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New markets: How do you navigate economic uncertainty?

In our third interview on expanding into new overseas markets, CEO Richard Brooks reveals how he is taking a digital-first strategy to international growth. 

120x120-richard-brooks.pngRichard Brooks is CEO at K International, a Milton Keynes-based provider of language services for businesses looking to enter new overseas markets.

We asked him about his company's international expansion strategies, how they approach new markets and dealing with an uncertain global economy.

What is your overseas strategy?

We translate our clients' websites and other key business materials into different languages. It gets tested in various regions, and data is gathered on where in the world clients are generating interest. We then help them make overseas investment decisions based on that information.

Are your customers mostly UK firms seeking international growth?

They used to be. Now our customers tend to be companies entering the UK from abroad. This year, our largest deal was with a Danish company, selling protein powders and shakes to the fitness sector. We've aligned wording on their packaging and their paperwork with UK law, so that the products can pass through customs and be sold on-shelf. It’s helped to keep us on our toes and on top of the latest regulations.

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We surveyed 300 leaders from UK mid-market businesses that are trading internationally to understand how they are responding to the global political climate.

How else do you help customers approach new markets?

We start digitally, establishing where a brand is gaining traction online and using data to help our customers begin trading there. Our website is gaining traffic in Korea. For a customer in our situation, we would begin tailoring their offering for that market, including translating the website and getting data to find out more about end users there.

Uncertainty has encouraged us to look further afield than Europe for business. The benefit of a digital-first strategy is that it’s cost-effective. A website allows you to see where traffic comes from and base expansion plans on data. We then create a value proposition to enter the target market.

How has economic uncertainty affected your overseas strategy?

It’s encouraged us to look further afield than Europe for business. We’re starting to get more work outside the EU, particularly from North America. The falling value of the pound has meant US companies looking to enter Europe are now more likely to use us, as we cost less. This is also true for European companies entering the UK.

What's the biggest barrier to going global?

We experience cultural challenges. Last year, for example, we signed a deal with a Japanese retailer.

I thought I'd lost the deal – grasping customs and cultural differences is vital.

Because I wasn’t used to negotiating with Japanese businesses, I thought at one point I’d lost the deal when really I’d misunderstood a negotiating tactic. Grasping such customs and cultural differences is vital.

Do you have a preferred route to international growth?

In my view the best way to expand into a new market is to acquire a smaller firm, which has already established cash flow, then grow the business with the culture you want. Trying to start a business from scratch in a foreign market is very difficult. You risk wasting time and money on reconnaissance that might not amount to anything.

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