Last year we launched a new service offering the involvement of an international expert at your company. As expected, the service proved to be popular and during the first year nearly 50 companies used an international expert in seven different markets with the support of Enterprise Estonia.
Experts can help you find potential clients, kick-start sales, modify products according to the market requirements or make rearrangements at the company. Among other things experts will bring their knowledge on markets and trends and help you adapt the product according to the needs of the market.
Companies can use the service in two ways – by bringing in their own expert or asking Enterprise Estonia to help them find one. The service can be used to find experts in five target markets: Sweden, Norway, Germany, China, United Arab Emirates. If you have your own expert, there are no restrictions on the countries. Enterprise Estonia will compensate 50% of the cost of the expert to your company but not more than 10,000 euros per expert.
In the opening round of the service the jewellery designer Tanel Veenre, Creatomus Solutions in the field of marketing and sales technology of modular buildings and Insta Globe Engineering , which provides automated and electrical installations on ships, oil platforms and in the general energetics industry, used our service. Although all the listed companies operate in their own specific niches and on different markets, everyone was very satisfied with the service. Their positive experiences are encouraging other companies to use Enterprise Estonia’s service of involving an international expert.
All three reached the decision of using the expert service in a direct or indirect way through someone’s suggestion. The General Manager of Insta Globe Engineering Ivo Pukk said that the need to make a longer plan arose during the Covid-19 crisis. “Before the crisis, we had a lot of work in the marine and offshore industries but due to the crisis the building of ships was stunted for a while,” explains Pukk. “Thus, we understood we would need a longer plan to help us expand into other fields in the next 2-5 years. Thanks to a recommendation we found an engineer with a background in energetics who had done export-related work with many different companies and who we got along with very well – we so-to-say spoke the same language and shared the same values.”
Tanel Veenre was moving towards entering the Chinese market with his jewellery and heard about Enterprise Estonia at the right moment. “Life brought me an expert; I just happened to meet the right person at the right time who knew my specific field very well and was full of the enthusiasm of a young person,” he recalls. His cooperation with the Chinese national living in Estonia has continued after the exhaustion of Enterprise Estonia’s aid and today they lead Tanel Veenre Jewellery’s business with China.
Creatomus Solutions Director Karin Kiviste heard about the service in Enterprise Estonia’s mentor programme where she participated as a mentor. “The fact that it’s a service that helps to accelerate entry into new markets stood out to me,” Kiviste says. “We had already had contact with an expert earlier, when we were planning to develop a new business concept. It is good to involve a specialist from the field if you’re working with a very specific topic but consultants with wider range can also be very useful when it comes to sales contacts, for example.”
Using an expert was inevitable for starting business in China for Tanel Veenre. “Our expert helped us register our new company in China, open our WeChat account and build our Taobao online tore,” he says. “They have also helped us find partners there. You absolutely need a Chinese fiduciary at the negotiation table.” He is certain that without an expert they would have never made it that far in China.
Karin Kiviste is planning to present her company’s modular houses and Estonian architecture on the Irish market, so the main contribution of the expert was figuring out the requirements of the Irish market and helping them find useful contacts. “We quickly got an overview of both the technical requirements and potential partners with the help of the expert.”
Insta Globe Engineering is also very satisfied with the expert service. “Our active cooperation lasted four to five months but today we can already see the first successes and specific projects to come out of it,” Pukk said. “Our consultants helped us reach negotiations with key figures of large corporations, especially on the German market.” He adds that the Covid-19 crisis required them to pay more attention to the local business practices and better understand regulations. “We are used to video calls and virtual communication in Estonia but in other places we encountered some differences in the culture and norms, and without understanding them it would have been hard to find success,” he explains.
The main lesson was to be prepared for things to take time
Both Tanel Veenre and Ivo Pukk consider the main lesson from expanding to international markets to be understanding that every process will take longer than expected on international markets. Veenre says that there is nothing you can do to change behavioural patterns on the Chinese market – you just have to learn everything from scratch and build up from there. Pukk says that besides time, you have to be ready for different approaches when it comes to large companies. “We were very eager to sell our services but sometimes we can seem too aggressive in our sales techniques which scares large companies away,” he said. “Thus, we needed a more relaxed approach, and this can mean things take more time – sometimes up to half a year.”
Creatomus’ experience shows that the initial plans always change when the real work begins. “Fortunately, our expert was very flexible,” Kiviste expresses her gratitude. “Enterprise Estonia’s support was also a lot of help because we had very little bureaucracy to deal with compared to what we had experienced before. The investment would have been over our heads without the help of Estonian Enterprise.”
Every company approaches the expert’s advice differently but Pukk encourages people to listen and take constructive feedback into consideration. “An outside observer can provide very useful criticism,” he says. “Of course everyone would like to hear just positive things but you should always listen to an expert who knows their market and field – this forces you to be more flexible.” Insta Globe Engineering got an encouraging push from using an expert and they want to expand even more in the future.
Tanel Veenre notes that at least in the Chinese front it is not possible to expand your export from behind a desk. “You should find a trustworthy local expert who will help you navigate this complicated market.”
As a more specific recommendation, Karin Kiviste points out the opportunity to map your business’ perspectives on an international market but emphasises that a good final result is guaranteed by well-written terms of reference. “It is definitely sensible to consider different consultants,” Creatomus’ manager suggests. “Enterprise Estonia can also help you find a suitable expert.”
Raising awareness on this service is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.