Over 70 entrepreneurs gathered in the brand new IBM Forum London, Southbank - to hear from business leaders who have ‘gone, seen and conquered’. We heard some great stories, advice, debating and a lot of experience sharing. Thanks to everyone who came along on the night.
It was fantastic to hear some very candid anecdotes about expanding abroad from our panel, including Nadim Ednan-Laperouse (CEO, WOW Toys), Liz Love (MD, Z-Card), Marcus Codrington Fernandez (Founder, Mongoose Cricket) and Chris Streete (IBM). We also heard from Francis James, Deputy Director of Emerging Markets and Policy at UKTI, as he ran through a ‘state of the nation’ presentation on how much business we are doing with the rest of the world, and how much we could be doing.
We caught up with attendees and panellists on the night including David Smith (Global Futures and Foresight), Chris Streete (IBM), Francis James (UKTI) and Parul Kanabar(PAREXEL).
Watch our video interviews with them here
What did the panel cover?
Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, CEO, WOW Toys
- Don’t sell your product to larger companies that might copy it, if in the early stages of growth
- Local partners are valuable: they get you into countries more quickly, share knowledge, and offer local know-how
- Businesses are meaningless without people. Get the right ethics amongst your people and the rest will follow. The UK is 'cosy', ethical practice is the norm – be prepared to have your morals challenged abroad
- Avoid dangerous countries until you have enough cash to fight them in legal deal
- Don’t lack the confidence to fly solo – use existing UK contacts in the country you want to work with. Impress new contacts with a cocktail party in an Embassy!
- The world is like a giant monopoly board... There is so much cash out there – just go out and get it…
Liz Love, MD, Z-Card
- Get ‘Brand Champions’ to take your product on. BA was an early adopter for Z-Card
- Patents are high risk, but they give high returns. They give international investors confidence
- Subsidiaries are favourable because the team are focused on your business, and are easier to maintain, but the downside – they are expensive
- On ethics – you sometimes have to go ‘close to the line’, beware of getting involved in bribery
- The press is often very negative – push on with international plans despite them
Chris Streete, Smarter Commerce Sales Leader, North East Europe, IBM
- Quick wins with subsidiaries, if they are also your distributers, mean that your brand may be at risk. Don’t be afraid to apply a cost for them using your brand, and loose them as dead weight if the relationship doesn’t work
- Stimulation and regulation would have the biggest impacts for UK SMEs trying to reach out internationally. If the Government could help with finance and investment it would be easier, but regulations are currently too tight
Have confidence - be ruthless when carrying out your plans
Partners are key for early stage expansion, but treat relationships with caution
IP pays off - it means you are protected, and gives investors confidence
Subsidiaries are desirable, but working through partners give you the upper hand on local know-how
Ethics - know your stuff when it comes to the Bribery Act, but expect to make some difficult decisions. Treat your local staff with respect - it will feed back into your brand
Marcus Codrington Fernandez
Founder, Mongoose Cricket
- What do you do if trying to break into an already established market? Use your brand. Mongoose Cricket has a distinctive, British brand, so wins over competitors even in India
- When it comes to ethics in manufacturing, you have to remember what is usual for the location of your factory. Ensure fair pay and good working conditions, be proud of your international manufacturers – make sure you are able to be transparent about how you treat your international staff
- For British businesses to break into more new markets, we need the businesses themselves to have confidence – we need a few tax breaks, but just the encouragement to try can help
Thanks to our fantastic panel and to our Chair, Chris Dines (CEO, Knowledge Peers) for leading the discussion.
It was fantastic to see some regulars such as Axia FX, Camrose, Governor Technology and Cyclehoop, and some new faces including Global Futures and Foresight, Umi Marketing and Intstant Impact Interns.
If you'd like more in-depth coverage and advice from the evening, take a look at our Knowledge Centre on International Operations. There you will find Case Studies with more entrepreneurs who have lived to tell the tale of expanding abroad.
To learn more about the benefits of becoming a member of the Knowledge Peers, click here.