3 assumptions to avoid when opening a new office

Foreign markets may not be as different as you assume, says Moneypenny CEO Ed Reeves.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 08 Apr 2019

Opening a new office can be fraught with difficulties at the best of times, but especially when it's your first overseas. The ingredients - and people - that make your business thrive in your home market may not be easily replicable thousands of miles away.

Moneypenny CEO and founder Ed Reeves faced this challenge in 2015, when he opened the call centre operator's first international office in the US city of Charleston, South Carolina.

With its unusual focus on employee engagement, based on making the workplace a fun and empowering place, the Wrexham based communications outsourcer had built a reputation in the UK as a great place to work, which Reeves says helped it maintain its industry leading staff churn (below 5 per cent) - saving significant funds in the process - and contributed to its position as the fastest growing firm in its sector, handling 15 million calls annually for 225,000 businesses.

His biggest mistake when opening a new office overseas, he says, was to assume he'd need to change this formula. 

"Once we’d identified a location, our strategy was to learn very fast, potentially make mistakes, but react and learn very quickly in order to make Moneypenny appropriate for the United States.

"We made a lot of assumptions about how we should present the business and which were the right sectors to target, then rolled out what we felt was an Americanised version of the business. A year later we realised that the change really wasn't needed.

"For example, in the UK Moneypenny has always served five key sectors. Our approach was to head out to the US, find out what markets were responding the best to the business and then adapt to serve them. In the end it took us 18 months - and a lot of effort -  for us to work out that the five key sectors in the states are identical to the ones served by the UK business.

"Likewise, in the UK we’d always been the price and service leader, but we assumed that the American markets wouldn’t support the same pricing levels, so we adjusted them. That was wrong. We should have had the confidence in ourselves and aimed to be the price and service leader there too.

"It’s the same with staff as well. There’s a great saying: ‘The US market would make a whole lot more sense if they spoke a different language’. In my experience it’s very hard for a UK business to go to the US and work out what good people look, feel and sound like.

"We recruited US managers, brought them over to train them and then told them to replicate a US version of the business. We shouldn't have done that, what we should have done is brought up people within the organisation who had the company in their DNA and posted them out to the States.

"It’s taken us about three years to scale the business, which is an awful lot longer than we initially thought - the first year was pretty much wasted. In hindsight there's a level of confidence that we didn't have that we should have had."

Further reading

Image credit: Tim Mossholder/Pexels


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