iMultiply recently hosted its second technology event of 2017 to explore the idea of taking your business international and what you can expect when you do.
The event was hosted in conjunction with QikServe and featured expert speakers - Daniel Rodgers, CEO & Founder of QikServe, Seonaidh MacDonald, former CEO of mLed and Ian Ritchie, software entrepreneur and Chair of Iomart.
The speakers shared their story, the history of their businesses and the experiences of successfully growing (or selling) a business internationally.
Dan Rodgers spoke about how he took an idea that he had for digital self-service and along with his business partner (Ronnie Forbes, Co-founder), they grew the business into what we now know as QikServe: a global leader in multi-channel self-service. One of the key visions they established early in the business was to ‘think globally’. That thinking was the basis for all their products and platforms. They were focused on building a product with a view to being able to work anywhere in the world.
To support their first customers and grow in their target market of the US they needed to recruit but quickly discovered that recruiting sales people is incredibly expensive in the US compared the UK. They had to sell themselves on passion and vision to try and drive the cost down whilst pulling on their network to find the right people.
Dan’s big learn was that hiring a CFO should have been his priority before this expansion. In the main, this would be to care of all the things in the background that nobody thinks about: tax, forecasting, registration in separate states & employee benefits etc.
QikServe’s team in the US is still growing and the business continues to flourish on both sides of the Atlantic.
Top advice from Daniel:
“You cannot afford to let stuff run. You’ve got to have mechanisms to identify if things are working and not be afraid to make changes and make changes quick.”
“Think big from the start”
Dan on recruiting sales people in the US: “It’s really, really expensive. Whatever you think it is just double it straight away and maybe add another 25-30%”
“If I was to do it again, I’d recruit a CFO first then a sales guy”
Seonaidh MacDonald spoke about his experiences coming in as a CEO to transform mLed and how he led the business to a hugely successful sale in 2016 to a US household name. Again, thinking big, the business’ first customer was Microsoft and this was quickly followed by Google and Samsung.
Seonaidh shares his top ten commandments on how to master market development in the US:
- Base your business near your customers
- Ignore conventional wisdom
- International business is not ‘one size fits all’
- A ‘soft’ rather than ‘hard’ US launch is normally better
- Chicken and egg – customer then US base, or vice versa
- Asia is different to US and Silicon Valley is different to the US – understand the culture
- If you’re a ‘newbie’ just pay for an experienced person
- US investors do like you to have an US legal entity
- In the US, expect razzamataz and failed promises
- Be resourceful, brazen and stand your ground
Ian Ritchie walked us through his experiences of how to build the right business structure to successfully take your business international. He spoke about his career whilst sharing his key learns along the way and stories including the time he met Bill Gates at his office to demonstrate his software. Ian has had an incredible career and his ted talk about the time he turned down Tim Berners-Lee has over half a million views: www.ted.com/talks/ian_ritchie_the_day_i_turned_down_tim_berners_lee
Top advice from Ian:
“Put the business sales near your market. Because we were based in the states and visible all around the states we were really an international player. I’ve applied that rule ever since.”
“Create your marketing in the market you’re going to and you’ll be able to get some really experienced marketing people.”
Some feedback following the event:
“An excellent evening of great speakers and brilliant company. What good networking is all about.” Tim Dew, Games Without Frontiers
“Great range of stories and insights from first class speakers and excellent hosting from the iMultiply team and QikServe” Lisa Thomson, Purpose HR
“It was inspiring to hear examples of local start-ups that have successfully transitioned to global sales - all in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.” Ben Panter, Blackford Analysis
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