What is the most important asset for a company in growing business abroad?
– The ability to find the right partner and talent in the new market, says Carmen Ene, the CEO of the tech service company 3 Step IT. She will attend the International Round Table Discussion at Kasvun Karnevaali on October 23rd.
In addition she reminds of the importance of having the bench strength for international expansion. You can’t start recruiting new talent when the growing demand requires competence at once. Carmen Ene believes that the first thing you need to do is to study and get familiar with the market you are planning to move on to – who is present, who is winning, who is losing.
– Second, you have to assess your product or offering. What is your story and how do you best tell it in a particular country, taking into account the local culture and value model.
A combo of nationalities can be powerful
According to Ene, the role of an individual's nationality in global business depends on how you recognise and even make use of it. She refers to a well known European joke about nationalities: Heaven is a place where the police are English, the chefs are Italian, the car mechanics are German, the lovers are French and it's all organized by the Swiss.
– Even if the joke might need to be updated because of recent news, the point is that each nationality has its own characteristics, which combined can be powerful to strengthen an organisation, Carmen Ene says.
To build your own business heaven Carmen Ene stresses the value of taking the time to understand and accept the culture and values of the people with whom you are working. Furthermore, the management practices you use at home will not necessarily be effective in international business both internally and externally.
She takes communication as an example.
– In Finland the communication style is often direct, open and “to the point”. In Britain, business communications can be difficult to read since the British do not like to offend their business partners, and sources of disagreements are not always obvious to detect.
First of all, do your homework
Born in Romania and living in five countries, Carmen Ene has made a convincing 20-year career in international IT. She has managed several teams of various nationalities and competences. Her advice for Finnish entrepreneurs standing at the threshold of going international is to start with asking yourself why you want to expand internationally.
– Whenever I need to make a difficult decision I use the 5 WHYs technique. If I find no answer to the 3rd of 4th ‘why’, it means the action makes no sense, so I look at other alternatives. I would use the same decision mechanism in this situation, she says.
Maybe you want to expand internationally because you can’t grow more in your country, or maybe it is because you want to serve your international clients? Different answers will trigger different courses of action.
– First of all, do your homework. Book a trip and hire a guide, see with your own eyes, talk to as many local people as possible. Observe the competition, see what your competitors are doing, what they are selling and where. Learn from their mistakes and successes, and even try to talk to them, she encourages.
– Sometimes you may strike partnerships that can be of benefit to you both. In the world of today, nobody can succeed alone, we are seeing alliances and ecosystems being built by companies that have been fierce competitors in the past.
Going global – the smartest move?
How about managing the risks on a new territory? Carmen Ene finds among top risks supply chain management, language, culture, financial risks, and management of talent. She has noticed that many companies who do not have global experience underestimate what’s involved or simply do not know where to turn to get the necessary information to position them for success.
– However, the companies that do their homework up front—who do a thorough self-assessment of their success in their own country and truly understand the risks associated with international expansion—have the most success globally, she concludes.
Carmen Ene reminds that by taking your products or services into international markets you are replicating your business for another set of circumstances, a different locale and culture, with a different market, demands, needs and expectations.
Is it worth it?
– Absolutely. If you do your homework and get some help from locals and professionals, going global could be one of the smartest and most profitable moves you've ever made. Otherwise, you may be overlooking increased sales, new knowledge and experience and most importantly – higher profits.
Tiinu Wuolio, Medita Communication Oy