Six rules for international success

Simon McMurtrie, CEO of Direct Wines, the largest home delivery wine company in the world, sets out the strategies that have worked for him in driving international growth.

My experience around international business suggests, however, that there are a few golden rules which are well worth hanging onto if you’re going to be more successful, more quickly. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in business but these are the rules that have worked for us as we have grown Direct Wines.

1. Shareholder alignment.

It’s critically important that shareholders, bankers and the management are all on exactly the same page as to the best way to expand the business. If they are, then if it proves to be a rocky road everyone will be much more patient as you work through the challenges.

2. Know your business.

Make sure you’ve really understood what enables you to be successful in your home territory and hang on tight to that in other territories. If you find yourself switching business model, changing sector, or moving outside your comfort zone in a new market then when it doesn’t work you won’t know why that is.

3. Be realistic.

When you look at new markets you make projections around the potential of that market and they are always enormous. Halve it and make sure your expectations are realistic. Then everyone will be utterly delighted when you exceed those expectations.

4. Plant your people.

There is a group of people in your home territory core to the success of the business, who know the business model inside out, and know the culture inside out. It’s that business model and culture you want planted around the world. And you will do better in markets around the world with your own people planted there than you will by finding a top headhunter to recruit top local talent, which doesn’t have the history in your business.

5. Beware cultural differences.

Most things should be kept the same at least initially. You can tweak it over time to reflect local cultural differences, slight differences in product, pricing, service proposition; that’s fine. But don’t be bullied by local advisers and consultants around cultural differences.

6. Just do it!

You can take months or even years analysing the potential of a particular territory but in the end you just need to get started.

Simon McMurtrie is group chief executive of the Direct Wines group, the direct to consumer wine company with businesses in the US, UK, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Australia, Hong Kong and India together with wine-making facilities in France and Australia.

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Sectors: Beverages & Alcoholic Drinks and Food & Drink
Countries: Europe
Topics: Export Planning, Getting Started, and Market Research
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