Expanding to Britain can be daunting but Total Synergy’s never looked back, having made the UK its home away from home
Even the prospect of staying on Australia’s sandy shores didn’t satisfy Total Synergy – the idea of expanding into Britain was too exciting. Well, given London’s bountiful tech networks and booming construction sector, there’s perhaps no better place for a cloud-based engineer management software provider to be. But it wasn’t until the business took a dramatic decision in 2017 that launching in the UK was made feasible with London & Partners.
But before then, Australia was the perfect starting point for Total Synergy. Founder Scott Osborne got the idea for a business and project management software for architects when a client’s demands sparked a lightbulb moment. “[He was asked] if he could recommend an [engineer software] solution to take care of project accounting and help manage the delivery of projects,” says Damiaan van Zanen, regional manager of Total Synergy EMEA. After scanning the markets, Osborne found nothing tailored to engineers. So there was only one option left: “He built one for him,” Zanen says. Given that customer remains a client 20 years on, it goes without saying that Osborne struck gold.
Ever since launching in 1999, Total Synergy has seen continual success. That’s largely thanks to an increasingly digitised construction sector screaming for management software, as well as making connectivity a top priority. “Things like building information modelling (BIM) are forcing standards and a level of collaboration, which has meant businesses working in this sector need to be more connected and professionals need to be more mobile and agile in how they work,” Zanen explains. A need for constant connectivity means cloud services recently took flight over traditional software. “This has given rise to a demand for cloud-based systems within the sector and a need for APIs to connect relevant applications together to keep information central and offer data integrity,” he adds.
The sector’s clear move towards cloud technology saw Total Synergy go wholly cloud-based in 2017. Now, there’s virtually no barriers for the company. “It opened us up to the global market,” Zanen says. Indeed, Total Synergy branched out and became adopted in seven countries rather than just Down Under in just one year. “Wherever there is internet, Synergy can be used,” Zanen states.
With a spyglass fully extended at overseas opportunities, it didn’t take long for Britain’s construction sector to catch Total Synergy’s eye. “We have had a small number of clients in the UK for many years and the construction sector in the UK is quite large,” Zanen explains. That combined with London being dubbed the tech capital of Europe and Synergy saw the best of both worlds in Blighty and couldn’t resist setting up shop there. “There was a certain pull to being in London as a tech company and having access to networks, talent and a forward-thinking market as our first international move,” says Zanen.
While Australia and Britain share the same lingo most of the time, Total Synergy found subtle differences between the two nations. “In terms of how customers use the software, there are minor differences which can be tailored in the application and the obvious tax systems and currency differences,” Zanen identifies. It turns out marketing strategies in particular strike different chords with Aussies and Brits too, which Synergy promptly actioned. “We had to take these into account to create some awareness around our brand, especially being completely new in this market,” he details.
It’s been a fantastic learning experience for Total Synergy which is giving it the ability to become a heavy hitter in the international ring. “The biggest lesson that probably applies, not just for the UK but any new market you enter, is that no matter how much you think you know your market or audience you will always discover more,” Zanen advises. “As you start building a client base you must be prepared to change strategy and remain agile.” But you can’t just kick back and wait for that to happen. “[That’s] provided you do the research,” he continues. “Our lessons here helped us refine our go-to market strategy in the UK and adopt something for the local market.”
In that respect, working with London & Partners has been a serious boon for Total Synergy. Having only touched down in Britain for a few months, Zanen keenly eyed the London & Partners Business Growth Programme at a co-working space. “I saw it as a great opportunity to get a better understanding of how things worked here, expand my network and have some of my questions around doing business in the UK answered,” he recalls. London and Partners’ programme saw Zanen shaking hands and filling his contact book with some of the best names to answer his many questions. “Sometimes [I asked] the simplest things and it’s great to have a list of people you can talk to who have experience from similar scenarios,” Zanen says. Indeed, it was reassuring to know Total Synergy was far from alone. “It has highlighted that there are many people who have done similar things before and are willing to share experiences,” he adds.
Having successfully dug the Total Synergy flag in overseas soil, the company isn’t planning on stopping its international conquest. “We will be expanding our presence into the USA in the near future,” Zanen announces. Given that will see Total Synergy effectively cover all timezones, facilitating an increasingly global customer base seems as easy as pie. “We have customers in seven countries at last count with more to come shortly and that will continue to expand,” he concludes.
This article comes courtesy of London & Partners’ Business Growth Programme. Tailored to your business growth ambitions, the programme offers free impartial business advice and support to SMEs looking to grow across London.