Local knowledge is key to success in the Middle East

The Middle East is the place to be for BIW, which sells software to support building projects, because there’s so much construction activity in the region. The company has established a strong business in Dubai and Smith has his eye on other centres in the area such as Abu Dhabi and Qatar. He notes: “They’re starting the process that Dubai has been in for some years.”

Smith says BIW learnt a number of important lessons from the Dubai experience. “In Dubai, there are quite a number of requirements when you’re establishing your company as a legal entity," he explains. "You have to have the right advisers; people who understand local customs, practices and bureaucracy. It would have saved us a lot of hard work and cash had we known that beforehand. The next time we open a branch in a region in the Middle East, we’ll be doing it from a much more informed start point.”

BIW won’t, however, be changing the way it staffs the new venture. When the company was starting out In Dubai, it worked with some of its UK clients that had a presence in the region. Then, BIW sent in some of its top people. “If you open a branch in another country, you have to have the top guys and girls out there," Smith says. “We supported the new venture largely by seconding UK staff there but now it’s going, we’re recruiting almost exclusively in the region.”

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