London is an extraordinary place to do business. A dynamic market full of opportunities and talents. But it’s also hyper-competitive, expensive (people, rent, services..) and ruthless.
Over the last ten years I have seen several Italian companies arrive in London with the wrong approach. Some of them believe that a quality product and their fame in Italy would be enough to guarantee visibility, interest and ultimately clients. A dangerous delusion.
Other companies have done an opposite mistake, splashing out a lot of money to open an expensive office or showroom, only to burn cash rapidly and eventually leave the market.
Luckily there are some best practices that can inspire the right approach. Here is my personal list of the ten rules to follow to establish a successful presence in London.
1. A very clear strategic positioning, ideally a niche, where there is space for the company’s unique competences and products.
2. A medium-long term horizon, taking into account that, depending on the industry, it might take a few years before ever turning a profit or getting a return on the investment.
3. A low-cost approach, leaving in Italy all the activities that don’t require onsite presence and using smart solutions to keep fixed costs at a minimum.
4. A thorough understanding of the British market and the dynamics of doing business in the UK
5. Regular presence in London of a senior company representative focused on networking and business development. Even during lockdown being physically here makes the difference.
6. A compelling narrative, created specifically for the British market, playing the “made in Italy” card in the most appropriate way.
7. Build as soon as possible a success story with a first client, ideally a flagship one-> important to gain credibility and test the way of working in the UK.
8. Focus on innovation: Londra lives in the present, cares for the past, but creates the future. This is a city that originates trend rather than following them, and is a market very open to new ideas.
9. Assemble a multicultural team. London is a true melting pot with people from every possible ethnicity, culture and language. It’s essential to understand that and have a wide sensibility, particularly in Marketing and Customer Service.
10. Send to the market clear signals of being a local business, with elements such as UK limited company, a website .co.uk, membership of trade associations and healthy relations with the local Borough.
No rocket science really, but I believe that following those ten simple rules could make the difference for any business.
London is a harsh mistress and doesn’t tolerate mediocrity or inefficiency.