Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
Inspiring Business North West
phone +44 (0) 161 509 2017

Going Global

On 10th October 2017 in my role as a North-West Export Champion, I was invited to a joint event between the Institute of Directors and The Department of International Trade called 'An Introduction to Exporting'. It was a thought-provoking event hosted by KPMG Manchester.

It was a round table event with a variety of organisations, some already exporting successfully and some new to exporting looking for guidance. As a seasoned exporter having worked as a Learning and Development Consultant/Executive coach in 25 countries around the world, I was there to share my experience of working globally and to share some of the successes and challenges of working with diverse cultures.

The key points for discussion were:

Why should companies export?

There are myriad reasons including growing your market and increasing sales, it also allows you to reduce your reliance on the UK market. If your product or service is experiencing a downturn, being able to offer it globally means that you offset this by exporting, plus it could increase the shelf life of your product or service. I can confirm that this has been my experience of exporting. During the recession in the UK from 2008 onwards I identified clients who had an international reach and was able to win a contract which allowed me to work globally, thus keeping my business solvent during the difficult and challenging years. As someone who was born in Dominica in the Caribbean, the opportunity to see the world whilst working in a profession that I love has provided me with some amazing opportunities to build a global network of contacts.

Academic research confirms that exporting companies see the following benefits:

  • They are 11% more likely to stay in business
  • More productive and innovative than non-exporters
  • 30% increase in productivity in the first year
  • Higher profile and more credibility

I can confirm that if I had not won my international contract during the recession I would not be in business today. Being able to work abroad whilst the UK was in the doldrums allowed my company to withstand the recession and keep going. It has also given me a firm foundation in the global market with organisations offering me work in the countries where I have some experiences. For example, I have worked in Oman, Bahrain, Dubai, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait and Yemen on numerous occasions. I have also worked in Bangkok, Sarajevo and Uzbekistan. So, potential clients understand that I am versatile and have cultural awareness.

Barriers to exporting

The organisations that attended the event had quite specific barriers which they shared with us. We were also given some barriers reported to the Department for International Trade; which were finding customers, payment terms, logistics, communication and legal risks. One of the big issues is also around culture. I was very fortunate that a lot of my work was for the British Council. Part of their support for consultants who work for them involves sending you guidance prior to travelling which gives information regarding the culture and the do's and don'ts whilst working in a location. This information was invaluable in helping with dress code and language etc. If the organisation that you are working for does not supply this I would recommend the excellent services of the DTI who have 1,200 staff in over 100 overseas markets and around 400 people across UK regions, working locally with UK businesses. They can provide advice about culture, language and can also arrange meetings with potential customers on your behalf.

My lessons learned from 14 years of working globally:

Explore and immerse yourself in the culture.

I have always learnt how to say good morning, hello or welcome in the language where I am delivering training or working. This sometimes can cause amusement due to the accent, but I find everyone appreciates that you have tried. But also, it is important to dress appropriately and respect the dress code.

Learn laws and social etiquette

This is vital in order to do business that is sustainable, in some countries you have to build a relationship where there is trust, which means some face to face contact and delivering on your promises. This also includes your website, it is important that your website respects the social mores and culture of your clients. For instance, having someone with parts of their body exposed in your marketing material when selling bathroom equipment is not suitable for the Middle East.

Build your global brand by:

  • Using your unique selling point (USP) - what is different about you? What can you offer that others can't?

  • Presenting yourself and your product or service in a way that is tailored to your market.

  • Dress and speak appropriately - use humour appropriately. If unsure, leave it out rather than risking offence.

  • Know and use your social media channels. 88% of the Middle East's online population use social media daily. It is estimated that 58 million people in the Middle East use Facebook, with 6.5 million people on Twitter and 5.8 million on LinkedIn.

So, if you have not considered taking your business to a global audience, now is the time! If I can be of any help to you starting on your global journey, feel free to contact me - if I can't help you myself, I will put you in touch with Bobbie Charleston-Price, my international trade adviser.

Abraham Lincoln statue

I recently facilitated a session for a senior leadership team called 'inspirational leadership'. Part of the pre-course preparation was to identify a leader they admired and to prepare a short presentation on:

  1. Why are they an inspirational leader?
  2. What impact have they had?
  3. What is their legacy?

It was extremely interesting to listen to the different presentations and to learn about what each member of the leadership team felt that good leadership looked like.

The leaders selected were as follows:

  • Sir David Brailsford, Olympic Coaching Superstar

Brailsford once referred to himself as a conductor of an orchestra. His role as performance director of British cycling saw him recognising talent and encouraging professionals, experts and athletes to perform at their best.

His approach is a collaborative one, he speaks about creating an enjoyable environment for his athletes and rather than dictating the steps they take to success, instead he works together with them to help them on the way up.

  • Richard Branson

He was chosen because he has a sense of fun, he is not a remote leader but gets involved at all levels. He takes time to listen, is not afraid to take risks and he demonstrates respect for his employees. He gives to charity and one of his challenges is that he has had to overcome dyslexia, and he dreams big.

  • Winston Churchill

Dynamic, able to mobilise people using his great inspirational quotes. He was courageous and creative, he didn’t sugar coat the message he ‘said it as it is’.

His key skills were that he could: influence and engage, he was bold and had a unique style, he was team spirited and made powerful speeches.

  • Abraham Lincoln

Was known as honest Abe, he was not afraid of taking risks and he was a good situational leader. He could share his goal and vision, he took the blame when things went wrong, but was happy to share success. He was aware of his weaknesses.

  • Rosa Louise Parks

Was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement, whom the United States congress called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.

Rosa helped spark the civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat in Montgomery.

Her strengths were: a keen sense of justice, a profound sense of conviction, integrity, she was quietly confident and she took a significant risk.

  • Emmeline Pankhurst

Was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement who helped women win the right to vote. She was named one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. She shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back. She took drastic action to achieve her goals.

Her style was: transformational, visionary, charismatic, empathetic, goal focused and she left a strong legacy.

  • Lord Baden Powell

He was especially talented in military scouting and is best known for starting a worldwide scouting movement. He was also a prolific writer who often chose his military experiences as the subjects of his work. The legacy of Baden-Powell lies in the popularity of the scouting movement throughout the world.

Leadership Qualities

You may not agree that the leaders chosen by the senior leadership team are good examples of leaders, also certain styles of leadership used in the past are not practical for modern day, however, each leader named had a lasting impact and left a legacy.

After listening to all the presentations there are 8 lessons in leadership that are the common thread for most, if not all, of our leaders:

  1. Inspires and motivates others
  2. Displays integrity and honesty
  3. Solves problems and analyses issues
  4. Drives for results
  5. Good communicator
  6. Displays strategic perspective
  7. Develops others
  8. Innovates

I would love to know who you would have chosen as the leader you most admire and why - please contact me at olive@olivestrachan.com.

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