By Matt Brown, VP of Product at Voxbone
As the clock ticks on towards a no-deal Brexit on October 31st, the effects are already beginning on the UK economy.
The pound has hit a two-year low, and the economy contracted by 0.2% in the second quarter of this year. This is bad news for home-based growth – and a clear motivation for companies to look elsewhere for new opportunities, fuelling their move into new markets.
Not every business can follow Dyson’s business structure and set up a new HQ on another continent, but fast growth businesses looking to maintain their trajectory towards unicorn status are certainly eyeing the EU.
It’s clear that our nearest trading partners still exert a significant pull on UK enterprises – consider Starling Bank’s recent £75m funding round to power their European expansion, or furniture retailer Made.com’s plans to move into four additional EU countries in 2019, bringing its total footprint to 13 across the continent.
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Brexit will bring with it all kinds of challenges when looking to expand across the channel. One often overlooked challenge is around maintaining basic business communications.
Without a suitable communications plan in place for a post-Brexit transition, businesses may find it increasingly difficult to communicate with overseas offices, colleagues and contacts due to complex and varied regulatory requirements.
Businesses must consider that each new market must navigate the varying legal regimes and requirements, and make costly infrastructural investments – with high potential costs (fines, operating restrictions, even criminal culpability for business owners) for getting it wrong. As a final anti-inducement, many European regulators still accept only hard-copy paper-based applications in their native language…to be filled out in triplicate.
The rise of cloud native infrastructure offers a number of painkilling solutions for business expansion in the EU. Cloud-based data management, payments or storage solutions offered with bank-grade security guarantees help ensure that the dream of scalable growth without major capex outlay is at hand.
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The same applies to business communications – the toll-free order number, customer service lines, SMS and chat capabilities that underpin everything from your customer experience to your new business efforts. Yet cloud-based communications are not always front of mind for growing companies.
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Gartner estimates that communications services account for a significant slice of IT budgets, using up to one third of available funds.
Crucially, they also power disruptive companies, from taxi rides to food delivery to contact centres for online retailers. Some cloud-native companies have even expanded into the EU comms-first, using the data they get from inbound voice enquiries to inform their bricks and mortar investments and sales strategies.
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Business expansion into Europe and beyond simply isn’t possible without communications infrastructure. And as each EU28 nation maintains unique laws and regulations, the compliance requirements governing electronic communications services can vary greatly from one market to the next.
Failing to comply with business communications regulations in every country where you operate exposes you just as much as not adhering to local employment, corporate or tax laws. At the very least, without a strong communications layer you’ll find it considerably harder to maintain your agility and drive innovation.
The variables and potential bear traps for companies are enough to keep CEOs and CIOs awake at night – and sticking close to home markets.
The silver lining
Feeling suitably nervous about communications compliance? Perhaps a change of perspective is in order. Don’t look at compliance as a necessary evil simply to be tolerated for fear of audits fines, legal battles and worse. Instead, think of it as a guarantee of quality and long-term reliability.
That’s why working with a cloud communications partner that offers compliance-as-a-service is one way to address both your communications needs and ease your regulatory concerns.
For fast-growth businesses that use digital technology to power their expansion – like Zoom and Uber – toll-free numbers and dependable service are essential for their users. Secure in the knowledge that they can scale up quickly – and compliantly – with the right communications partners, such companies are well positioned to seize opportunities in new markets and bolster their brand via reliable voice and messaging services.
Staying compliant, seizing opportunities
Of course, even when you’ve covered the big communications compliance requirements, expanding into Europe requires significant research and insight into each market and region, a firm grasp of how you can leverage cloud-based services in the name of your strategic ambitions, and a clear-eyed view on the opportunity cost of taking the traditional route via legacy providers.
Choosing cloud partners has often been driven by considerations around cost, security and scalability. But it’s regulation that could ultimately make or break your business. Get on the wrong side of the compliance line and you’ll lose your phone numbers and find yourself cut off from your customers. Particularly in the current climate, where we see a hardening resolve among EU bodies to regulate the telecoms market in the interest of shoring up protection for consumers.
Engaging cloud partners that can get you up and running instantly in one country or many means choosing a provider that’s not only done its homework but is also fully engaged with the shifting regulatory landscape in each market. Leaving you (and your IT, legal and billing teams) free to focus on building your business.
Keep this in mind as you expand your business and you’ll save time, avoid regulatory headaches and optimise your IT spend. Which means that you can get on with building strong relationships with your customers and staking out new European or global territories for your soon-to-be unicorn enterprise.