For many small and mid-size training firms, developing a new and steady revenue stream by entering an international market is an appealing idea but a complex proposition. Some companies might become interested after they participated in a one-time overseas engagement, but the project ends up in the back burner because of the pressures of running the day to day business. This article explores strategies and ideas to consider as you explore going abroad.
One of the benefits of globalizing your training is that you can develop a new revenue stream without a significant expenditure by leveraging the investment you have already made in your training program.
Another important benefit is that it makes you more competitive in your home market. Many U.S. and European multinational companies select training vendors that can scale their programs across regions and languages. In-house L&D professionals and the business units they support seek to standardize their training in all of their subsidiaries.
Training firms that lack the ability to not only deliver their training overseas but also to tailor it to local languages and cultures lose business to firms that have a global footprint.
I worked with an American manufacturing firm that faced falling sales. The company’s V.P. of Sales and Marketing sought to train his team in the new sales methodology I work with. The firm had a sales force of over 1000 individuals spread across the United States, Europe, and Latin America. After evaluating several competing methodologies and vendors, they awarded the multimillion-dollar contract to the firm that was capable of rolling out the same training in seven different language over the course of two months. The interesting fact is that the winning firm was not larger than its competitors. But it had invested in developing a multilingual delivery platform that was nimble and with minimal overhead.
How to start
A cost-efficient way to start your international expansion is by leveraging your existing clients. Your existing U.S. and European multinational clients can help you penetrate their subsidiaries. While some multinationals have a top-down approach to training roll-outs, many others operate with greater autonomy. Talk to your L&D and functional area managers (i.e., head of sales, supply chain, operations, etc.) about your interest in working with their peers based overseas.
The key is who will finance the training. A training program financed from U.S or European headquarters will only require logistical support from the subsidiary. If this is the case, propose a pilot session in one of their overseas markets.
The situation is different when local subsidiaries provide the funding. In those cases, your experience training their teams at U.S. headquarters is a valuable credential to pursue opportunities locally. Ask your U.S. or European L&D contact or business unit managers to introduce you to their peers in overseas subsidiaries.
Sometimes, all it takes is being aware of who is in your classroom. During a training I ran for a U.S. petrochemical company in Houston, I met a participant who was an expatriate working for a joint venture partner of the petrochemical company in the Middle East. He was visiting headquarters and chose to enroll in the training. I engaged with him during breaks to learn more about their operations in the Middle East and stayed in contact with him after the training. He enjoyed the training session and thought it would be beneficial for his team. That initial contact led to a contract for over $100,000 to run trainings at their site.
Piggy-backing on the overseas footprint of your existing clients is another cost-efficient expansion model. The relationship your firm has with headquarters of an American multinational company will allow you to skip the investment in promotional and travel expenses needed when selling in a local market either directly or through a partner. Your existing legal agreements with the head office can be extended to a subsidiary through an addendum to an existing contract. This will cut down on legal fees and provide you with solid coverage.
Expanding overseas on your own
An alternative approach is to expand overseas by teaming up with a local partner. This is an option that is common among training companies that offer open enrollment sessions. These type of arrangements vary from licensing deals to simple partnerships with an existing local training firm or individual to market and deliver your training.
Open enrollment firms such as The Bob Pike Group, Vital Smarts, and David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” have local licensees who deliver their programs. Some support their local licensees by promoting local sessions on the company’s website.
The selection of the overseas partner is a pivotal decision. How to find them? Here are some ideas to explore:
- Your existing partners: start at home and leverage the professional networks of your existing trainers. It is likely they have worked with global firms and built relationships with colleagues overseas.
- International participants and clients: research your participant data base to see if they had a connection with the international markets you are interested in.
- Network at professional events. ATD’s annual International Conference & Expo offers a rich networking opportunity as almost 25% of the attendees are from overseas.
- Post an announcement on your own website. Firms and free-lance trainers overseas are also looking for opportunities with their U.S. vendors.
- Connect with local trade associations for your area of expertise. Whether your training is about coaching, selling, or change management, the national trade associations can help you kickstart your search.
- Look for published authors in your field in the local market. Remember, you will find better results if you run Google searches in-language.
- Leverage LinkedIn.
In the next article, I will discuss ideas about choosing your geographic foot print.
Marcelo Morichi is multilingual facilitator with over ten years of experience. He has facilitated Challenger™ sales, coaching, and negotiation workshops in over fifteen countries. He facilitates in English, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, and is based in Washington, D.C.