G2 Experience creates training programs to accelerate global expansion
After a work experience in France with a British company, Sophie Lechner moved to the United States 25 years ago to pursue an MBA. She worked for many years in the pharmaceutical industry, until 2010, when she created her own consulting group: G2Experience (G squared, for Global Growth).
Being part of the Beeleev community, she gave us this interview to answer a few questions about international business development and globalization.
What’s the story behind the G2Experience?
After working in the pharmaceutical industry for a long time, I wanted a new challenge. I started doing consultancy for a few clients. In 2012, one of them asked me to prepare an outline for the creation of a Global Executive MBA program to meet the needs of globalizing companies. It was the trigger that got me interested in better understanding what globalizing companies need.
I quickly realized that an MBA was not the answer. An MBA. is a career development program: it’s long, it’s expensive and it’s just not going to provide the real life practical advice a business leader needs to take action immediately.
From there, I changed the concept to something that’s not an academic degree but that includes all the specific, practical information and skills that a company needs to take their operations abroad. After that, I spent more and more time testing my concept, getting feedback, tweaking it and sometime around 2014, the G2Experience was born.
What services do you offer?
We offer immersive training programs to accelerate companies’ global expansion. Most Fortune 500 companies are already doing business worldwide, but mid-market companies constitute a huge part of the economy and most of them are not equipped to do business abroad. This is a reality not only in the US but in other countries as well.
We offer training sessions and hands on guidance for Business Leaders (CEOs, Global Sales and International Business Development Managers). But the core of our offer is a week-long intensive immersion in the target market, with a lot of preparation work before the trip and customized guided activities on the ground
What is the scope of this program?
There are two levels of the program, depending on whether the company is just in the exploration stages or if they have committed to entering the market. The first one is called Market Validation: it is focused on companies in an early phase of expansion. They have made a preliminary selection of markets they want to enter and need to take a decision on where to focus their efforts.
Exporting or entering a new market requires a large investment in time, resources and management focus. Clearly no amount of research comes anywhere close to actually traveling to the country and seeing for yourself what it will take to break into that market.
Our Market Validation program allows the company’s decision makers to see for themselves, on the ground, whether this market is a good fit for their expansion strategy. Participants get to open their eyes to the realities of the market, shift their understanding of the potential and begin to view globalization from a whole new perspective
The immersion week includes professional encounters, visits, transfer of knowledge, conversations with potential customers, meetings with a distributor or agent to get a sense of expectations. At the end of the program what we aim for is to give them the ability to take a decision based on a solid understanding of what is needed to succeed.
If they ultimately decide not to pursue a certain market, we consider it a success too. They will save themselves months, in many cases years, of heavy expenses, frustration and lost opportunities. So it’s a very valuable program to do, before committing all the resources that the Go-to-Market phase will require.
What about the other program?
The other program we have is called Market Entry. It is advised for companies that have made the decision to expand to a particular market and have secured commitments internally, with adequate budgets and resources. The Market Entry Program is more in-depth, more hands-on.
The activities are less about gathering information and more about actually getting ready to launch. For example, we set up specific meetings with potential customers to get feedback on the products and the new communication materials.
Studies show that 50 to 70% of cross-border deals fail because of cross cultural communication issues. I call it the Silent Killer because most of the time nobody knows the cause.
What makes your offer different from services provided by development agencies?
The first differential is the in-depth and targeted content. The second factor is addressing business failures internationally.
We give participants the right information at the right time and in the right way to make effective decisions. There are many organizations, public and private, that offer a multitude of programs and trainings. One key differenttial is that we curate the knowledge companies need, legal, regulatory, marketing, etc, based on their product and where they are in the process. So, what they learn is manageable and actionable.
Studies show that 50 to 70% of cross-border deals fail because of cross cultural communication issues. I call it the Silent Killer, because most of the time nobody knows the cause. You have great meetings, you think the deal is as good as done and suddenly, you never hear back…sounds familiar? Chances are something was misinterpreted or some expectation was not met.
One of the things that is really unique to our program is formal cross cultural training, paired with a variety of opportunities to see those cultural differences in everyday life, and understand how they play out in business situations. Some organizations say they address cultural differences but in fact it’s usually just etiquette, « do this, don’t do that », what is not useful.
What really makes a difference is understanding the historical background that has led people to think and react the way they do. It helps to interpretate conversations, to present your product, to negotiate effectively. Most importantly, it develops a global mindset, which is necessary to succeed internationally
Are you providing your services worldwide?
Ultimately that is my goal! But for now we are focusing on a couple of global hubs. Our business model is to bring a “curated faculty” of the best experts to the table for each group of participants. Our consultancy is based on functional expertise, knowledge of the markets and industry, and cultural differences. It means that we need to have a very deep network. Right now we have a solid network of faculty in Paris, Istanbul, Panama, and, of course, New York. We are currently developing Helsinki.
How have you developed in Turkey and other locations?
Initially, it happened because one of our board members is very familiar with the Turkish market and introduced us to people there. Then, we travelled to Istanbul and developed our own network over several visits. So although it started opportunistically, it made sense because it is not only a sizeable market but also a gateway to the Middle East, to North Africa, to the developing markets of Central Asia.
It was a similar process with Panama which is a perfect gateway to Latin America. It also coincided with the Panama Canal expansion that took place recently and we knew that it would cause a shift in the global maritime trade routes.
Recently, we have been working with Finland and expanding our network in the Nordic Countries. It’s a very interesting market, booming with innovation. This has actually led us to work with entrepreneurs in earlier stages, which introduces an interesting dynamic. So Helsinki will likely be our gateway to the Nordics.
After all, our tagline is the Gateway to Global Markets!
What is your typical customer?
A company that has already done well in its home market and wants to benefit from the opportunities offered by global trade. They find themselves not knowing where to turn and needing some help and some orientation. It can be very overwhelming because of all the difficulties of doing business, regulations, customs, distribution etc. Those business leaders can rely on us to guide them in their market entry, save them time and money and avoid many of the mistakes that are often made and can be costly.
What is the thinking process when contemplating internationalization?
That’s actually the basis for our marketing strategy: « Who do companies contact first when they contemplate Internationalization? ». Many go to their local Chamber of Commerce or one of the local organizations that most countries have, such as a development or export promotion agency. That’s one of the reasons why we are partnering with some of those organizations, in different countries. We are presented as an option for companies who reach out to these organizations.
Some will also reach out directly to professionals in the target market, often a lawyer or a marketing agency, or their consulate. We also work with them to develop co-marketing.
What advice would you give to a entrepreneur going abroad?
I would say to be patient and open minded. Being successful in a foreign market does not happen overnight. Despite the high amount of time you plan to dedicate to your business, you will probably need the double.
Keep an open mind not just about cultural differences, but also about pivoting to a different model or considering partnerships. Above all, get advice from those that have gone before you and surround yourself with a solid team of partners. You can’t do this alone, but you sure can learn a lot, have fun and have great success!