Advice for SMBs considering international expansion
3 February 2016
2 min read
Recent research shows that 58% of UK SMEs are planning to enter new markets in the next two years. But do they know the first thing about working across continents?
Support your team
Emerging Communications is a specialist marketing agency promoting UK brands to the Chinese consumer. With a head office in London, the team and supply chain cover all of China as well as Hong Kong.
Stephen Pratley, marketing director, says: “Supporting your staff in developing that network will both help them feel less isolated from each other but also give you more of an insight into their home market, and can throw up valuable relationships for both clients and suppliers.”
“It’s important to remember that your team aren’t just in contact with you, but have their own friends, families, support networks and contacts that you rarely see.” Stephen Pratley
Speak the language
If you’re going to work in or export to an unknown country then do your research first. Smruti Sriram, CEO of the world’s largest ethical manufacturer of eco packaging, Supreme Creations, says: “My team is very international, and between us we speak 12 languages.
“Being able to speak to distributors and clients in their native tongue helps to forge healthy relationships and resolve issues as quickly as possible,” Smruti Sriram, Supreme Creations
Sort your scheduling out
“Scheduling is essential when working with people across different time zones, along with an agenda,” says Jason Downes, MD of telecoms provider Powwownow.
“The time window in which you are able to communicate may be small and, therefore, you need to maximise your time, especially when potentially dealing with people from a variety of different working cultures and methods.”
Get the right tech
“Delivering campaigns across two continents requires our London and New York offices [with Cape Town and Melbourne to follow] to truly operate as a single team,” says Becki Hemming from PR agency Manifest.
Successfully working across two continents has required the company to embrace the latest collaborative working technology, and to put structures in place to maintain its working culture.
Ms Hemming says: “Cloud-based tools such as Slack, Asana, Harvest and appear.in have shortened distances and removed barriers between continents, streamlining work processes and enabling us to seamlessly deliver client projects across multiple time zones.”
Dan McBeth, operations director at Quintessentially Lifestyle, a luxury lifestyle management service, agrees. His company uses the enterprise social networking tool Chatter. “Our London nightlife team know about new club openings months before they happen,” he says.
“Thanks to Chatter, these insights can now be shared instantly with hundreds of Quintessentially Lifestyle employees in 60-plus offices globally, including London, New York, Dubai and Hong Kong, delivering instant competitive advantage.”
He adds: “It’s been a real game-changer. Lifestyle managers can also subscribe to different news feeds to get regular updates on suppliers, services and venues that are relevant to their clients.”
Know your audience
Farah Radford, founder of creative agency Digivita, visits “at least” a different European city every week, splitting her time between Essex, Dhaka and Megeve. Digivita works with a number of international companies, including clients in Spain, France, Malaysia, USA and Australia.
She says: “We work really hard to understand the target audience – whichever country they’re in. We see some of our clients every month, but rarely see others – in some cases, we have never even met them in person.
“In a geographically dispersed context like this, getting regular client feedback is crucial” Farah Radford, Digivita