Traditionally, businesses have deemed international business risky. However, avoiding it is no longer a choice. Andy Gent, founder and CEO of Revector,
provides valuable insight on the benefits of going beyond European borders and making your company a global concern
In 2001, I set up a company to identify and eliminate certain types of fraud against mobile network operators.
Fifteen years later, Revector operates in more than 100 countries globally – with a core team of less than 10 people. It has not all been plain sailing but one thing is for certain: the company could not have thrived unless international business was part of the business plan.
Many business people tend to expand to the countries closest to their borders first. This is perfectly understandable and goes to explain why the debate over the European Union created such interest and confusion.
For Revector, far more revenue has come from the African continent than the Americas and Europe combined.
Keys to successful international business
Cloud-based technology is absolutely crucial to facilitate 24/7 online availability and the scalability needed for global business. It enabled us to create a secure portal that any customer could log into for information on how many frauds had been identified, where the fraud was taking place from a geographical perspective, and specific aspects that would facilitate fraud eradication.
The ability to receive this information in real time, at any time of day, enabled the company to scale up quickly.
Another important aspect of globalising quickly was becoming an active participant in industry forums, events and conferences.
These events enabled the company to meet lots of potential customers in one place. It also helped identify the issues that operators were addressing around fraud and revenue protection, shaping better product development.
Remaining legal, getting paid
The single most significant issue that companies concern themselves with when doing business globally is getting paid. Yet ironically, the only aged debts that Revector has experienced have come from what people would describe as developed countries. Of course, there can be difficulties to face, such as currency fluctuations, but the US dollar seems to be an international standard in many parts of the world. Countering concerns about payment is the capability to actually meet with and influence relevant people who are central to decision making. In a developed country, it often takes weeks to get a meaningful answer out of a chain of command, whereas there have been occasions when Revector has pitched for business and received a purchase order on the same day – simply because the operator or regulator has a problem, needs it fixing, and wants to ensure it happens quickly.
Ensuring the company is not at risk of breaching international sanctions, or working with companies under suspicion of malpractice, is a much bigger issue that should be taken extremely seriously.
International sanctions are a hugely complex area, with both individual countries and international bodies having the capability to impose sanctions. The list of active sanctions changes very regularly: on an almost daily basis the US, the European Union and the United Nations issue new or change existing sanctions.
Furthermore, it is not enough to know that the company you are doing business with is not sanctioned. If directors of the company are also involved in other businesses, there may be a risk of breach. It is certainly worth doing the research to ensure compliance.
The flip side of this is the opportunities that are currently opening up in countries where sanctions have traditionally been deployed. These countries are now unlocking significant frozen assets and are determined to invest to grow the economy. This offers businesses one of the most significant opportunities globally.
International business reaps rewards
UK companies with a phobia for international business outside of the US or EU are certainly missing opportunities to develop. The global mobile telecommunications industry has transformed life in so many parts of the world, but where you see this most is in developing countries. This opens up a multitude of business opportunities.
Whilst it is not without its challenges, Revector would not be able to exist without international trade.
The backbone of successful international business is being prepared to engage in new cultures, to get on a plane and travel, and to have faith in the people at the other end.