Making international partnerships work
We talk to Dick Brentnall – the Institute’s services expert – about how to win and retain a contract with an international client. You can also read our discussion about how to make your offering attractive to potential clients.
How do I secure an overseas contract?
So we’ve found a client and got an agreement in principle. The next thing you need to do is to ensure you’ve got a contract in place. The contracting process can sometimes be quite difficult – it can be time consuming and legally technical – but it’s a good discipline for ironing out some of the areas you might not have considered at the outset.
As the service provider, you should have a draft contract in mind – especially in terms of what the services being delivered are going to be. Take this detail to a legal entity and they can then translate that into a legal document.
What you shouldn’t do is go to the lawyer at the outset and say ‘what should we do?’ because you’ll then end up with a legal document which doesn’t necessarily reflect the services or focus of your business.
I’d add that this should be an international lawyer, if possible. If it were a particularly critical project, a lawyer in the end-market of the service being delivered would be ideal as they’ll be able to advise you on specific issues appropriate to that country.
The key things to factor in are what it is you’re offering, where it’s being offered, and when. That relates to services, payment – how, when, and what – and the communication of that contract.
Step 1 – make sure you know what it is you want to be offering
Step 2 – draft this into a contract
Step 3 – take this to a lawyer
Step 4 – then you’re off
How do I make the relationship work long-term?
In the retail business the first thing you have to do is attract customers, and once they’re in the outlet, you persuade them to buy. Then you wish deliver such a great offering that they return and become returning customers; then step three is to sell more to these returning customers.
It’s the same with any service that you are looking to sell.
Step 1 – Identify the right client and undertake initial business
Step 2 – Figure out how you can retain that client to come back for more business
Step 3 – Then add incremental business with that new client
Step 2 is the critical point for now. The basic part to get right is communication.
It can be long distance but avoid just communicating with them at the times that suit you. Make sure there’s a regular communication process so that the overseas client feels part of your service family, so that they feel involved in your business as much as you believe you’re involved in theirs.
Second make sure to be clear from the outset of the relationship what each party expects from each other. Part of that is in the contracting process and part of that is setting up the initial business relationship in a clear and transparent way. What you’re trying to avoid is surprises – your client won’t want surprises and nor will you.
Part of maintaining the relationship is regular communication to ensure that these expectations are being met.