As we move into what is forecast to be a promising year for business growth, Australian companies must prioritise regional and global expansion to get to the next level.
Most people want to scale-up operations and see their business grow in leaps and bounds – but the journey from start-up to scale-up is not smooth sailing. It involves taking a leap of faith and overcoming many obstacles along the way, including the challenges of entering international markets.
When expanding a business both regionally and internationally, there can be double the number of problems throughout each phase of development, as well as increased risk factors, such as language barriers, cultural differences and economic instabilities.
At the same time, international growth is a catalyst for sustainable business success. Companies that push the boundaries and accelerate into new markets have a competitive edge that differentiates them from the rest. In an environment of disruption and tough competition, these companies stay ahead of the curve, providing cutting-edge, timely and relevant solutions that translate across and adapt to multiple marketplaces.
Singapore is the gateway to regional growth
Currently, one of the most attractive regional markets for Australian companies is Singapore. Situated within close proximity to Australia, Singapore is a vibrant, dynamic and thriving business and innovation hub. In the 2016 Global Innovation Index, Singapore ranked 6th, just behind Finland and the US, and far ahead of Australia, which ranked 19th.
Of Australia’s 100 largest companies, 40 have subsidiaries in Singapore. There are almost 40,000 international companies headquartered in Singapore, including 7000 multinationals. More than half of these companies use Singapore as the regional headquarters for business across the Asia-Pacific.
For example, my company Gemstar has recently set up an Innovation Centre of Excellence in Singapore as an on-the-ground gateway into the region. We bring Australian talent to Singapore to immerse them in the local ecosystem and provide a hub for companies to market their products and services regionally and internationally.
4 top tips to grow your business in Singapore and beyond
Here are some handy hints from my personal experience of building a company with international reach:
Build valuable partnerships and relationships
The right structure, culture and support are key to regional growth, but these elements need to be grounded in strong and robust relationships – both within the organisation and beyond – with partners, influencers, investors and so on. Technology and operational strategies are merely enablers for people to drive change. In fact, old-fashioned business ethics driven by people are what elevate companies through to the next level of growth. Never underestimate the power of relationships and the attention and nurturing you need to give them.
Create the right framework
Scaling your business relies upon having the right infrastructure, frameworks, policies and processes in place to foster and support growth. While vision and strategy are important, it’s not enough to simply think like a regional business – you also need to act accordingly, with a global growth action plan underpinning everything you do. Identify ways to mobilise and tailor your business model to fill gaps in new and emerging markets like Singapore and South-East Asia more broadly.
Foster an inclusive culture
Building teams in different locations comes with many challenges. To ensure that your organisation functions as a productive and cohesive whole on a regional level, foster an inclusive culture that takes cultural differences and diverse perspectives into account. Encourage important qualities like respect and tolerance for difference, gender equality, and open-mindedness.
Be realistic and think in the long-term
It’s important to be realistic in your decision-making and understand that success doesn’t happen overnight. Companies who successfully win and secure business in regional markets know that a long-term strategy is needed. At Gemstar, we have invested in our own regional business and spent years networking and profiling to develop trusted relationships and a strong brand reputation, which we bring directly to our clients.
Australian companies need to place international growth high on the agenda for 2017. To stay globally competitive, we need to capitalise on untapped opportunities in international markets – particularly our neighbours in South-East Asia, such as Singapore, which offers a thriving marketplace and innovation ecosystem.