Top tips for overcoming the challenges of global expansion

Breaking into a new global market successfully is a huge win for businesses. “Successfully” being the operative word.

"Going global” is often perceived as a glamorous move, but many of our global customers tell us this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The swan metaphor is an understatement to say the least. While we've been watching them gracefully gliding into new markets, there’s actually been a whole host of challenges they’ve had to combat beneath the water’s surface.

So what is it that drives businesses to put themselves through it? And what can be learned from those that have successfully come out the other side?

We recently caught up with the MD and founders of our global customers Playdale Playgrounds and Jupiter Group, who kindly shared their experiences and gave invaluable advice for those considering taking the global leap.

Playdale Playgrounds

For Barry Leahey, MD of Playdale Playgrounds, global expansion was all about survival. After predicting how changes in the UK markets would affect the future of the business, it was realised that taking the business overseas was a pivotal move to protect it from austerity within the UK.

And what a wise move it was. As a result of expanding globally, Playdale successfully managed to triple in size over the last 10-15 years, and the business now operates across an incredible 49 countries!

Barry believes the three ingredients to successful global expansion are:

Appreciate cultural differences – Barry told us how one of the biggest challenges he faced was overcoming the various cultural differences across numerous countries. He particularly expressed how there needs to be a willingness to learn and understand what it is that is considered to be normal business culture and etiquette across various locations, in order to appreciate what is considered polite and what is considered rude to different people.

Do the leg work - Barry said, “We followed a very stringent process to actually find our distributors which has involved me personally being in 60 different countries in the last 10 years and taking some 600 flights and learning about a lot of cultures. And I think that’s some of the success that we’ve actually enjoyed because we’ve done the hard work.”

Be clever with data - “We’ve utilised data where we can, looking at statistics and what is available out there to define which markets we were going to go to, and just being clever with data, interrogating data, keeping data, ensure you’re following up the right data. You’re running 49 distributors, you can’t have that in your head. We’re using CRM systems like anyone else is just to manage our international contact database. It’s a necessity for us.”

Jupiter Group

Founders of Jupiter Group, Mark and Yvonne Tweddle, aspire to become the first-choice fresh produce company for suppliers and customers alike. For them, taking their business to global markets was a move primarily based on their drive to achieve their ambition of becoming the best in the business.

Expanding overseas has allowed the business to find new products to grow in new territories, ultimately delivering these to new customers. Moreover, with offices all over the world, Jupiter Group is now able to source and grow its own products, ensuring that the business not only produces the best quality fruit and veg, but also that it owns the rights for new varieties of products.

Yvonne and Mark each shared with us their top tip for successful global expansion:

Respect different cultures - For Yvonne, overcoming the barrier of potential cultural differences ought to be a priority when expanding into a new market. She said, “I think the first thing we have learnt is to be respectful of the culture within that environment, and actually there’s some groundwork and research that needs to be done to really understand what matters to people in a new territory.”

Utilise the available technology - Mark discussed how using the technology that is available to businesses is vital when it comes to achieving international success. He commented, “Technology is very important for us to reach our end goals. Particularly being an international business with offices based all over the world, how we communicate to each other is vitally important with the technology we use, and also just from a time-saving point of view, using the technology that’s available really simplifies what we do and also makes us more accurate.”

For more tips on international growth, check out episode one of Business Futures, a new podcast by Datel.