August means holiday time for my family – not the whole of August but a couple of weeks at least. So lying round the pool in Northern Greece (with blackberry and twitter account) I tried to gather my thoughts about the last year and where my work was coming from and taking me to. My colleagues and I started our company up over 10 years ago because we had all previously been employed with large consulting firms and were fed up with constant travel. We all had young families or children on the way and we wanted to focus on companies in the UK to restrict our time spent travelling – the best of intentions.
Ten years ago we hadn’t really thought about Globalisation as a business concept but looking back on the last year most of our business has been either abroad or involved a lot of foreign contacts; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, USA, Netherlands this year and it looks like Abu Dhabi, Pakistan and possibly Germany next year. All the initial contacts were made in the UK but most of the delivery was done abroad. So what are the implications?
1. Firstly, is the way in which you land your business easily understood by people abroad? Everyone thinks that English is the international business language but when you get into contract negotiations or the intricacies of managing project timelines you must have someone who has local language knowledge.
2. What about all your marketing material? Although you want to focus on the UK or English speaking markets it is so easy to have everything translated – either using on-line translators or the huge potential of foreign language graduates here in the UK there is no excuse for not having a couple of language variants of your core marketing materials.
3. Finance – I have got to look into this seriously. As taxes rise in the UK there must be a tax efficient way for even the smallest of companies to separate foreign generated income from that created in the UK? That may mean that we even set up a subsidiary company abroad and have offshore accounts. I’m happy to pay my share of UK taxes but when I start paying 60%+ of income you start to think…
4. Online monitoring of projects. A major project we got involved with about 7 years ago was for a Government department for a Middle East Government. The timings were such that after 3 months in-country we could appoint a local manager and monitor the programme from the UK. We could only do this by having set up an on-line dashboard in advance. This has got to be a standard nowadays!
5. It’s all about people. Forget processes and methodologies – working with people from different cultures and approaches to business is very time consuming and sometimes frustrating. It must be the same for them also. Communication is king! If there is one lesson I have learnt this year on foreign based projects it’s this – spend at least 3 times more effort on communication than you normally would do on UK based projects!
Anyway, with all this business travel this year the Airmiles generated did help with paying for the holiday fights – and my kids didn’t miss me anyway!
[ribbon]Author Bio:[/ribbon] Follow Simon Derry on Twitter Simon was co-author of “FastTrack to Success – Project Management” published by FT Prentice Hall in 2009