Want to work abroad? Follow these six rules to succeed

Libby Gibson
Want to work abroad? These are your golden rules (Source: Getty)

As the autumn nights draw in, you might feel tempted by the idea of living and working in a hotter, sunnier climate. But what does it take to succeed abroad? Some of Britain’s best-known business figures share their secrets in Going Global, a book that marks Piper's 30th anniversary of investing in consumer brands. Here are their top tips on what to do – and avoid…

Beware The Doom-Mongers

Julian Granville, MD of clothing brand Boden, built a $150m US business in barely a decade but says he may never have tried had he heeded early advice. He says the general consensus was:
Everybody screws it up, you must be completely mad. After hearing these warnings repeatedly, you’ll be very tempted to unpack your suitcase. Or zip it up and ignore them.

Stick To What You Know

Many business leaders advocate the importance of keeping it simple. “Sometimes you don’t realise how much you know until you try explaining it to someone else,”says Carphone Warehouse co-founder Sir Charles Dunstone, who turned his company’s partnership with American retailer Best Buy into a famous British success story.

Do Your Homework

It’s very easy to get lost in translation, as smoothie giant Innocent discovered in France. Co-founder Adam Balon recalls setting up a stand bearing the brand’s mission statement, translated into “GCSE-level French’” that Innocent drinks contained no preservatives. “It made an impression, though not in the way we’d anticipated,” he remembers.
Since 'preservatives' doesn’t translate directly into French, it turned out we were advertising 'condom-free' fruit drinks.

Watch Your Timing

“Timing is crucial when going abroad,” advises Sir Ian Cheshire, former group chief executive of Kingfisher. “Arrive too early and the market won’t be ready; too late and it’ll be saturated.”
Peter Higgins, former chief executive of Charles Tyrwhitt, paid that price when taking the shirtmaker to Japan:
Back in 1996, we thought: which country has lots of money, does mail order and loves British kit? Japan. So Charles Tyrwhitt Japan was launched in November 1996 – just as the Nikkei collapsed.

The Power of No

Premium skincare brand REN attracted interest from abroad before it had the necessary infrastructure in place. ‘After considerable agonising, we said we weren’t yet ready,’ recalls co-founder Antony Buck. ‘One of our first major lessons was the delicate art of saying No.’

No Room For Hugh Grant…

Old-fashioned charm and a British accent can go a long way abroad – but not as far as you think. Christopher Sharp, co-founder of The Rug Company, has taken his luxury designer rugs to four continents, but cautions against playing up your roots, especially in the US.
Never try that self-deprecating English thing and say 'I’m fairly hopeless at everything, I got lucky'. They’ll take you for your word and walk away, muttering 'What a loser!'

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