What you need to know about Innovative International Business.
Interview with Judith de Leede
When entrepreneurs take the big plunge and go global, they often run into pitfalls. The hurdles in international business can be difficult to spot in time. Whether underestimating the amount of preparation required to enter a new market, or failing to create an export plan, going too fast, often slows down your plans. When you forget to properly consider local markets (like demand and competition) or fail to find a local agent or distributor who understands the USP of your product, you’ll have too much work and too few results. Yes, the pitfalls are numerous, but they are also similar and where there is similarity there is predictability, and where there is predictability there are methods which address it.
So, what are these methods? Who is best informed on how to implement them? To help answer these questions, we spoke to Judith de Leede, an innovative International Business partner for companies of various kinds. She works from the Netherlands and helps entrepreneurs worldwide. Her solutions to the export hurdles are optimistic and positive. Judith believes the answers to the pitfalls when going global always have a link with cooperation. With a real knack for cooperation, Judith has earned her accolades in communication, formula marketing, project management, joint promotion campaigns and complex sales and innovation processes. We started by first asking Judith what inspired her to create her business, Alliance Experts:
I started Alliance Experts in 2011 alongside an international lawyer, a mechanical engineer and an urban planner. We were inspired by an American idea to support companies in finding the best alliance partners to help them fulfil their needs to innovate and create new business together with another company. Not only because it takes two to tango, but also because one plus one can make three, if you work together well. Simply having a good local business partner in the country you want to do business, can help you enormously.
What did you do before?
I had been working in an insurance company for many years. It was a large corporation with a strong hierarchical structure. I felt this was a hindrance to my work style and I was too independent to always comply with the rules imposed by a management team in some office somewhere. I had been in b2b sales team for a long time, so I felt confident that if I could sell complex insurance concepts, I could sell anything! Only I didn’t yet know, which product or service would be suitable for the business target group I had in mind. What I did know, was that it had to be something which would combine my knowledge of sales and international business.
What hurdles do you help entrepreneurs overcome?
When expanding into markets abroad, there is quite a lot to consider. My job is to help people overcome export pitfalls. It may be basics like getting your export plan right, or having an understanding of business and cultural norms in the market you are entering. The legal side of it can also be daunting. Finding the right people on the ground who understand that country, is vital. A big part of what we do is putting companies in contact with local experts. This goes beyond understanding the local market. We also make sure they understand the business and product and what its aims are. A partner search by yourself can be very expensive, in both cost and time. Especially when you are a small business or entrepreneur, it can make all the difference to have access to the right people. We make the process accessible and affordable.
It also doesn’t matter what stage of the process you are at. Maybe you are starting fresh and we can help from the get-go, or maybe you already have some plans in place or are already in the process of entering a new market, but things aren’t going as well as they could be. Maybe the demand for your product is exceeding expectation and you now need to consider scalability.
Can entrepreneurs and small companies really go global, or is this still something reserved for big players?
Oh definitely! The changing nature of business and the increasing use of technology really means anyone can go global. Before, only well established companies could realistically pull this off, but now the market is more open, and anyone can trade worldwide. You still need to do your homework and the hurdles are still there, but there is no getting around the fact it has never been more accessible then it is today. Companies like ours are a proof of this. We only exist because there is a demand for our services!
If you feel your product would work well abroad or you are in a competitive and over-saturated local market, don’t dismiss the possibilities that trading abroad could bring.
Entering new markets is always a risk, what are your top tips for anyone thinking to do so?
The biggest risk is that you don’t dare to take any risks.
Be creative when you are worried. Brainstorm your problem, be creative with it. Taking matters into your own hands feels good.
What makes you happy? What is your dream? Do not make neatly written lists, create a wild, pleasant chaos. Even though it may feel like you’re losing control, new ideas will arise!
Treat everything as a learning experiment. Without expectations and perfectionism. Always keep in mind that you are discovering and learning.
Think big. The bigger you think, the greater your options. Look for the biggest cooperation partners you can find, they can help you to find the biggest clients!
Never give up! Seek support from others, allow yourself a rest period, and then continue with fresh courage.
About Judith de Leede
Judith launched Alliance Experts in 2011 and it’s has grown into an international network with business partners located around the world. In Europe, Alliance Experts is most active in Germany, France, Spain, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Alliance Experts currently operates with business developers in over 20 countries worldwide. In The Netherlands, Alliance Experts operates the Starters International Business (SIB) programme, subsidised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. SIB allows Alliance Experts to support Dutch companies to move towards foreign markets free of charge