Article

16.09.2020

A full 'assessment' before you go abroad

We can no longer deny the benefits of internationalisation. But is your business ready for it? A thorough assessment to measure your project's success is therefore a must before you cross the border.

Just because your business is doing well in our country doesn't mean that you can just jump into the export market. An international breakthrough is an important strategic (and necessary) choice that requires extensive preparation. The first step is to take a detailed look at the state of affairs of your company. Because that way you can:

  1. Highlight your strengths and success factors: a specific skill, your expertise, your brand image, etc.;
  2. Identify your weaknesses: both internal (poor knowledge of the target market, need for funding, etc.) and external factors;
  3. Prepare your structure for 'new' demands: in terms of human resources and in financial, organisational, legal or commercial terms;
  4. Draw up your roadmap: make the necessary changes, maximise your assets and find the right solutions for your weaknesses.

 

A COMPLETE TOOLKIT

Such an assessment is not market research in the literal sense of the word, although some elements will eventually overlap or complement one another. The assessment should also enable you to gain insight into existing opportunities (competitive advantage, commercial trends, etc.) and threats (changes in legislation, major competition, etc.). To do that, you must be able to look at your foreign target group with the necessary distance.

There are many tools for this. Examples include the SWOT analysis, Porter's five forces model, the Boston Consulting Group matrix or the PESTEL analysis to measure the influence of macro-environmental factors. So, feel free to use those tools, but also remember the importance of step-by-step guidance.  

 

A MUCH-NEEDED SELF-ANALYSIS

Give attention to different elements. To achieve a relevant assessment, you must also find answers to a series of important questions:

  1. Create your 'identity card'
    Take an unbiased look at your organisation. What are your values, culture, references, image, etc.? How are you perceived by others? Does your positioning match your identity? Through these questions, you'll also gain insight into the reasons for your successes and failures on the international market. It's interesting to repeat the positive points and learn from your mistakes. 
  2. Analyze your position on the domestic market
    Take stock of your commercial position. Examine the evolution of your recent results and your weighting in your segment (market share, competition, degree of dependency, etc.). Find out what stage your products and services are in (launch, growth, saturation or decline). Next, you can consider your market's prospects and future: how will it evolve? A very important question at a time where the challenges of the sustainable transition are radically changing many sectors.
  3. Assess your products and services
    Each country has its own specific obligations and standards. So, ask yourself whether your products and services are 'compliant', both commercially and legally. Perhaps you need to adapt them? Or maybe your production or delivery method needs to change (e.g. to respect the cold chain and guarantee reasonable delivery times)? In other words, are you ready for the step from a commercial point of view?
  4. Lay bare your capabilities
    If you want to conquer foreign markets, you must be able to cope with that growth rate on an operational level as well. Can you increase or adapt your production capacity to the new demand? Are you ready for that in terms of supply and logistics? Also take into consideration the reliability of your partners and suppliers. And don't forget that your inventory will increase, and you must also have guarantees in that regard as well.
  5. Examine your financial situation carefully
    Going international means a big investment for your company. So, take a close look at your finances and see whether you have enough funds to bring the project to a successful conclusion. You need these resources, for example, to launch commercial initiatives locally (while waiting for the first revenues), to 'transform' your company in the necessary areas, to support your activity in your own country or to recruit additional staff.
  6. Carry out an analysis in the area of human resourcesTo export, you need qualified and skilled staff (production, sales teams, communication, after-sales service, R&D, etc.). You may also need to train staff or recruit new talent with international experience. Although internationalisation can be an extra motivation for your employees, it will also require additional efforts from them. So, don't lose sight of the 'human' factor either!

 

This complete audit of your structure gives you everything you need to make the right choices. Have you got the commercial strengths, the human and financial resources, the operational capabilities and the necessary experience to take the step? Do you need some extra support to adjust certain parameters? Or are you postponing the launch to find the right solutions for some weak spots? The adventure can begin once you're ready!

 

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Article

23.09.2020

Internationalisation: which strategy should you apply?

Conquering international markets is an indispensable growth lever for companies. Such a project can take different forms or follow different paths: from e-commerce to mergers and acquisitions.

International expansion can be an important growth factor for your company and an undeniable source of opportunities – both commercially and in terms of innovation or resilience. After a complete assessment of your current situation, an inevitable question follows: which strategy should you apply to realise your project? There's no magic formula or mapped-out path: in reality, you often adopt a wide-ranging approach based on various strategies. Nevertheless, we do see some broad outlines. And each has its own strengths and limitations. Whatever you decide, your choice should fit into an overall thinking and be in line with the current situation and the future of your business. The objective? Increasing your chances of success and keeping the risks under control as much as possible. 

1. Direct and indirect export

This is naturally one of the most widely used strategies for conquering foreign markets. You can sell your products abroad through one or more channels:

  • E-commerce: E-commerce is a fast and accessible solution to get 'far' with limited resources. Internet sales have grown very strongly in recent years but have a significant impact on the logistical workload. This includes not only technology and conformity, but also the commercial aspect. You are far from your target market and must deal with competitors from all over the world, while the internet knows no borders – and that's both an asset and an obstacle.
  • A local intermediary: A gamble without too many risks, because you make use of the power of local sales – your agent delivers the customer's orders locally and you transfer them. The only thing left to do is to decide how to distribute your products. In this regard, it's important that you make full use of your knowledge of the foreign market. Think, for example, of consumers' consumption habits and expectations. Although this approach does not require major investments (payments on commission), it isn't entirely without risk. The success of your project is entirely in the hands of your local contact, leaving you to count on that partner's reliability.
  • Commercial distribution: A similar approach to conquering the international market. This strategy can be implemented quickly and is the result of cooperation with independent distributors who are based in your target area. They buy the goods and then sell them, enabling you to benefit from their expertise and network. Unlike the intermediary, this distributor takes several tasks off your hands (invoicing, collection, marketing costs or import costs). Choosing the right partners and determining the terms of the contract is no easy task. After all, your project's success depends on it...
  • Transfer of patents or technology: This is a way to make your know-how or technology pay off, not your products. This transfer of skills gives a foreign entity the right to use your methods or innovation within the framework of a previously established contract (geographical area, duration, etc.). An opportunity to go international where you 'outsource' production, sales and distribution. Contract preparation is one of the stumbling blocks of this approach.

2. Local establishment 

Another model for internationalisation is to establish your business abroad. This means that you go local: you establish your entire value chain in another country, or you produce, distribute or sell your products there yourself. This geographical approach necessarily requires greater investment, but it also gives you more clout. This approach is also a way of reinforcing your resilience: the financial and commercial risks, as well as the pressure on your value chain, are spread over several areas. Over the years, a more flexible approach has also been introduced, allowing companies to move more flexibly in line with the international situation. Various options are also available here:

  • Subsidiary or branch: In both cases, it's a matter of establishing a firm and lasting foothold in the local market. However, the project requires a solid foundation and a long-term vision. You should also think carefully about the legal status: do you opt for a subsidiary or for a branch? Consequently, when making this decision, take into account various factors: the degree of autonomy, the desired degree of decentralisation or consultation, the legal and tax implications, whether or not to produce locally (to take advantage of cheaper raw materials, for example), the financial resources that you can mobilise, and so on. In any case, a perfect lever for applying the well-known formula 'think globally, act locally'.
  • International joint venture: This principle is based on the creation of synergies. Your company joins a company that already has a local presence and both companies complement each other. Each company benefits from the other's strengths while sharing the activity's risks, control and common costs. Such a joint venture or partnership often requires a customised legal structure. As you can see, a joint venture is not an easy marriage. It's therefore crucial that you find the right partner and come to an agreement with them concerning each party's input and responsibilities.
  • Merger or acquisition: This growth strategy offers a few advantages. What's the greatest advantage? A merger or acquisition is a method of consolidating and diversifying your business. It's also a 'quick' way to conquer a new market by exploiting the local company's competitive advantages (technological, commercial, etc.). Such a project naturally entails not only potential benefits, but also risks. For example, you may misjudge the sources of value creation or the risks, or have difficulty integrating.

As you can see, your international project's success depends on many factors. And, first and foremost, on your own strategic choices and your ability to develop a clear vision of exactly what you want to achieve. From the development of a commercial partner network to a sustainable local presence, there are many options that deserve not only thorough consideration, but also professional guidance.

 

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Article

02.06.2022

Karim Hajjar of Solvay is the 'Trends CFO of the Year 2022'

Trends and BNP Paribas Fortis highlight the performance of a Belgian financial director with this award, which was presented for the eleventh time on 1 June. Recticel won the 'Deal of the Year' award.

Photographer: Christophe Ketels

Karim Hajjar, CFO of the Solvay Chemicals and Materials Group, accepted the 'CFO of the Year' award at the Brussels Expo on Wednesday evening following Ingrid Daerden from Aedifica. The 59-year-old Brit has been the financial rock in Solvay’s branding for nine years, and has helped transform the traditional chemical group into a world player in high-tech plastics.

Fighting spirit and drive

In 2013, Hajjar joined Solvay as CFO. He first worked under CEO Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, with whom he completed over fifty deals. Since 2019, Hajjar, a father of five, has been assisting Clamadieu's successor Ilham Kadri through the pandemic and other crises, and streamlining the group. As part of this streamlining, a breakup of Solvay is planned for the second half of next year. One part, provisionally called EssentialCo, would include historical activities such as soda ash and the Silica branch, which focuses on the car tyre sector. The other part, SpecialCo, will include the fast-growing special polymers for

smartphones, the composite business in the aerospace and automotive industries, among others. “A no-brainer”, says Hajjar, who has faced much hotter fires in his life. Born in Beirut, he grew up during the Lebanese civil war. His family lost everything, which formed the breeding ground for Hajjar's fighting spirit and drive.

Karim Hajjar won out over four other strong candidates: Kristiaan De Beukelaer (Media House), Maud Larochette (N-Side), Geert Peeters (Greenyard) and Johan Vankelecom (Belfius).

Recticel wins the 'Deal of the Year 2022'

For the fourth time Trends also awarded a 'Deal of the Year' award. All mergers, acquisitions and capital operations (stock market introduction, capital increase, private placement, etc.) involving a Belgian company in 2021 were eligible. The most important criterion is the financial and strategic added value that the operation created for the stakeholders.

There were five deals in the running, and the one from Recticel emerged as the winner. This major player in polyurethane solutions is active in the furniture, automotive and construction sectors and sold its Engineered Foams division to the American company Carpenter for a final net proceeds of 606 million euros. This was an exceptionally strategic operation, with which Recticel was able to avert a hostile takeover attempt by the Austrian Greiner.

Partnership

Since 2012, BNP Paribas Fortis and Trends have been putting the spotlight on the exceptional qualities of a CFO of a top 500 company in Belgium. In 2019, the 'Deal of the Year' award was created. Because rewarding and encouraging contributors to our economy is also Positive Banking.

Congratulations to the winning CFO, the team behind the winning “Deal of the Year” and to all the other candidates.

Read the full interview with Karim Hajjar, CFO of Solvay (Dutch, French), and Olivier Chapelle, CEO of Recticel (Dutch, French).

Article

10.05.2022

Are you the next 'Entrepreneur of the Year'?

Will your business succeed Aertssen and Odoo as ‘Enterprise of the Year 2022'? Who knows! Apply now and perhaps your company will snap up this prestigious award.

A dazzling event honouring the very best companies

The annual awards ceremony is an initiative of EY in collaboration with De Tijd/L’Echo and BNP Paribas Fortis. Last year, Aertssen, was crowned ‘Onderneming van het Jaar’ and Odoo ‘Entreprise de l’Année’. Deliverect was named 'Scale-up of the Year' for Flanders and Cowboy for the French-speaking part of Belgium. The winners of the 2022 awards will be announced on 5 and 6 December.

More than just numbers

The 'Entrepreneur of the Year' award has become a tradition as well as a quality label. The award recognises unique Belgian companies that demonstrate excellent entrepreneurial acumen and successful management. Companies that have weathered the storms of recent years, charting an impressive course. Because entrepreneurship is about more than just numbers, something the jury is keenly aware of. A company’s size and turnover therefore play less of a role in the assessment. Finalists are selected on the basis of criteria such as the company’s growth and financial results, entrepreneurship, internationalisation, innovation and good governance.

Oxygen for the economy

Didier Beauvois, Head of Corporate Banking & Member of the Executive Board, is proud that BNP Paribas Fortis has been a partner of this event from the outset. "Businesses face many challenges today. After the coronavirus pandemic, geopolitical challenges are now forcing companies to be more flexible. Sustainability also continues to be an important topic. Our mission is to help companies become future-ready because entrepreneurs are the driving force behind the Belgian economy. This also explains why we like to put these innovators in the spotlight every year and why we encourage Belgian companies to apply."

Why take part?

Winning the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year' or 'Scale-up of the Year' award offers numerous benefits to your company. These awards enjoy heightened national and international prestige and raise your company's profile. The awards ceremony attracts a great deal of media interest, both for winners and finalists, in addition to offering excellent networking opportunities. A place in the final is also a huge morale booster for your employees.

Interested? Apply now by surfing to the EY website Onderneming van het Jaar 2022 / Entreprise de l’Année 2022. Here you will find all the information about the criteria, the selection procedure and the registration process.

Source: image + text EY.com

Article

02.05.2022

Opt for a more sustainable mobility offer thanks to bicycle leasing

Sustainability isn't a hype – it's a must. The transition is also in full swing in terms of mobility. With bicycle leasing, you offer your employees a high-quality bicycle package and choose a more sustainable mobility offer. And it's tax efficient.

Cycling to work is popular

Not only our way of working has become hybrid; so too has the way we travel to work. More and more people are seeing the benefits of cycling to work, whether or not electric. An e-bike or speed pedelec is no longer just a gadget. Thanks to these, you can now comfortably cycle longer distances. So, bicycles are certainly part of a sustainable mobility policy. Bicycle leasing allows you to offer your employees a healthy and sporty option that reduces your organisation’s carbon footprint.

How does bicycle leasing work?

Bicycle leasing is much more than just financing bicycles. Maintenance, repairs, breakdown service and insurance are all included in the package. With Bike Lease, our mobility partner Arval offers an operational, full-service solution for 36 months. With over 120 brands and all types of bicycles, the range is extensive: city bikes, sports bikes, e-bikes, speed pedelecs, mountain bikes, folding bikes, etc. Your employees choose the bicycle that suits them best. An annual maintenance budget is provided for maintenance and repair by professionals. Bike Lease also includes indemnity for accidents, theft and vandalism of the bicycle with a fixed excess based on the value of the lease bike. And finally, a 24/7 breakdown service is provided within 45 minutes, anywhere in Belgium.

Good for everyone

Including bicycles in your mobility offer offers both your company and your employees many advantages.

  • Tax-efficient

The leasing costs are deductible for your company if your employees use their bikes to commute. By using this bike to commute, they avoid a taxable benefit in kind.

  • Healthy

Cycling makes healthier and fitter employees who suffer less from stress. And your company benefits from this as well.

  • Affordable

A bicycle is a cheaper alternative or complement to a company car for short to medium-distance trips. You save on fuel, maintenance and parking costs. It also allows you to offer mobility to a wider target group.

  • Flexible

Once your employees have chosen a type of bicycle, they decide for themselves when they pedal to work. Through all kinds of weather, when the sun is shining or when there are too many traffic jams and a bicycle is the perfect alternative to a car. They can also enjoy their bikes in their free time.

  • Sustainable

A bicycle has of course a low ecological footprint and fits perfectly in a sustainable mobility policy. By offering your employees a bicycle, your company emits less CO2 and your organisation becomes more socially responsible.

Are you open to including bicycles in your mobility offer? Your relationship manager will be happy to explain the options to you. Please don't hesitate to contact us.
Operational leasing is offered by Arval Belgium SA/NV, with the intervention of BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV – Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3, B-1000 Brussels, Brussels Register of Companies VAT BE0403.199.702.
The information provided here does not constitute an offer. An offer is made only after your file has been accepted and is always subject to Arval Belgium SA/NV's General Terms and Conditions.

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