It was only recently that a client called me, asking for support in his export activities as he had some problems. Quite pleased with myself, I confirmed that I am indeed responsible for export solutions and would assist him with pleasure. Disillusion followed instantly, as the client spelt out to me that he would need support in France, Dubai, Algeria and Nicaragua. With the counter question: What experience do you already have of those countries? I won myself enough time to recover from my surprise and swore never again to promise too much too soon. The client has only two subsidiaries in Europe I remembered vividly and asked myself tensely, whether I was dealing with a proper strategy for expansion, delusions of grandeur or simply an overestimation of the company’s own capacities.
No, he answered, he hadn’t any experience of those markets, but he had serious inquiries, even if so far he had only been to France for holidays. But without doubt, he added, the future lies in a strategy for internationalization, as wasn’t it true that there wasn’t much to gain in national markets anymore? Correct as his analysis was, I slowly started to realize that I had to carefully explain to the client that he would have to concentrate on just ONE new market first, and for his own good, a relatively close one.
So I started my next question by asking whether he or his management team spoke French, Spanish or Arabic, a fact which he shouldn’t belittle. A further question of who he would contract as regional managers within these countries, brought him back to reality, and now the client asked me with disarming honesty: What do you think: France or Dubai?
No question. Even for a larger European SME, France is an important market not to be overlooked, but the risk can also be easily overlooked, without even thinking about cultural differences. Consider that France is a European neighbour with many peculiarities and endless possibilities for failure, if one does not respect local market characteristics.