When the world's your market

In today’s global economy, the whole world is the market. But when developing a plan for international expansion, begin by breaking it down into regions of relevance.

Consider what parts of your growth strategy and business model have worked best in the UK and then look to the markets where you can replicate that as much as possible. At the same time be aware of and responsive to local culture and economics, and compliant with local regulations.

The commercial attaché at British Embassy can be a useful source of information and support, as well as the UKTI. Be open to ideas from them but, equally, be specific about what you want to achieve and the type of help and support you are looking for.

International expansion isn’t without challenge, and it’s easy to feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the size of the opportunity. So, break that opportunity down and then build confidence by speaking to other entrepreneurs who have done what you want to do.

Here are six businesses that have:

VTL Group “follows the customer” around the world

Huddersfield-based VTL Group manufactures precision engineered components for the automotive industry - a global growth market. The business has adopted a “follow the customer” approach to international expansion and exporting. These customers include Cummins, Toyota, Renault and Nissan.

In 2010, together with a joint venture partner, VTL opened a facility in Dharwad, India to more efficiently fulfil the orders of its major customers. The Group also has a manufacturing facility in Charleston, USA and a sales and technical presence in Yokohama, Japan. It now serves customers across Europe, North America, India and Asia.

More than half of VTL’s revenues are now generated by exports.

Molecular Products Group “replicates” Essex manufacturing plant Colorado

Molecular Products Group (MPG) develops chemicals based technology used in the healthcare, military and industrial sectors. It was commissioned by NASA to design and build an emergency oxygen system for the International Space Station.

MPG’s manufacturing facilities are in Harlow, Essex and in Boulder, Colorado. Admittedly, the climate’s different but the manufacturing sites aren’t. MPG took an operational model that worked for in the UK and replicated this in the US. The business now sells internationally through a network of subsidiaries and distributors.

Most recently, MLG has been focused on growth opportunities in India and Japan. Having limited knowledge of the Indian market they hired a local consultant on a one year project to conduct a market analysis and develop a short form business plan. They were able to find the right candidate with the help of the UK India Business Council.

The world is Dudson’s saucer

Dudson makes ceramic tableware for the hospitality sector. It’s been doing so for more than 200 years from its manufacturing site in Stoke on Trent - which is packed full of huge kilns and busy production lines. Having built-up two centuries worth of knowledge and experience – and not wanting to dissipate this technical know-how or reduce economies of scale – Dudson continues to manufacture its products in Stoke.

The family run business treats the whole world as their market, with direct sales forces in Canada, the US, Spain and Australia. Today, more than 40 percent of its revenues are driven by exports.

A British breakthrough in laser technology goes global

M Squared Lasers designs and manufactures lasers and optical instruments from its Glasgow based headquarters.

It all started when the founders of the business, Dr Graeme Malcolm and Dr Gareth Maker, developed an ultra-pure light laser which was considered a breakthrough in the field of laser technology - previously light had not been pure enough to probe complex quantum systems. They set up M Squared, in Glasgow, when they sold their first product in 2006.

Today, the business ships its high-precision products across Europe, North America and Asia, generating around 80 percent of its revenue from exports.

Plastique in Poland

Plastique, headquartered in Tunbridge Wells, designs and manufactures ‘thermoformed’ packaging for customers in the personal care, household products, pharmaceutical and food markets, and more. Most of the products are bespoke to the requirements of its clients, most of which are global brand owners. So, it set up camp near to them – in Poznan, Poland. Plastique then used BGF’s growth capital investment to double the size of its facility there from 3,000sqm to 7,300sqm in order to house more manufacturing equipment, raw materials and finished goods.

British craftsmanship from Canburg

Canburg owns two of the world’s most renowned fitted furniture businesses – Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson Furniture. All of its products are hand-made by 170 experienced craftsmen and women in workshop in Devizes, Wiltshire.

luxury furniture adorns some of the world’s most exclusive developments - and the homes of Dustin Hoffman, Sir Elton John and Oprah Winfrey (to name drop a few!)

The group has multiple routes to market: directly to high net worth customers through showrooms; in partnership with in-market dealerships and to property developers targeting locations such as New York. Canburg now generates a third of its revenues from overseas markets.