Brexit and uncertainty: a textbook case for entrepreneurs seeking internationalisation

Published at 14/12/2018

Yesterday's landslide victory for the Conservatives in the UK general election has put Brexit back in the spotlight. This is a development that will not reassure the many European economic players based in the UK, including many French people.

There has been a lot of talk about the fate of these French entrepreneurs based overseas, some of whom have already chosen to return to France. Others, consultants, managers of SMEs/SMIs who have taken the step of internationalization, continue to have doubts and do not know what tomorrow will bring.

As experts debate the various scenarios, no one can say with any certainty what the practical impact of potential changes in legislation will be on Franco-British business. Less than two hours from Paris, London has long been the fourth largest French city in the world. As a gateway to the world, Europe's leading financial center is nonetheless subject to unstoppable political, economic and social shifts.

This is ample and important evidence, for any entrepreneur wishing to embark on the internationalization of his or her business, of never underestimating the importance of the specifics of the place they choose to set up. I do not believe, as has been argued, that London, even at this time of extreme uncertainty, is a bad choice in itself. Nor is it a good choice in itself. It is a choice that requires being aware of the risks, anticipating them, and knowing how to react and adapt when they occur.

Doing business in London is not just about business in English. Who says « other country » says « change of paradigm, mentality and perspectives ». An entrepreneur who decides to expand abroad faces many dilemmas, which confront him with the very meaning of his journey. What is the aim of setting up in London, Brussels, Montreal or Beirut? What is the objective to be achieved? And above all, what did we come here to look for that we couldn't get at home, in France? Far from being mere rhetorical questions, for any company director, there is ample subject for thought.

In order to accompany an entrepreneur, he can of course rely on the advice of experts who, like me, have developed a certain experience in the matter, as well as knowledge and a network. Being the UK, so close and yet so different, there is a great temptation to believe that a Frenchman, if he knows a little about the British business world, can do without such advice. I am convinced that this is a mistake.

Seeking the right advice: the role of the Mission Internationale Marketplace

The entrepreneur who wishes to go international can (and must!) also seek the advice of local experts, who are familiar with the legal, financial or commercial aspects of the local market in all its specificities. However, it is still necessary to know, identify, approach and assess the quality of these experts. This is where the main difficulty lies, especially when international business is new.

This observation, shared by many entrepreneurs in France as well as in the countries where I have had the opportunity to meet and accompany them, is the origin of the Mission Internationale marketplace. This platform, which I had the pleasure of launching on 28th November, puts company directors and international consultants/experts in direct contact with each other. Whatever their sector of activity, their field of expertise or their geographical specialization, companies and experts can easily get in touch and work together. All they have to do is register for free on the site.

It is a simple idea, and practically an evidence. And yet, I believe that such a tool was sorely lacking. As the successive twists and turns of the Brexit in the UK have reminded us, uncertainty and lack of visibility are brakes on any economic activity: information and expertise are the indispensable conditions for any business-friendly environment. The Mission Internationale Marketplace, as it promotes, simplifies and facilitates key services for the development of companies, intends to participate in this facilitation of economic exchanges. When these are solid, virtuous and reliable, as we like to say across the Channel, even events as disruptive as the Brexit are no longer obstacles to the development of an international business.

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