The Challenges Of Being On The Export Front Line

29 Mar, 2016 - Consumer & Retail


I’ve had the pleasure of working with and supporting countless British companies in various stages of market exploration in Dubai. Some are already established here, some are still in the fly-in fly-out phase, and for others it’s still very early days.

Despite being from many diverse areas of commerce and industry they all have certain things in common. The overriding thread is that they all have the drive and ambition to venture abroad, investigate new territories and ultimately capitalise on opportunities that simply don’t exist at home.

But with this hope and vision there is the obvious need to expand and make money. They need to be successful, and to do this as quickly as possible to justify the investment made. So, to be blunt, the pressure is on, and this responsibility to “make a success of it” lands squarely on the shoulders on the locally appointed manager/GM.

This is no easy task, for those of you who have set up your business abroad before you will know how time and resource consuming the process is, wherever you do it.

From the many conversations I’ve had, it seems that the one aspect that seems to be a very common challenge for those who are “out in the field” is managing the expectations of their management back home. How do you explain to the board (sat in the depths of leafy Hampshire or the bustle of the inner city of Liverpool) that things are taking longer than expected, costing more than expected …. and you still haven’t landed those lucrative deals you’ve been chasing for months. It’s a tough, and often isolated, role and one that many new exporters underestimate. But this role is critical to whether or not you succeed in market. Keeping your team connected and engaged when there are thousands of miles, let alone time and cultural differences, between you, is one of the greatest challenges. Unfortunately there is no magic answer either, it’s a case of patience, regular communication, managing expectations and setting objectives that are realistic and take account of the local business environment (frustrations and all!).

If much of what I have said is resonating with you then rest assured that you are absolutely not alone, far from it, these challenges come with the territory for exporters, you are not the first, or the last to face these issues. My advice is to hang in there, keep focused on the long game, work as one team and know that the return on investment will come with patience and perseverance … eventually!

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