Going Global – Expanding your Business Overseas

When developing your business, every stage of its growth can be fraught with challenge, compromise and difficulty, but ultimately and hopefully success. One of the biggest successes can come from making the leap from being national to international – going global. On face-value, it can seem a daunting task, establishing a base in a different market, navigating costs, learning the adapt to the changes ahead. For an insight into these changes, we spoke with David Scammell, the former President and CEO of Sohonet – a Connectivity and Data-Sharing organisation for Media businesses.

Sohonet is a company that was founded from the need to move Digital Data from one hub to another, lacking the infrastructure back in 1995, they have grown from a small start-up to an organisation collaborating with the British Film Institute (BFI), Director’s Guild Trust and Director’s Guild of Great Britain. Now based in California, Scammell has a wealth of experience in helping media companies grow and expand between the UK, US and Australasia. As Scammell points out:

“Interconnectivity, the UK has always had a strong skillsets in filmmaking across the board. There was always an interest from the US to use that skillsets. That is something I and Sohonet do, is bridge that gap.”

What Scammell emphasised was the benefit of this expansion, having your organisation work across nations can shield your company from the down-turns one market may be experiencing. It can also bring new opportunities for additional growth from learning from your competitors, seeing how other markets operate and makes your company less inwardly dependent.

The move can be expensive however, establishing an office, hiring people or commuting can raise costs rapidly and for smaller businesses this challenge can be difficult to navigate. As Scammell points out:

“You have to be innovative to get past those limitations. Making sure that they dial a local phone number, obviously now that is very easy, but it can be crucial. Just making sure there is one person there, even if it isn’t the right person, it shows that you will be there and you do care. Being innovative doesn’t mean just hiring more, it is about problem solving.”

This problem-solving can mean different things to different companies, there are a lot of hurdles when doing this, even the basics can be a challenge. Even just choosing where exactly your office will be can create a variety of challenges. You really need to talk to somebody that you know and trust who has experience out there to give you that foothold – that is the most important thing.

“Office space is relatively easy to come by, but making sure it is right for you and your customers is key. There are an awful lot of traps waiting for you, but there are so many benefits if you can avoid those traps and get a foothold in the market.”

It is similarly important to show commitment, not only in establishing a base of operations abroad. US companies in particular, they want to see that you are committed to that market and you really will have a presence there. You can’t dabble in the market, you can’t spend a little bit of time there.

“One of the advantages we made was from the fact that we travelled there a lot and made a lot of connections there. We made them feel that we were part of the US community, even though at that time we weren’t physically based there. So commitment  is the first thing that is required to succeed overseas, particularly in the US. When it comes to Australasia, it is very similar. Australia for example, because they are so far away from the rest of the market, they want to see that you will actually be there and be willing to make the trip when needed.”

For example, when they call your service line, they want you to be there on the other end of the phone according to their hours. They don’t want to hear a recording from the UK saying “our office hours are 9-5”, they will never call you, it will always be in the middle of the night. You need to make that commitment that there will always be people to answer the phone.

With correct planning, knowledge and experience, establishing your company in a new market doesn’t have to be a hardship. As Scammell states, finding the correct balance of expense and commitment is crucial.

At Lumina, we’d like to thank David Scammell for his time, help and expertise.