Grow your business, My story

Branching out: how to prepare for overseas expansion

Reading time:  2 Minutes

Lorella Puccetti, UK Sales Director for Vimer, talks networking abroad and global growth.

Building a network in your native country is a challenge in itself, so how should you approach it when expanding abroad? Lorella Puccetti established the UK branch of international business Vimer, which specialises in printing, in 2002. Despite already speaking English, she found the differences between London and her hometown Perugia, Umbria to be more than linguistic.

Here she tells us how she adapted to networking in the UK, and the challenges of global growth.

Prepare your team

Vimer remains the definition of a family business: Luigi is CEO, daughter Valentina is head of creative and marketing, son Valentino heads up production, and wife Paola is in charge of buying. They’re all “really involved in the running of the business,” says Lorella. But it’s now an international business, with 150 employees in three cities across Europe.

How have they built their team? “It’s really worth investing in your staff,” says Lorella. “We used a specialist headhunting company to get the best people in place when coming to the UK.”

Establish your base

Starting the UK arm of Vimer’s overseas expansion by herself, Lorella saw the benefits of renting a managed office. “I needed a place where if I wasn’t in, I could receive samples, send out post, and look after the office in terms of security, IT and cleaning,” she says. “Having all the little things taken care of saved me a lot of stress and left me with more time to contact clients.”

Make connections (and keep them)

“In Italy, it’s difficult to get a meeting with a client. But once your foot’s in the door, it’s easy to maintain that relationship,” Lorella explains. “In the UK, it’s often a little easier to get in touch with a prospect – but here that doesn’t guarantee you ongoing work.” Lorella explains that staff turnover at British companies is high, so “it takes around six months to get connected with someone of interest, and then the moment you get working on the project, that contact moves on and your relationship gets lost.” However, Lorella says, there’s a silver lining: “the positive is that if you’ve worked with a brand manager in one firm, they’re likely to introduce you to their new company.”

Lorella takes a strategic approach to building her network. First, she gets to know her market: “If I’m interested in a sector, I read its specialist, industry-specific magazines. I notice when someone’s been promoted, or when a company buys another company.” This helps with her personal approach: “I gradually build up my relationship with a client by introducing myself with a letter, then a call, and working up towards a meeting.”

Overseas expansion is a huge challenge for any business, but Lorella has taken it in her stride. By establishing an expert team in a good location, she was able to rapidly build from her base. And, thanks to a lot of research, she learnt about the local way of networking and built strong relationships with potential clients. It might not be la dolce vita, but Lorella shows us that global growth is very much within our reach.

Lorella is UK Sales Director for Vimer, a printing company. She moved to England from Italy in 2002 and is now based in a Regus office in Slough, west of London.