and international tax implications.
  4. Recruiting and retaining talent: Attracting and retaining top talent in a foreign market can be challenging due to competition, differing labor laws, and language barriers. Working with an industry-specific recruiter like DBI can help you in this process.

Steps to Consider Before Opening a Foreign Office

  1. Market research and analysis: Conduct extensive research on the targeted foreign market to determine the demand for your services, market trends, and key competitors.
  2. Financial feasibility: Evaluate the economic feasibility of the foreign office, including direct costs (rent, utilities, taxes, etc.) and indirect costs (employee relocation, language training, etc.), and prepare a comprehensive budget and financial plan.
  3. Business strategy and planning: This plan should encompass market analysis, pricing and marketing strategies, and a phased approach to growth.
  4. Legal and regulatory compliance: Consult with local authorities or partner with an experienced legal team to ensure compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements, both domestic and international, for operating a foreign office.

Best Practices for Successful Foreign Office Management

  1. Effective communication and collaboration: Maintaining open lines of communication and regular updates with the foreign office is vital for success.
  2. Cultural awareness and sensitivity: Fostering cultural understanding through staff training and educational programs helps bridge the gap between diverse teams, leading to a better work environment and productivity.
  3. Investment in talent recruitment and management (like DBI): Attracting and retaining the right talent is essential for a foreign office to thrive. A structured talent acquisition strategy can help companies access a diverse and skilled workforce.
  4. Consistent monitoring and evaluation of performance: Regularly evaluating foreign offices’ performance helps identify improvement areas, streamline operations, and establish goals for the team.

Case Studies of Successful Foreign Offices

  1. Gensler: An American architecture and design firm, Gensler, has successfully expanded its global presence by establishing offices in countries such as the United Kingdom, China, and the United Arab Emirates. The company’s strategy involves collaborating with local partners while effectively integrating its design philosophy and expertise.
  2. Aedas: Founded in the United Kingdom, Aedas is an international architectural firm that has expanded into the Asian market, particularly in Hong Kong and mainland China. The firm has succeeded by focusing on a regional-specific design through an understanding of the local cultural context and by forming collaborations with other local firms.


Opening a foreign office can provide architectural firms access to new markets, clients, and growth opportunities. However, this decision comes with challenges, requiring careful consideration and strategic planning.

By evaluating the factors mentioned above, your firm can make an informed decision on whether to open a foreign office and make the move into the international mark.

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