- What important factors determine when a team is ready to take on international clients?
First, this is highly dependent on whether this is a strategic focus of your business venture as there are many nuances that drive business decision that said, you need to be structured to take on international clients from the beginning or before you pursue them. Some factors to consider include:
The team you have. Are their abilities well suited to handle work on an international scale? Your team needs to be prepared to go in that direction not just in their current abilities but open to having to grow and develop more nuanced skills in communication and cultural sensitivity.
Defining your niche as it is a bigger playing filed. Is there a global market need that you are addressing? What is your competitive advantage as an organisation based in Africa? As you target more international markets, you must identify a need that you are well suited to address. Taking this further, also consider your unique selling point
Your current networks and client sourcing tactics: Are they aligned with getting more international clients? Do you have any international contacts and networks that can satisfy the needs of your client? LinkedIn and referrals have been a great resource for us as Muyi in understanding where potential clients could come from.
- What challenging points come up while working with international clients?
One thing for sure is that the competition at a global and regional level is much more aggressive than on national level, especially if you are head quatered in Africa. There are more firms with more expertise and generally larger resources in terms of manpower and capital so you have got to think very hard about how best to position yourself.
The management of international stakeholders proves to be more difficult than it seems, especially understanding cultural differences. The differences in context and environments from one country to another causes a disadvantage to anyone working outside of their cultural comfort zone for example if you work on a project that needs interaction with politicians, you will have different experiences, challenges, and roadblocks in different regions of the world as each is governed differently. Doing business in Uganda is significantly different from doing business in Egypt. Operational complications arising from a difference in time zones. Basic aspects like meetings, emails, feedback loops among others will take more work, time and planning than they would with more local or national clients. For example, time zones heavily affect the feedback loops and meeting schedules, and it is one of the things that need to be put into thoughtful consideration. Invest in available tools online to help make this seemless so your team can focus on the most productive aspects of your engagement.
Operating out of Africa also comes with a lot of imposter syndrome. But if you are serving clients interested in a service or product on the content, you should remember that your biggest advantage is your authentic experience in the local market and understanding its nuances.
- How do you manage the lack of physical contact with these clients?
We operate in the service industry and offer consulting solutions to clients. With the explosion of remote work during the COVID pandemic, physical contact is no longer necessary to serve client needs. What is important is adapting how you work to ensure you are serving your clients optimally.
Primarily, it is important that you build trust and it is key that you pay close attention to your reputation by consistently getting client feedback- this should not be a one-off periodic survey but designed in the implementation. Reputation is not only cultivated from the outside in but from the inside out. Your company culture can be felt even without physical content. It may sound like too much but one of thing that comes in handy is “over communication.” Talk to your international clients as much as possible because there is no proximity between your team and the client. To further build trust and more importantly, to keep the client involved in their project as much as possible. At Muyi, we employ a collaborative approach to project implementation that ensures that clients are involved in all aspects of the project.
Prevention is always better than cure so always include risk mapping and assessment in your planning. Consistently assess all the possible risks that may occur during execution of the project. BE clear about what could go wrong and make sure to have solutions for those possibilities especially when implementing across several countries. This saves you time and energy especially when some of them occur.
Where need arises or simply to cement the relationship, be available to travel and meet in person. If this is possible, it will only add to all the trust and credibility you are building if you make time and resources to meet them face to face.
- What are the most rewarding moments of working with clients from different countries?
Whichever, international client you work with, that experience becomes a lifelong lesson. You build very strong problem-solving skills.
The exposure is also a huge plus because you end up interacting with people from different backgrounds, different schools of thought, different industries and whose interpretation of success is unique.
On top of the benefits of exposure, client management is also a skill that one develops. As a persona and as a team, we have had to adjust to every different global client we have interacted with.
Lastly, there is a great deal of satisfaction one gets from being able to drive impact in other countries in the world.
- What other factors should be considered with engaging with international client?
First of all, pay attention to the time zones.
Research and understand who your client is. The fact that you are an outsider in many aspects; , environmentally, culturally among others, it is important that you do everything you can to familiarize yourselves with who they are, their values and their mission.
Legal and policy framework in their country, industry, is also important etc. It is critical that you understand what their legal framework looks like, how it operates and what key issues you need to be aware of before you enter the client’s market.
This might not seem urgent but you need to know what currency you are operating in. This is not just for payment purposes but for you and your team to bill right.
Adaption of more international marketing. In order to get and engage with an international clientele, your brand image needs to be relatable to them as well. When creating your marketing strategy, consider that you need to appeal to everyone in your target audience including global firms and entities and market yourself accordingly.