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Five lessons learned from setting up international deals and partnerships


There are obvious differences between the local Australian market and those overseas, although on the surface things may look similar.

Even if there is no language barrier, Australians doing business in New Zealand, Canada, the US or the UK usually find that what works in Australia does not work anywhere else, particularly in the marketing space.

Firstly, there are differing cultural and business traditions here in Australia compared with those in countries throughout Asia, Europe or the Middle East. Add to this, the expectations of higher business standards, developed over time and through fiercely competitive and cutthroat market environments, as well as overseas governments taking better care of their business sectors by fostering viable policies and legislation.

As Managing Director of the Australian retail IT company, Retail Directions, I know first-hand the challenges from building a global business.

Retail Directions has developed an 80-strong team of retail technology specialists to service 80 retail brands in 20 countries around the world, including The Body Shop International, Just Jeans and Cotton On.

In terms of large overseas customers, Retail Directions has been working with The Body Shop for over 15 years, and for the last four years with the Minor Corporation in Thailand.

These are the five global business experiences I want to share with you:

Local standard not on par globally

You need to be good at what you do. Different standards apply overseas – this is why so many Australians buy foreign products. We all know this; we just don’t want to accept this fact and its consequences.

Government policies failing businesses

Courtesy of current Government policies, selling overseas is very difficult at present – Australians have a significantly higher cost structure and exchange rate disadvantage.

The value of time and seniority

Travel is very costly time-wise with Australia’s geographic location. If you are a good senior executive, going to the UK takes away about a week of high-value time away from your business, meaning a solid loss within your base operation.

Employees in Australia often don’t get it

They don’t realise that customers have access to the best products and services globally and won’t tolerate our standards and relaxed attitudes any longer.

Consider global relocations

To have a good chance to succeed you need people with local knowledge on the ground, and you may need to relocate for a prolonged period to drive it.

And, my biggest piece of advice for business operators wanting to explore global markets is this:

Be careful

Such projects do take time and they will take your attention away from the main business here in Australia. Unless your local business is working well and the senior management can go away for weeks at a time without consequence, think twice before you go overseas.

I believe that at present, Australia does not have the business and cultural environment needed to become a meaningful global player. Until this is cultivated, businesses of every size will continue to fall short in overseas markets.

Andrew Gorecki is Managing Director at Retail Directions, an Australian solution provider of world-class, end-to-end software systems exclusively for the retail industry. Andrew has many years of technology and management experience, and is constantly called upon as a thought leader in the areas of merchandising management, retail logistics, POS software and Total Quality Management.