Despite Brexit looming around the corner, more SMEs are bullish about looking beyond British borders but are often hit with mixed messages. International business consultant Andrew Finley reveals what to look out for before sailing overseas
When preparing for growth, the end game for a company is to be self-sufficient and leave a global footprint. But given the world of international business can be both daunting and exciting, owners must implement the necessary components to successfully operate and compete across different markets.
Before any future foundations are laid or forecasts are predicted it’s essential for SMEs to assess their strengths and weaknesses to know their business inside out and how to pitch it to international clients. Having a clear strategy in place including a collaborative approach to employees, service providers, customers and plans for global activities is the first step.
Many of the businesses I deal with at Oxford Innovation, the business coaching organisation, are focused on export so we tailor the discussions to reflect their changing needs. The sales environment is highly competitive so businesses must be on the mark when setting out their stall. There are complex interconnected disciplines like accurate cashflow forecasting and many SMEs have run into financial difficulty despite rising sales revenues.
One of the challenges for businesses is making sure a reliable supply network is in place as this will aid the development through robust production capability, cashflow and secure the long-term viability of the company. If you run out of cash or can’t meet the demand for orders, it’s an invitation to trouble. Having the right supply network ensures quality control and price determination. Fundamentally for a vision to work, a manager must get every employee on board by communicating the business’ direction and, on reflection, what works well and not so well.
To achieve growth on a global scale the business not only needs to have a grip on sales channels but also a geographically appropriate brand message. Pitching a product successfully on a domestic front isn’t necessarily the same as targeting a brand to international shores. Monies need to be allocated for separate marketing and promotional exercises, whether this is B2B or B2C. Additionally, having an action plan and risk management strategy to deal with any potential complex risks is critical.
A sensible strategy for companies to achieve growth is to address each area sequentially. First, build an integrated plan for the business that encompasses all key disciplines and then design a long-term and carefully thought out vision. And when approaching the domestic and international markets it’s essential to look at your business challenges from two perspectives – external and internal. Indeed, a well-run organisation needs both to be aligned.