In this interview, Founder and CEO of Bridgehead (formally The Mustard Concept) Paul McIntosh, talks on the value of research and strategy for entering the European market, how to maximise political climate opportunity in business, and how cultural understand benefits us all.
In the current temperamental economic climate, more than 80% of businesses are unsuccessfully expanding to the European market. McIntosh acts as the continental market expert, his team supporting the research, logistics and implementation of tried and tested penetration methods.
I spoke with McIntosh recently to learn more about the evolution of The Mustard Concept to its new brand: Bridgehead, and how they are changing the way international businesses enter the European market.
Kerri L Watt: Paul, welcome. Let’s discuss some of the research which has recently come to light regarding the necessity of brand identity and research strategy for entering a new geographical sector.
Do you think there are any common misconceptions people may have when considering entering the international market?
Paul McIntosh: Absolutely, there are a lot of myths in the industry which act as pain points for the unknown.
There are key challenges to identify, and we find that this is most commonly the very first step: how do you start? It may sound obvious to you and I, however this truly is the biggest misunderstanding and concern for businesses.
Kerri L Watt: May you tell us a little bit more about you, The Mustard Company and the growth to becoming Bridgehead, and how you help your clients?
Paul McIntosh: The Mustard Concept has been based in Oxfordshire in the UK for ten years. We specialised in helping companies from predominantly outside of Europe bring their products and services to market in the continent. It’s mostly North American companies, a lot of Asian companies too. We’ve successfully launched 65 clients into the market, creating $100m in sales with 12 of these being remarkably successful.
To do this, we create a focal point. The landing position in Europe for maximum impact. Each client needs a tailored approach, so we apply bespoke research and strategy plans to support their individual requirements. Their unique go-to-market plan is delivered by our team, who have bases all throughout Europe to optimise cultural knowledge and act as the mechanical logistics on the ground. They secure purchase orders and sales, they are well networked, they’re your eyes and ears in a new continent.
Kerri L Watt: What do you believe is the biggest problem you specialise in solving?
Paul McIntosh: The key aspect is, as mentioned earlier, where you physically start. What does day one hold? Day two? The second prominent issue we seek to fix is attaining quantifiable results as quickly as possible. Market entry ignites mass fear for investors and business leaders as they question their return on investment, with high criteria to match and show for their large financial gamble. That’s why we operate a 90 day quantifiable results guarantee, offering peace of mind that those specific targets will be met within a three month time frame. That’s crucial for businesses.
Kerri L Watt: That’s absolutely right about return on investment fear. Do your competitors offer this?
Paul McIntosh: It’s definitely interesting to see the offerings from other management consultancy firms who offer international expansion services. They create beautiful presentation decks for sure, saturated with persuasive copy and enticing imagery. But they don’t offer that operational delivery- the securing purchase orders, negotiating sales, physically applying and executing that strategy plan and seeing through the inevitable obstacles. We shape the businesses to refine their model, consequently making further expansion easier.
Kerri L Watt: What are the most common fears about entering the international marketplace?
Paul McIntosh: Time and time again we see this being a financial factor. It’s everything from tax, prices, currency management, financial legislation within each country or lawful state. There are 51 countries in Europe, each with their own cultures, set of laws and trading standards. These have to be taken into consideration when scaling. It can be a wonderful opportunity if you embrace it there’s over 700 million consumers in Europe. The root access and possibilities are endless.
Kerri L Watt: Speaking of Europe, as a UK based company, how do you feel Brexit is affecting your company and your clients?
Paul McIntosh: We keep calm and carry on, regardless of what happens we must find the opportunity ahead. Negative attitudes, especially in business dealings, will get us nowhere. The whole world will become a different playing field, so for us we adopt a slightly broader European approach and tend not to hone in on the UK industry with our clients.
A lot of international entrepreneurs are now looking at how to embrace a new way of scaling business, and are stepping away from political discussion. Our job isn’t as politicians, so we’ll do what we can to ensure that our businesses are still thriving and making the most out of our economical situation.
There’s no point in exhausting energy on something we can’t change, I’d much prefer to channel that energy into something I can make successful. Being negative is an emotional drain on you and your team, and taking the ‘glass half full’ approach can be a game changer for business leaders. Create a positive space where your influence creates change for the better.
Companies simply need to reanalyse how to enter markets a little differently than before. The world of commerce has changed immeasurably in the past decade, we’ve peeled away from traditional distribution to form a whole new ballpark of trading. This is simply going to shape the next decade, so you might as well jump aboard and find the positive opportunity. Companies are finding a much nimbler way of working and seeking how to gain momentum for a new market.
We acted nimbley through crowd funding and alternative means to avoid incurring large costs of recruitment, we dipped our toes into the water for alternates when helping companies incubate, and are still successfully scaling businesses even since the referendum caused controversy in 2016.