This year’s International Women’s Day hashtag is #BeBoldForChange. The word “bold” resonates with me as a woman with a strong career focus, and I look up to those who are, by all accounts, bold and brave. One such woman is Alison Edgar. Alison has recently embarked on a new chapter of her business; exporting her services, so I caught up with her to see what she was up to.
What is it that you do?
I am The Entrepreneur’s Godmother and Managing Director of Sales Coaching Solutions. Through The Entrepreneur’s Godmother, I work with start-ups, micros and owner-managed businesses, teaching them to sell more of their fantastic products and services. Through Sales Coaching Solutions we provide sales teams in small to medium sized businesses with tailored coaching and training plans to overcome their sales challenges and develop an effective sales strategy, enabling them to sell more. I’m very passionate about sales as you can tell!
So what were you up to in Kuwait recently?
In Kuwait, we were working in partnership with an organisation called the Integrated Vision Institute For Training and Consulting. Through them we delivered a two day workshop to business owners and entrepreneurs. The Kuwait government are trying to increase the number of entrepreneurs in the country and have provided grants to help set up and grow the businesses.
Many people think that exporting is about sending a product in a shipping container to another country. How easy was it for you to export your services?
It has been really easy for us to export as a service provider. Kuwait wasn’t our first export contract. We have also exported to Macedonia, where we have been training a sales team in a tech company since November last year. Being a service based company meant we didn’t even have to leave our office to do this, we have been training them via Zoom, a video conferencing software. It works really well, they project the conference on to a screen so that the whole team can see me and they set cameras up in the conference room so we can see them. We then send them any workbooks that need to be completed and we train them the same way we would if it was face-to-face.
Travelling to Kuwait took a little more organising, but it really wasn’t that difficult. Our contacts in Kuwait sorted everything out for us and we spoke to the Department for International Trade and the Kuwait British Business Council about any queries. We were provided with information on getting a Visa, and completed an E-Visa form before we left, which was a lot easier. When we got to Kuwait everything was ready for us, the venue had been set up and all our resources printed off. The organisation we were working for marketed the event, I was essentially brought in as a guest speaker for their organisation.
Why did you feel it was the right time in your business to go global?
It was always in our strategic plan to go global; however heading to Kuwait happened by chance. Madlen (our Kuwait contact) viewed my LinkedIn profile and as part of my strategy I always follow up with people who look at my profile on LinkedIn.
Being given the opportunity told us that it was the right time. We knew we were capable of delivering the training and couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
What challenges did you have to overcome in order to start exporting?
There weren’t any major challenges. I think the biggest thing was working out how to price our services based on exchange rates and taxes. Both the DIT and Kuwait British Business Council helped us with this.
Why did you pick the Kuwaiti and Middle Eastern markets?
Like I said the Middle East picked us. We did our research in the market after receiving the offer and felt that it would be a good place to start, due to their string economy from the oil industry. From what we had been told by our contacts, and found in our own research, it was clear that there was a gap for someone like me who specialised in sales coaching and training.
Soon after we confirmed our trip to Kuwait, Prime Minister Theresa May visited the Middle East and expressed the potential for export. This confirmed that we were working in the right market and assured us that the Middle East was a great market to target going forward.
What help and support did you have from Business West and the Department for International Trade?
The biggest help was on how to price our service and what we needed to take into account. They were also really helpful in providing us with information on travelling in Kuwait, whether it was safe to go (which it was), what we should look out for and how we could get visas. They also advised us to ask for the Hala service. This is where someone picks you up from the aeroplane and takes you through customs, this was very helpful when arriving in Kuwait as it speeded the visa process up and put us at ease.
What are your plans for further global growth?
We are already in the process of planning another trip to Kuwait to deliver another workshop. We are also looking to export to other Middle Eastern countries, Dubai in particular. We're looking to conduct research into new markets through the Export for Growth market research scheme at Business West.
As a key influencer and inspiring woman in business in the UK, how easy was it to portray your expertise and experience in another country?
The thing that makes me different is my unique delivery style; this is something I didn’t want to lose due to a language barrier. We had an excellent translator which enabled me to present in the same way I always do. Kuwait is actually a very westernised country, so we didn’t have to change any of our references to famous people in the case studies we would usually use.
Speaking about the potential cultural barriers, Kiya Newnham from Sales Coaching Solutions said “the attendees at the course absolutely loved Alison, they really valued her opinion and all wanted feedback on their business ideas. We presented under the name of The Entrepreneur’s Godmother, but we weren’t sure what the response would be to this, but they all really liked it and asked to have photos and selfies with "The Godmother". For more about Sales Coaching Solutions and Alison Edgar go to www.alisonedgar.com
If you’re feeling inspired to be bold like Alison and start exporting your goods and services overseas, start your journey now and see how our team can help by clicking here.