All businesses want to grow, and international expansion is often viewed as the ultimate sign of a company enjoying success. Chief Operating Officer at Frank Recruitment Group, Zoe Morris sheds light below on the journey to expansion, the ins and outs of business growth, and how to get there without compromising on your business’ values.
Having the scope and the appeal to operate in multiple global markets certainly gives an organisation the air of accomplishment, but behind the scenes, the cold hard figures can often tell a different story. New research, conducted by examining the fortunes of 20,000 businesses from 30 countries, discovered that those companies with global operations had an average return on assets of less than one percent—even five years after their expansion abroad.
For the majority of those businesses studied, it took nearly ten years to generate returns above +1% through international trade. Only four out of every ten companies ever turned more than +3% in that first decade.
That international expansion can be a hard grind with little payoff surely won’t be news to any company that has made moves to expand internationally. Breaking ground in new territories, where the market, the culture, and your product may be unfamiliar, is no easy feat.
For some businesses, growth is the ultimate goal, and they’re willing to whatever it takes to get it. For others, as much as they would like to expand into new markets, they will not do so if it means compromising on the sacred heart of their organisation—whether that’s their values, the quality of their product, or their culture.
Growing your business without compromise
Now, compromise isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There will always be give and take when it comes to growth—there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to operating in diverse, international markets, and what works for one regional arm of your business may not work for another. Throw away any notion of developing a cookie-cutter plan that you just stamp onto anywhere in the world.
Nevertheless, the answer is not to simply try and replicate the operations of whichever business is doing well in the region you’re targeting. Expansion should be about multiplication, not dilution.
If you don’t already have one, come up with a mantra; a pithy mission statement that summarises what’s most important to your business, and use it to benchmark all potential decisions and moves. Google famously used the phrase “don’t be evil” as their guiding light for many years, and vacuum company Dyson live by the mantra “solving problems that others ignore”. Stand by this core avowal throughout your expansion, and you’ll ensure you protect your brand wherever you go. Plus, demonstrating this kind of integrity and commitment to your mission can be as attractive to investors as a strong financial showing; an important factor to consider when growing into new markets.
It’s okay to say no
On the topic of investments, remember that slow and steady growth is as good as any, and you shouldn’t be in a rush to take cash from anyone who holds out their hand.
Don’t be afraid to refuse any offers that don’t chime with your mission, even if that seems counterintuitive to your expansion plan in the short-term. Be prepared to get creative and work toward solutions that will satisfy investors and tally with your core values.
When Frank Recruitment Group was acquired by TPG Growth in 2016, we knew it was a good fit; they had a long track record of being ahead of the curve when it comes to technology, and were focused on partnering with unique and transformative businesses. As leading tech investors, they had seen the need for a service like ours, connecting growing companies with quality IT staff, so we knew we had a shared interest in doing things right.
It’s easy to get swept up in the pressure of achieving international growth, but it’s okay to hold out for the right partner, who’ll help grow your business without asking you to concede what’s important to you.
Unification through technology
Developments in workplace tech are helping businesses communicate better, reach customers faster, and get more done; all extremely useful benefits when you’re looking to grow your business internationally.
There are countless remote working tools, file sharing platforms, and even software which translate speech in real-time that can help bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Though it’s always important to get local knowledge, experience, and talent on your side during expansion, collaborative tech tools and advances such as cloud computing will help you stay connected with your growing business, and ensure that the reigns remain safely in your hands.
Tech can also help you reach your customers. There’s no business without customers, so clearly reaching new audiences in new markets is crucial to increasing your profits, and allowing your business to develop. In an increasingly connected world, there is more opportunity than ever for businesses to expand their operations across the globe while staying on-message.
If you were one of those business who were happy to break a lot of eggs in pursuit of global growth, you wouldn’t be reading an article about expansion without compromise. Remember, sticking to your guns doesn’t have to mean limiting your expansion strategies. Like anything that’s worth doing, aiming for growth without making concessions on your vision is hard, but it’s not impossible.