Tulips or Kimchi?
An obvious choice, or …?
It is Friday afternoon and a really good working week is on it is way to end. You are in a good mood since you have managed to sign a couple of large deals this week. A good feeling that you would like to bring home! Why not surprise the family with something? Instantly you come to think of bringing home flowers. Why not tulips? Tulips have been really appreciated. Especially this time of the year!
Suddenly you feel very traditional and not creative in your quick decision of buying tulips. You have bought tulips “a million times before” and you know the reaction back home. Will they be surprised and do everyone in the family really appreciate tulips?
Let me try something new and different that would surprise the whole family. Why not a new dish? The other day, we discussed “different and new dishes” over lunch. One colleague described her new experience of having Korean Kimchi on her last trip to Asia. According to her, you either love or hate Kimchi. “If you start to like Kimchi, you are hooked forever. You might even become addicted to Kimchi”.
Maybe I should buy Kimchi to the family? They would really be surprised! On the other hand is it a huge risk since they would either “love or hate” my surprise?
The above story illustrates a simple decision making process in our ordinary life. However this decision making process can be used in reflecting over, how decisions are made when e.g. a SME business expands the business to international markets.
Let us say that you are Nordic medium sized company within the Technology industry. You have a proven business model and your business is very successful in the Nordic region. A region where you have initially expanded your business. You are now thinking of expanding the business to new countries outside the Nordic region.
You are European, the management team is from the Nordic region as well as the Board of directors. You have worked with expansion before and by “tradition” you are used to expand businesses to European markets. By proposing an initial expansion to Europe, you will for sure get an approval from the management team and the board of directors.
One common initial market for expansion is the Netherlands? The size of the market is manageable and it is easy to communicate. The values are also very common to the ones we have in the Nordic region. You also have an easy access to larger European markets.
By default you are now considering to initially expand the business to the Netherlands. Suddenly you feel very quick in your decision. Maybe and expansion to Europe and the Netherland is not that obvious? Especially not when you evaluate the macro economic situation and the projections in Europe.
At the last management meeting, an external consultant was presenting global opportunities within our industry. One interesting market that was mentioned in the presentation was Korea. No other country in the world has grown so rapidly after the Second World War.
The thought of expanding the business to a new and emerging region felt thrilling, but also scary since it was definitely outside the “comfort zone” and the way we usually expand a business. It will also be very hard to get an Ok from the management team and the board of directors. An initial expansion that would initially skip Europe would be considered very odd and awkward? You couldn’t let go of the thought and this new exciting idea to initially skip Europe in our next step of expanding our business. You decided to skip lunch in order to capture some data for comparing the Netherlands with Korea.
You wanted data to initially convince yourself that this was a good idea. Data that might also trigger an interesting discussion in the management team?
Even though that this is only a simple story, it illustrates the importance of having a global and open mindset when you evaluate where and when you get the optimal leverage on investments and resources spent in your next steps of expanding your business!
Wetter & Co has conducted a study with the objective to 1) map the international presence of Nordic Private Equity portfolio companies and 2) identify the EBITDA leverage of international expansion.
According to our study, 31% of the Nordic PE portfolio companies that were expanding their business were present in the Netherland in comparison to 13% that were established in Korea. Only 4% of the portfolio companies have skipped an initial expansion to Europe.
Find out more about our study.