More business leaders in the UK need to “get on planes” next year and promote their products in new markets, the head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said in his new year message.
John Cridland also emphasised that the UK would be best-placed staying within the EU, with an eye to making reforms from the inside.
The CBI director general delivered a message of hope in his latest address. He said business leaders around the country have “a spring in their step” as the recovery is taking hold, but cautioned about becoming too complacent.
“If 2013 was the year that business trust took a hammering on a range of issues from corporate taxation to energy prices, then 2014 must be the year that business leaders take action to rebuild that trust,” he said.
“The CBI will play its part and you’ll be hearing a lot more from us next year on how we restore and rebuild trust with consumers and ensure growth makes a difference to everyone.”
He hailed the rise in permanent new jobs around the UK, predicting that next year will see most firms growing their workforce and increasing productivity.
However, he cautioned that the key to the UK’s economic future will be in delivering higher-value products and services through a higher-skilled workforce, placing great importance on training, both at the graduate and vocational levels.
“We need to widen the gateways into higher-skilled work for far more people, including those already working, or those for whom a degree may not be the best option. Of course, that doesn’t mean the end of the traditional three-year degree and universities will continue to play an important role in delivering growth,” he said.
But Mr Cridland said there is a need to make sure the recovery is well-balanced. He called for business leaders to learn important lessons from the financial crisis and “move away from an economy that was far too reliant on consumer and Government debt”.
“In 2014, we do still need to see far more business leaders getting on planes to sell their products and services in new markets around the world. And as confidence continues to improve, we also need to see more companies re-investing their profits in the UK,” he said.
For those of you thinking about expanding overseas, knowing where to begin can seem daunting. As with so many things, preparation is the key. But fear not because, with a little help from the experts at international business firm HSP, we have put together a top 10 checklist to help businesses head out to pastures new.
1) Define your aims and do your prep work
What do you hope to achieve by setting up international operations? Is it the right move for your firm? Make sure you are making a sound business decision before committing to anything.
2) Keep within your means, don’t break the bank!
See what parts of your business would work best abroad. Identify one or two key goals, don’t overreach. That way you can manage your growth and easily evaluate your success.
3) Plan, plan and plan again
How will your company be structured overseas? Will it function in the same way as your domestic operation? What will your staff hiring process look like? Will you need translation services? Multi-lingual staff?
4) Be flexible
Be aware of the specific needs of the market and alter your approach accordingly. One size does not necessarily fit all.
5) Be prepared to think on your feet, you’re not in Kansas anymore
Each country will have completely different requirements for things like hiring employees, issuing stock options and filing. Be aware that there will be many differences as you set up international operations.
6) Understand the circles you move in
You will find business culture and practices vary from country to country. Be open to brushing up on the local traditions in order to smooth your way in the business world. Pouring the sake out of turn at dinner with a partner or customer in Tokyo is a faux pas, for instance.
7) Keep a firm yet realistic hold on the purse strings
It is not unusual for spending on international expansions to mushroom. Be sure budgets for overseas expansion are not set unrealistically low, but give yourself space to manoeuvre.
8) No man is an island, even if his name is Barry
Don’t be afraid to lean heavily on your finance and HR departments at headquarters. Leases and contracts, paying foreign suppliers, and determining the company structure all carry with them labyrinthine complexities. Let the experts do their work. Outsource functions where possible.
9) Play the waiting game
Take your time to develop your overseas business. Rapid growth can lead to rapid failure. See what works and focus on that.
10) Local knowledge goes a long way
Purchase local services from quality providers to give you space to look after your company. Securing help from an experienced international business services firm can give you the kind of security only money can buy.