Associate & Senior Tutor
nStratagem Group Limited
I am delighted to contribute my experience of doing business with the Commonwealth to showcase how a small business offering a niche service successfully won contracts with corporate and government organisations in Commonwealth countries, ultimately setting up an office in Kenya.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS:
nStratagem Group specialises in establishing or developing an organisational culture and operates across different industry sectors in 20 countries across the world. But for this article I am not only drawing on my experience as an Associate and Senior Tutor with nStratagem, but also the many years of communication and coaching skills spent working for, or leading other businesses.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU FIRST START TRADING WITH A COMMONWEALTH COUNTRY?
My first experience of trading with the Commonwealth came when I took part in a trade mission to Barbados. I was curious to explore opportunities for my business focussed on image building which offered public speaking, media response and etiquette training to improve individual performance in the public eye. Could a small UK business win training contracts with corporates and government organisations in countries similar to the UK where transparency and accountability is desired as part of good governance. Certainly, visiting a fellow Commonwealth country seemed a good place to start, especially one where English is the official language for government administration and public services communications.
As per any business development plan I focussed on the objectives of the trip, the uniqueness of our offering, determining the ideal customer profile and how we would deliver the service, for example direct or training up in-country partners. The trade team at the British High Commission then used this business profile to secure appointments with those target customers. Media training attracted the most interest and I was delighted, soon after returning to the UK, to have a proposal accepted by The Department of Emergency Management in Barbados to develop a hurricane management media strategy. As a small business, I needed to negotiate slightly but the terms ended favourable to both parties. The Trade Mission also went to Trinidad and Tobago where, through the Mission's contacts, I was lucky enough to find a business partner on the ground. This led to presentation and media training on both islands; for the University, MPs and business clients, including customer service training for staff at the newly refurbished ANR Robinson Airport in Tobago.
WHAT DIFFICULTIES HAVE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME?
It was after I launched the world's first Executive Finishing School for Men that enquiries flooded into the website - including a very strong lead from Kenya. Having done some research I found I needed to pivot my business thinking. The same image building services were required but the business culture to negotiate the contract was completely different from my Caribbean experience. The person I had been emailing for six months turned out not to have any contacts at all, so I arrived in Nairobi to find we had no business! After the initial panic, I sat down and talked things over with her and she introduced me to a friend, Joyce, who worked in the training field. She had a client, the head of the Stock Exchange, who was looking for international business etiquette training and we began a series of courses. I realised I needed an in-country business partner to conduct due diligence and guide me on Kenyan business culture, in particular client expectations regarding terms and conditions as well as the bargaining process. Once Joyce joined our team, introductions and negotiations ran much more smoothly and Public Image Inc Africa was born. Whilst I have stepped back from this, the business continues to grow in the capable hands of Derek Bbanga.
My next destination was Nigeria where I worked for the President's office in Abuja and then formed a partnership in Lagos.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR TOP TIPS TO A BUSINESS THAT'S LOOKING TO TRADE IN THE COMMONWEALTH?
The initial foray of a small Cheshire business to Barbados led to many exciting business adventures with our Commonwealth family. I say be bold! Go after what you want but, whilst Commonwealth countries are part of a family, each one is different! Make sure you spend time doing your research on business culture, expectations and finding the right in-country partners to guide and assist. The better you prepare the quicker the trust in you and your business will be established.
WHICH ADDITIONAL COMMONWEALTH COUNTRIES ARE CURRENTLY PART OF YOUR EXPORT PLAN?
Where next for me? I’d like to explore business opportunities in Australia and New Zealand so watch this space!
Household Management training, Nigeria – How to set a place for dinner