Monthly Column By Claire Menzies
Many years back, before setting up Istoria Group, I finished a particularly exhausting work run and needed to get away. I joined a yacht crew and sailed round the world, taking only essential belongings with me in a small backpack. Later, when I set up my own company, the vision was to be global, but the transformative principle of travelling light had taken root.
Being successful internationally isn’t about having as many office addresses as possible, nor having the biggest headcount on the ground. It’s about working smarter. Our exhibitions, events and experiences company, Ignition, for example, has only one overseas office, set up primarily to manage major US accounts. Elsewhere, we work remotely and intelligently, starting with a superbly-aligned supply chain. To meet the requirements of our three ISO accreditations, we audit regional partners fastidiously, with warehousing needs met by strategic partners across Europe, the US and SE Asia, capable of meeting our time and location deadlines.
Face-to-face contact is still paramount, but we don’t need to be in our clients’ pockets. Quarterly in-person reporting works perfectly, with mutual feedback positively encouraged, along with major stakeholder meetings every six months. Our culture is all about continuous improvement, so clients are reassured and well-informed in real time. To stay competitive, we target same-sector clients so we can offer cost-savings on shared labour and kit transport to events.
Our internal team are well-travelled and often multi-lingual people – and always with a broad mindset. We do our homework on protocol and make sure those who’ve worked in other regions brief the rest of the team. We know that small courtesies count and how jarring discourtesies can be. We know never to hand over a business card with your left hand in the Middle East, for example, nor to fail to receive a card using both hands in Japan – and to read it carefully before putting it in your pocket.
If you want to succeed with – and sustain – a successful international business, it’s vital to do your homework, have an open attitude, work smart and, above all, travel light. You never know where the winds might take you.
Claire Menzies, Chairwoman, Istoria Group
Image: A team from our exhibition, events and experiences company Ignition sets sail at Cowes.