Developing China’s Potential
OnTrack International provides global people development solutions and is based in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. The business was initiated in 1988 by Phil Bailey; with leadership responsibility at an early age and a passion for personal development and creating high performing teams, Phil believed there was a real opportunity to transform the way people learn in organisations by taking a more relevant, practical, hands-on approach to improve skills, enhance motivation and increase engagement.
Their formula to make learning highly relevant to personal and business needs has delivered outstanding results and return on investment for clients. Twenty five years later, the company ethos is still to provide development aligned to business needs but using the wider range of methods now available through digital technology and combining these with workshops, coaching and other traditional methods of learning.
Growing organically since its inception, OnTrack International started delivering people development solutions overseas when UK clients requested international roll-out of their programmes.
Phil explained how their export strategy developed,
“Over the last five years, companies have started to localise delivery of training and development; it’s clearly cost effective and has less environmental impact to use a local trainer to deliver courses.” Mindful of these changes, OnTrack International’s overseas strategy has centred on creating Joint Ventures (JVs) with partners around the world, merging local skills and resources with OnTrack International’s unique approach and learning style.
With burgeoning business success in the USA and Middle East, OnTrack International was keen to continue their overseas expansion. “We were receiving a lot of interest from many of our key clients, including Motorola, M&S and HSBC, to deliver programmes in China and Hong-Kong,” explained Phil, “but we really needed a deeper understanding of the market before investing more time or money in the venture.”
OnTrack International had previously enjoyed UKTI support through the Passport to Export Programme. It was their International Trade Adviser (ITA), Graham White, who recommended they investigate the Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS). The EMRS is a UKTI Scheme providing professional advice and funding to help businesses understand the dynamics of a potential overseas market before creating an appropriate strategy for launching in this market and there is a nationwide team of professional Research Advisers to support individual companies.
Phil met with Clive Hogan, Research Adviser for the South East, who helped him to structure his research plan. They identified the key decisions OnTrack International would need to make as a result of the research: should they invest in the market or simply deliver client programmes ad hoc, would they need to adapt their programmes to suit the Chinese audience, what type of potential partner would they be able to appoint and how would they deliver the programmes: specifically, would they be able to recruit strong local trainers?
Adding to their existing list of contacts in China and Hong-Kong, OnTrack International worked with the UKTI staff in the UK and in Beijing to arrange a series of interviews with a broad cross section of people to find the information to make these crucial decisions.
In April 2012, Phil spent nine days in China interviewing a wide range of potential customers (including Barclays, Tesco and L’Oreal), possible business partners, training venues and local experts in the Beijing Consulate & Hong-Kong Chambers of Commerce. All the interviews were conducted in English by Phil; he did not need to appoint an interpreter for these particular interviews.
The results proved very useful. “Such a lot of misleading information comes out of China,” explained Phil, “we went out there feeling rather negative and assuming we’d face barriers at every step, but the scaremongering you hear about IP and legal issues is not as bad as you think!” Indeed, an important finding was that key potential clients for OnTrack International operated in a very similar manner to their counterparts throughout the world: supporting their staff to perform well and keeping them engaged and motivated were just as important in China as in the UK. “We really didn’t have to create the market, or significantly change our offering and their ‘hot buttons’ are just the same as ours,” said Phil. The research also identified the availability of strong local consultants able to deliver OnTrack International’s courses in the appropriate style.
As a result of the research trip, OnTrack International has now appointed a comprehensive team of consultants, enabling them to fulfil huge global contracts. They are developing a specific Chinese area within their website and continue to forge strong relationships both with clients and potential partners in the region; they are now looking for the right commercial partner to cement their business in China. “I found the EMRS to be really helpful,” explained Phil. “The financial support encouraged us to take this big step into such a large market and truly did help keep our business expansion on track. Also, the whole UKTI infrastructure, both here in the UK and in China, was so helpful. Sitting down with these experts and absorbing their wisdom was invaluable!”
If you are based in the East of England and looking to develop your business overseas contact UKTI East for assistance:
UKTI East International trade Team
Tel: 0845 641 9955
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