Wednesday, 12 December 2007

The British at Work...

Reserved and Repressed or Resourceful and Released?

It is a fascinating challenge to introduce newly-arrived employees from abroad to what they might expect to encounter in the workplace during their stay in Britain. Many have a stereotyped view of the British at work, perhaps based on films or John Cleese training videos. Whilst operating in a wide range of work cultures and environments, they will be in a better position to anticipate and understand the behaviour of their fellow workers if they can appreciate some of the major changes that have taken place here in the last five to ten years.

Change is continuous
The only constant likely to be common to all their employers is continuous change, and a drive towards reduced costs and increased profits to satisfy the stock market. Mergers, takeovers, management buy-outs and flotations will have meant new strategies, restructuring, re-engineering, decentralisation and a variety of performance-enhancing methodologies. These will often have led to downsizing, outsourcing, lean and mean management structures and many new books to describe it all! For some this will have meant genuine empowerment and a release of their skills and inhibitions. For others it will have produced fear, stress and new behavioural patterns, creating new words such as 'presenteeism'.

Winners & losers
Winners in this tough change environment will probably welcome the new arrival from overseas, be keen to learn from them and prepared to develop a real relationship. Losers though could feel threatened and jealous, resulting in obstructive behaviour and thinly disguised anger. New arrivals may be surprised to discover how these fundamental changes in the workplace have affected the famous British reserve, with open expressions of enthusiasm, passion and real anger as employees react to new incentives, environments and continuing pressures. It might be less of a shock to them if they can understand some of these major workplace changes, and also reflect on why so many people apparently dropped their emotional masks after the death of Princess Diana.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Exporting to the USA

Love it, or hate it, the USA should not be ignored. The economy is larger than the whole of Western Europe. Individual states have economies larger than many countries. California equates to the UK or Italian economy in size. New York State equates to China and Brazil.
Since 1948, the USA has been one of our top five export markets. It is our largest single market for both visible, and invisible exports. The UK and the US is each the largest investor in the other.
The biggest mistakes that new exporters to the USA make are:
  • Underestimation of the sheer size of the country.
  • Insufficient dedication of adequate management time/resources.

To succeed, concentrate management resources to win.
This requires planning and research. It is best to choose one state where there is a potential concentration of business, and then expand in gentle concentric circles. It takes time to enter the most competitive market in the world. Think in terms of ten years and plan for five.

Suggested methodology:

  • The home page of the US Small Business Administration ( gives access to good pro-forma business plans (see Starting, Expanding, Marketing buttons).
  • Use the gaps identified as a basis for your research.
  • Define your potential target organisation closely.
  • Identify the US Trade Association to which they belong. Obtain the directory.
  • In which state are the membership concentrated?
  • Is there a trade show(s)/convention that the Association sponsors?
  • Amongst the associate members, are there candidates for distributorships, or consultants that could provide in-depth industry research?
  • Is there a trade press issue that is a gazetteer of the industry?

Some useful do's and don'ts:

  • Use US legal advisers for your GTS, distributorship, other agreements.
  • The US is litigious. Their legal system and language is different.
  • Obtain adequate product liability coverage.
  • Can you sell your product in seven words? Americans have a short attention span.
  • Everyone targets the US. Buyers are only interested in cheaper supply, a better technology, but demand commitment to the market.
  • Quote only in US dollars, c.i.f. to their doorstep.
  • Metric measurements are alien to most Americans.
  • In all communications, avoid English colloquialisms. They will not be understood.

To be successful you will need three essentials, the right product, sufficient financial capital and adequate management resources. If you are missing one, my advice is don't attempt the market. If you have them, go for it!

Bob Smeaton is an occasional lecturer at Farnham Castle International Briefing Centre. He is also an Export Promoter, i.e., an external commercial adviser, for the North America desk of Trade Partners UK, the export branch of the Department of Trade and Industry with more than 30 years of direct experience with the USA and Canada including working and living in California, Texas and New York. May 2002.