Opening your eyes to international growth
As the founder of a digital agency, Cameron and Wilding Ltd, I know all too well what it is like to juggle a million different priorities as you grow a business. So when do you stop and think seriously about internationalisation?
For many it is pure serendipity with a great team member wanting to move abroad or winning a new client that requires people in a new location. Before you know it you’re international. To be honest, other than thinking about setting up our own near shore development team and researching it a little a couple of years back, we had not seriously considered it. While we have many clients abroad, from the US to the Middle East and over to Japan, we have not thought about officially opening a second location.
Then I signed up to take part in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme, which I can not sing the praises of enough. On our very first day of the programme, the facilitators managed to shift the thinking of a room full of fast growth SME owners to the positive potential of debt for faster growth and internationalisation as a critical growth option for all of us, especially in light of Brexit.
We have worked with London South Bank University for 8 years now in various guises from judging student enterprise awards to mentoring and taking on interns, through to lecturing and helping the development of their courses. From this we were invited to apply for a grant to take part in an LSBU sponsored trip to Canada to visit their partner university in Toronto - Ryerson University; tour the MaRS research and startup incubator; and meet with existing businesses to see if there were connections we could make.
During one week in September 2017, seven of us, with a number of LSBU delegates, were introduced to local government, senior Ryerson staff and heads of their startup incubators and other local business owners. In addition, I went along to a number of Meetup groups, local Wework facilities and met a company doing medical research in the Johnson and Johnson sponsored facilities at MaRS.
I came away with 40 new contacts and better relationships with the group of SMEs that headed out there. Then to wrap up the event, LSBU organised an event back in London for us to meet with various people from Canada House. It was a fantastic trip that gave us everything we needed to seriously consider a move into the Canadian marketplace, and more importantly opened my eyes to the reality of branching out past our shores.
We now have plans for a similar visit to New York, Seoul and other destinations to find the right opportunity for our expansion. I highly recommend SME owners take time to visit different global destinations with their business hat on and make a point of connecting with local entrepreneurs. Building global bridges may just be our future.
Ben Wilding is a founder of Cameron and Wilding Ltd and an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at London South Bank University