Why small companies should still think big

THE Business Bulletin’s focus this month on the North-east abroad is particularly timely for Matrix Risk Control. Team members have just returned from a six-day trade mission to China and penetration of the Asian market is at the forefront of our minds.

Matrix prides itself on being a global organisation which helps businesses across a number of continents - and industry sectors – to manage their operational risk through incident investigation training and specialist support services. That said, we are by no means a global giant. Our small company has a headcount of just 14 – a figure that is dwarfed by the number of countries that we have operated in.

Why the international focus and how has this been achieved? Internationalisation was always an aspiration when we founded the company in 2009. During our early years of delivering root cause analysis and investigation training abroad it became evident that opportunities were there for the taking. We discovered that that world is truly a small place and that we were well-positioned to deliver services abroad from our base in Aberdeen.

There are two key elements that I believe are crucial for SMEs when they are attempting to enter overseas markets: knowledge and confidence. Get to know as much as possible about your target territories – at Matrix we are continually scanning the media and trade publications to monitor activity. Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise have helped us with more detailed research exercises.

An added bonus of this extensive reading is the inspiration we continue to gain from learning about the wide variety of organisations which are successfully working abroad. It is essential, particularly for an SME, to believe that your services are transferable to the international arena. You must also ensure that you have the capacity and determination to resource assignments once these are secured.

I would also urge smaller organisations to exploit the advantages that are part and parcel of being a Scottish company. Matrix has discovered that the Scotland brand is well-respected throughout the world; it is therefore possible to reap the rewards of the many successful entrepreneurial companies which have gone before you. Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise and the Chamber itself can also be a great support; their experienced teams can help you to anticipate and avoid issues before they arise. Early engagement with these organisations is highly recommended.

When approached correctly, trade missions and overseas trips are a powerful catalyst for building new relationships. As with most things in life, you get out what you put in. Intelligently target the personalities and organisations with which you wish to engage and have a strategic plan for your sales pitch – not only in the country at the time but also on your return to Scotland.

The value of an overseas trip is sometimes not realised until the original event is a distant memory. Maintain communication and consider follow-up visits to achieve long-term meaningful results. Tenacity is perhaps the third essential element for organisations which wish to pursue international growth – never give up.

  • Read the May Business Bulletin here