Step 1 for an international company launching successfully in the UK
It’s scary to think that International Management Answers (IMA) is celebrating its 20th birthday, the time has flashed by…! Since 2003, business has changed radically, and my team and I have gained invaluable experience on how to support our international clients so they can operate successfully and profitably in the UK. This is the first blog in a series during 2023 to celebrate 20 years of operation and the purpose of this initial article is to explore what it takes for an international company to launch successfully in the UK.
The quote “time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted” is as true today as it was when it was first quoted more than 70 years ago. The starting point I would recommend for any international company considering operating in the UK, without prior market experience, is to make sure that answers have been found to the following questions. This is based on a B2B sales company:
- Why would a company buy your product or service?
- Are you legally allowed to sell your product/service in the UK market? What approvals/certifications do you need? How do you get these? What are the timings for achieving these qualifications?
- Do you know who your target market is?
- Who are your competitors? What are they offering? How do they compare to your proposition? How are they priced? What are your Unique Selling Points (USPs)? How important are your USPs in the UK market?
- How will your clients buy your service/product?
- How will you communicate and get access to decision makers at your prospective clients?
- What local infrastructure do you need to support your clients?
- How quickly do you need to launch? Does a PEO in the UK make initial sense or can you wait to establish your own UK infrastructure?
I’ve seen a number of cases where these questions haven’t been properly addressed which has resulted in either a slow start, a lot of unnecessary costs or a failure to make sales. Additionally, by not having the right infrastructure in place, be it HR, Financial, Legislative, Logistics or Insurance/Benefits related can have serious consequences in the future and you may end up trading illegally – accordingly; make sure you have everything operationally in place, or outsourced, before you start trading.
Sending an international employee to the UK to undertake a company launch, without prior UK market experience, is a risky task and my first recommendation prior to starting the internationalisation process is to work with an independent consultant (can be sourced through IMA) who has worked in your target market as they will be able to provide answers to the above questions and open doors to prospective clients where you can test your product or service. Engaging with organisations such as @LondonandPartners and the Department for International Trade @DIT is very useful as they are able to provide free advice and support plus access to their network of vetted Commercial Partners, of which IMA is one. Having an independent consultant deliver a market access project will allow a company to better prepare for a UK launch or, in some cases, it might result in a delay or cancellation of a launch due to the findings – all worthwhile outcomes!
With respect to timings, a market access study takes around 20 to 30 days over a 3 month period to complete, but the insights are always worthwhile. Additionally, the Consultant can often provide ongoing mentoring, advice or in some cases be employed on a full or part time basis.
If anyone has questions regarding this article please let me know and I will be delighted to answer them.
by Nigel Taylor, MD and Founder