The Art of International Business

Continuing our export theme, we have asked some experienced senior executives for their top tips on how to set up or expand an international business.  Here is a very small selection of their advice.

Philip Rawlings, a commercial HR Director with a mix of corporate, interim and consultancy experience, kicks things off with a really practical checklist…

  • Have a clear business plan as to what you are willing to invest in time, money and people to be successful
  • Know what type of legal entity you might want to establish and the tax implications
  • Speak with other organisations that are in that country including organisations such as British Chamber of Commerce who will understand the potential pitfalls
  • If you are employing people ensure you have good local knowledge available on contract terms and conditions, implications for employee representation on your parent organisation
  • Understand what good local practice looks like and be clear as to whether it is a local self- standing business or clearly linked to the “home” country organisation
  • Have an exit strategy – know what metrics you will use

Jon Gregory, who has spent 20 years working in operations and business-development interim positions at senior and board level, says nothing beats going to the place where you’re looking to expand, understanding its business culture and building-up trust. A higher frequency of shorter visits is better than a low number of very long visits. He argues “people deal with people, when it comes to international business.”

Experienced interim CEO, Francisco Vazquez, agrees – sharing insights into how he gets to know a culture. “I usually do my first visit to a supermarket, and from there start questioning traditions and customs…Also, know its laws or a good lawyer before starting operations.”

He suggests that ex pats can save a lot of time, provide a lot of information – and thanks to social networking they can be contacted very fast.

Bogdan Buzdugan – a C-level transition & turnaround specialist adds “it’s very important to find a good local team.  In some countries this may represent the difference between success and failure.”

In addition to people, Matthew Wright, a Director Level IT Consultant and Chief Technical Officer, warns that companies need to be realistic about the power of their brand. “It’s very easy to think that the new employees in the country you are setting up in are familiar with the parent company, and that the parent company ‘brand’ has influence and kudos over there, but it doesn’t.  This has to be built, along with knowledge of the operations.”

Depending on the business, he recommends that key staff from the other country should visit the UK operation too, and meet their colleagues.

This is just a small sample of the advice shared with us. As a result we are going to develop a detailed download on this topic. To advance request your copy mail putting “international download” in the subject.