Why british businesses have an appetite for going global

The past few years have proved a tough trading environment for businesses of all sizes, but research in 2014 suggests the economy is on the up, and so is the optimism of British businesses. 

The British Chamber of Commerce recently upped its growth forecast for 2014 to 3.1 per cent, the highest since 2007. In the UKTI-supported Truphone study of 650 UK businesses, ranging from 20 to 500 employees, 77 per cent of those who currently operate exclusively within the UK plan to ‘go global’ within just two years. Of these companies, a huge 80 per cent cited the recent economic upturn as the catalyst for their international growth plans.

What benefits are British businesses looking for?

It is clear that British businesses already have a global mind-set. Compounding this ambition is the desire for an increased customer base, a greater potential for partnerships and increased market share.

These perceived benefits are not misguided; footwear company FitFlop is just one example of a small British business that expanded into new markets with huge returns. By partnering with US retail outlets and manufacturers in Hong Kong, FitFlop has expanded significantly and is now selling its shoes in 52 countries.

For many businesses, going global is perceived as a means of instilling a greater sense of worth for the organisation and its employees and, in most cases, is seen as essential to the future growth of the company.

What’s been holding businesses back?

When questioned on their ability to operate globally, more than three quarters (78 per cent) of British businesses admitted that their existing communications infrastructure is inadequate, and 72 per cent cited insufficient technology infrastructures as a barrier. Specifically, businesses feel that greater flexibility, connectivity and coverage are the most pressing issues they face.

It’s no wonder that British businesses are struggling with the challenges of servicing a mobile, connected workforce which increasingly disregards country borders. The borderless BYOD culture has arisen quickly, and really taken hold not only as a business necessity, but also embedded itself within employee expectations and culture. But if time and money are strategically invested by British businesses, they can take advantage of this mobility rather than be stifled by it.

Despite the marked need for greater flexibility and connectivity, developments in mobile and flexible working in the past couple of years may, in fact, be contributing to businesses’ new found confidence in international expansion. If sufficiently supported, mobile technology makes it easier than ever for business to stay in touch with partners, clients and employees across the world, 24/7.

The other investment focus for any business looking to expand its global capabilities is in personnel. Whether this is domestic management, travelling staff or overseas employees, these are the top areas singled out as currently being inadequate by British businesses. Sometimes, nothing beats having ‘a man on the ground’ when building new relationships overseas.

What does ‘global’ mean?

International expansion means different things for each and every business. But it’s curious to note that businesses often underestimate how global they are already. According to the research, 57 per cent of businesses consider themselves to be global but, in fact, up to 92 per cent of them already operate globally in some way, through working with partners, customers or suppliers in other regions.

The ambitions of British businesses do not adhere to country borders, so why should their operations? As we enter a period of economic recovery and technological innovation, now is the time for British businesses to reassess, as well as maximise, the number of opportunities there are available to them in foreign markets.

Naresh Chouhan is UK Marketing Director at Truphone.

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