Many UK consultancy firms are increasingly looking overseas to find new opportunities for earning revenue. But, realistically what are the chances of success?

Global expansion brings with it plenty of risk and is sure to complicate a company's existing management structure. However, there are steps business executives can take to help secure a good return from venturing overseas, whether they choose to form alliances or expand directly. If you are thinking about globalising your consultancy business, here are some to consider:

1. Investigate:

With the world at your feet, finding suitable locations for your business may seem like an overwhelming task. But delving into your company's history will help you detect any existing or potential clients that already operate in overseas markets, who may require your services there.
Match this intelligence with the skills and talent within your firm's own talent pool and you will no doubt find you have the knowledge you need to spot potentially lucrative business opportunities abroad. What kinds of languages are spoken among your workforce? What global business networks are your employees a part of? Do any of your employees have firsthand experience of working in another country? Here, your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system will play an important part in discovering the answers to these questions as well as help match the global requirements of your firms' existing connections with the skills of your workforce.

2. Collaborate:

Co-ordinating the set up of a new division in a new territory will be a huge task for any business. The practicalities of securing office space and employing staff while building up a client base will undoubtedly put pressure on everyone involved as well as financial pressure on your firm. These challenges can be overcome, however, by forming an alliance with an established international organisation that is already operating in your desired region. It will mean your company will benefit from operating within an established network - a network that will allow the sharing of resources and local expertise. Before forming any associations, however, it is important to do sufficient research. Look to international referral networks that may be able to put you in touch with desirable organisations – in particular the ones that share a similar technological set up to your own business and uphold best practice. There is more to gain from the right partnership than just reputation and cultural alignment, however. The right alliance will allow for shared control over projects and customer engagements, offering your business the valuable insight it needs to operate successfully in the region. This is invaluable for when it is the right time to go direct.

3. Communicate:

At the heart of successful global expansion lies good communication on all levels. 'On the ground' locally based employees and clients will frequently share conversations and liaise in their native tongues. But then there is also the complex internal network of discussions and dialogues between regional offices and the global entity that requires the right infrastructure to overcome the barriers of time, language and distance. Global businesses require a robust collaboration platform, which offer much more than just file sharing. They need the collaborative benefits that come with real-time messaging; as well as tools to assist with task management, organisation and deadlines. These platforms will unite employees and consultants and keep them working and aligned to the overall purpose of the business or project. Offices in Asia can spend a day working on a project, posting questions, updates and comments in their virtual 'space', ready for the team in Europe to pick up where they left off at the end of the day. It's definitive round-the-clock working in its true sense!

4. Automate:

An expanding organisation undoubtedly means expanding administration; and taking a business to a global level will certainly add to the complexity of financial and resource management. From the challenge of inter-company invoicing in multiple currencies to working across varying time zones and regional billing; upholding operational discipline and consistency is vital to the success of global expansion, and it may require the hiring of people with specific local expertise to manage properly. But as well as relying on the knowledge of a local workforce, your business's software will also need to be fit for a global practice; and once the decision has been made to expand overseas, there will never be a better time to review your software. This is because the right global ERP system will simplify your back office and help master the financial challenges that come with working across multiple locations. Now is the moment to move away from those fragmented spreadsheets in favour of investing in a streamlined and centralised integrated system; a system that will organise your services and resources across different global offices, support different languages and convert currencies, and manage complex invoicing requirements for varying regions and clients.

Putting plans in place to capitalise on growth opportunities abroad will be a challenging yet thrilling venture for your business, and with the right knowledge is also one that may reap great reward. You too can look forward to profit and growth by following these proven steps to global success.

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Deltek is the leading global provider of enterprise software and information solutions for professional services firms. For decades, we have delivered actionable insight that empowers our customers to unlock their business potential. 16,000 organisations and more than 2 million users in over 80 countries around the world rely on Deltek to research and identify opportunities, win new business, optimise resources, streamline operations, and deliver more profitable projects. Deltek – Know more. Do more. www.deltek.co.uk
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