Tony Goodwin, Founder & CEO, Antal International has set up offices in 110 offices in 35 countries. His advice? Don’t get bogged down by the need to have a tried-and-tested UK business model before expanding overseas
My mind boggles when I hear of British businesses shying away from expanding internationally. They cite reasons like “I don’t have the right connections” or “I first want to establish a successful UK business”, or even “the culture abroad is too different”.
These myths are scaring UK firms away from upping their international game. I want to shoot such myths to pieces. Through setting up over 110 offices in 35 countries, I know British products and services are actually valued more abroad than they are in the UK. What better way is there to secure Britain’s future than building multinational businesses?
So here’s my advice for all you businesses out there doubting whether you can do it.
It’s simpler than businesses think
I don’t think you need to have a tried-and-tested UK business model before you think of international expansion. In fact, my experience was quite the opposite – I went international before I established a UK business.
You can identify a gap in foreign markets and set up shop there, instead of entering a rat race with big UK players in the same space. International expansions help you scale your business much faster and help you make your contribution to the economy.
The other bizarre business mantra people keep chanting is that you need to do a feasibility study before you step outside the country. If I had done studies for every market I have entered, I wouldn’t have been able to enter more than three or four.
I think all the number crunching makes things too complicated. In 1992/93, I called around firms in different countries like Poland, Russia and Czechoslovakia to ask if they were hiring. I got databases and sent out postal letters to them. It was very practical market research and I was able to crack deals.
All entrepreneurial SMEs need to do is make calls to test the market, ask prospective clients what they need, and get on the plane.
Don’t get bogged down by cultural differences. It’s not as complicated as people have made out – the concepts of profit and loss remain the same around the globe. Yes, the business model needs to be tweaked and you might have to consider local differences. However, if you have a good product or service, you’ll easily be able to sell it abroad.
My advice: get on with your work
The other nonsensical notion you should ignore is that you need to know bigwigs to make it big. Well, who on earth did Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg know to set up a successful business? Who did I know when I set up my business? No-one!
I still don’t know anyone, and I am proud of the fact that I am self-made. I worry when people hold on to this myth, almost like an excuse for their lack of passion and drive. Stop thinking you need a Rolodex or a smartphone full of contacts, and get on with your work.
Great Britain plc has a fabulous reputation abroad, and I wholeheartedly advise all British businesses to go abroad as soon as possible. We have integrity, quality and a great brand to show off. If all British entrepreneurs play on their strengths and venture abroad, Britain will surge out of the recession.
- British businesses make too many excuses for why they’re not expanding internationally
- You don’t need a tried-and-tested UK business model before expanding overseas
- Lengthy feasibility studies of foreign markets aren’t necessary
- The impact of cultural differences is overblown and you don’t need bigwig contacts
You need to read:
Charles Delingpole: Support alternative finance to boost exports
Adam Afriyie MP: Why exporting can be a risky business