To be clear, this has no affiliation with a political doctrine of a similar name. It’s about the importance of having an international mindset in business today, something my Scottish ancestors have intuitively done for generations. The industrial revolution greatly advanced the opportunities, and the need, to look beyond our borders. Now we are living through a digital revolution that is radically reforming the international business landscape. The internet has opened the borders and intrepid companies are crossing them in record numbers.
Today, there is not a business, however niche, that is unaffected by the global economy. The fact is companies no longer have a choice whether to opt in or not. Without adopting an international outlook, even the smallest company will radically reduce its competitiveness. Businesses are suddenly seeing their markets being consumed by a new breed of global predator. The status quo only leaves us with two options – defend or attack.
Choosing to protect your own market or charge into another is something you must consider carefully. If you do take your business to foreign shores, it will be challenging, complex and not without risk. But the potential rewards are immense.
Seven years ago, Fifth Ring BBN decided that expansion and perhaps even survival depended on our ability to give international energy clients truly international support. Since then we have opened six offices strategically placed across four continents. We have also become a key member of BBN, a global marketing network of 22 like-minded businesses. We are proud of our development, but the journey has not always been problem-free. Nevertheless, here we are, and I believe that the following ideals have been and will continue to be instrumental in our expansion.
You need a powerful and clearly articulated vision. Your people will all be at different points on the route, so they all have to be clear on the ultimate destination. Values Expanding into different locations can expose the worst in an organisation’s culture. There have to be internationally consistent ideals, ethics and management, set by core values.
You have to have and apply common process across the board. Of course there will be regional differences, and a good process management system should accommodate these, but not be driven by them. Nothing will create inefficiency, divisiveness and friction more quickly than people tackling the same things in different ways, just because of location.
Without robust and universally accessible systems, it will be difficult to assess and effectively manage events remotely. The absence of universal systems will also erode efforts to keep your processes the same. Different tools encourage different methods.
Attract people who embrace change and challenge because there’s going to be a lot of both. In the early stages of expansion, turning the flywheel takes considerable effort. But as the footprint of the company grows and all the interconnections kick in, the flywheel will develop a momentum all of its own. When that happens, the flexibility and commitment of your people will be critical to maintaining and expanding client service.
In simple summary your business has to be franchiseable. What you do on home turf has to be easily replicable. If not, you will be consumed in the mechanics of keeping your business running as you expand.
This will render you unable to pursue the new opportunities as they open up to you, which, after all, is the reason for being there in the first place.
(Introduction by Clif Collier - Group Managing Director, Fifth Ring)