International expansion: How to hit the ground running in five easy steps

22 March 2017 / By Pete Dennis

Pete Dennis, ISG’s group head of operational best practice, explains how contractors need to think locally when they want to go global.

At ISG, we define ourselves as a global brand. We’re proud of our ability to seamlessly work with different businesses in different countries, and this resonates with our clients. It’s why clients choose us to help them expand into new territories. In our retail division, we have helped well-known retailers to venture into new territories. To put it simply, we go where your business goes.

But working across countries can be complex. We endeavour to deliver the same unrivalled, unbeatable customer experience whether we’re in Europe, the Middle East or Asia. Our vast experience as a global contractor has helped us to draw some interesting conclusions when it comes to working across different territories. Here are five of them.

1. Respect your business culture
It’s important to understand and respect the customs of your working environment. As much as you may want to use your tried-and-tested, home-grown approach in a new location, remember there may be a few cultural idiosyncrasies you haven’t fully considered. Create a strategy and an approach built on respect, and one which reflects the country’s customs. For example, make room to accommodate for religious or public holidays, and be sure to conform to local working hours and practices. As a foreign contractor, remember that context is also vital: why is this project happening and what are the implications of the work?

2. Tap into the local supply chain
You’re not a truly global and inclusive company until you are drawing upon the local supply chain. Using local resource benefits regional economies and helps to fuel growth and employment. We hire community engagement and sustainability specialists who engage with the communities in which we work, helping to create a fairer, more integrated culture on our sites. Aside from simply being the right thing to do, being community-focused also makes great business sense. When everyone on your team has a greater understanding of the project’s requirements (coupled with experience of in-country statutory requirements), this will speed up delivery schedules and help to quickly address any local custom or compliance issues.

3. Get your numbers right
Pricing can vary widely when venturing into other markets, particularly in today’s uncertain economic climate. Every country is different and has been individually impacted by the global economic downturn. Make sure you work through your budget carefully before asking for quotes, otherwise you could be in for a nasty shock (or a pleasant surprise!). We use local commercial managers to source correct costing, but you also need to be aware of any additional financial concerns like legal documentation, permits and taxes.

4. Health and safety standards must never be compromised
Health and safety standards can vary from country to country, but if you’re working with a local contractor and supply chain, they will already be aware of this. At ISG, our teams are always committed to upholding our industry-leading health, safety and environmental standards. However, this must be enabled through engagement and understanding, not by forced dictates. Internationally recognised contracts support this together with the allocation and management of risk. Notwithstanding this, communication and respect for local legislation and working practices are essential.

5. Communication is key
Throughout every phase of the delivery and in particular just before the building starts to take shape, make sure the brief and expectations for project completion, training and handover are clear for everyone. It sounds simple, but it’s worth repeating. If not, it can lead to crossed wires, delays and an unsatisfactory customer experience. At ISG, we pride ourselves on an enriching and engaging customer journey from start to finish, resulting in an exceptional product. We encourage our people to communicate with clients, and always be transparent and accountable. This helps to manage expectations and build trust between both parties.

Understanding your international markets is crucial to commercial success. Never stop learning and embrace the subtle differences that make each country unique and make sure that consistency of customer experience is a key priority.

Click here to find out more information about our global retail capability.

Author: Pete Dennis

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Pete Dennis - ISG
By Pete Dennis

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