Starting To Export - How to Get Export Ready

The progression from mainly operating in the Irish market to exporting is one of the most transformative and challenging transitions many companies make. Here, co-founders of Monsoon Consulting, Dublin Bharat Sharma and Stephen Kenealy, explain how Enterprise Ireland’s Get Export Ready programme helped them embark on that journey.

Interview by Charlie Taylor.

What does the company do?

We are one of the leading digital agencies in Ireland offering content and ecommerce solutions that are built on the open source Drupal and Magento content management platforms.

How long have you been exporting?

We've been exporting for nearly two years having taken an office in the UK in February 2014. 

What was the pivotal point that made you look at exporting?

We were looking at enterprise-level projects, and the Irish market was limited in size, so we decided early on we should attempt to break into the UK market 

What changes did the business have to make to become 'export-ready'?

We needed to become certified solutions partners in the two technology stacks we work on so that when we were going into pitches against UK firms, we'd be operating on a level playing field.

We achieved certification with Magento and are now one of just 17 partners at our level across the UK and Ireland, and the only one here with it.  We also became an Acquia enterprise level partner [Acquia makes a popular version of Drupal] and are currently in the process of getting all our developers certified.

Are you targeting any other markets currently?

At the moment it's just a case of trying the UK and seeing where it goes from there. Obviously, the European market would be a target for us on a more long-term basis but we need to get traction in the UK market first to demonstrate a capability there and then to go out further.

In terms of the two technologies we focus on, most of the market for these is driven and controlled from the UK and so need to expand our footprint there and can then hopefully scale from there elsewhere in Europe.

What routes to market do you use?

We have channel partnerships that we've established with both Acquia and Magento, and they have been good lead generation providers. We've also become close allies with service providers who are not our direct competition, but who complement our solutions so there's a good reference network with them.

We also realised early on that opportunities wouldn't just fall from trees simply because we'd opened up an office in the UK so we engaged with Enterprise Ireland on a sales mentoring programme and that's been a really great help to us. We are also looking to partner with a company over in England for more lead generation opportunities and we've spent a lot of time ourselves flying in and out of London, which has helped us get traction there.

What changes did your business have to make to become export ready?

We have invested in some areas such as expanding our team from five people three years ago to 16 now, and we'll be about 20 to 22 by year-end. To support this, we have also signed a big lease for an office near Clonskeagh where people can more easily collaborate and together.

With the help of Enterprise Ireland, we've also looked at how we can fundamentally improve the way we do business and have embraced lean principles in our processes, which has led to a performance and productivity boost of up to 50 per cent.

What advice would you give other would-be exporters?

Don't take your eye off cash flow or off your existing clients in Ireland. 

Any mistakes you've made you'd care to share?

I think we charged into the UK expecting things to take off immediately on the basis that we'd been successful in Ireland. If you can get some key references from operational stuff you're doing here before breaking into the UK and can establish a go-to-market strategy ahead of time, it will serve you well. We didn't do enough of this early on and it made it difficult to get in the door.

How would you like to see the opportunity you have evolve?

We aim to be one of the largest and most successful e-commerce and content agencies in Europe.

Contact the Get Export Ready helpdesk at getexportready@enterprise-ireland.com, tel:  01 727 2325or visit www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/Export-Assistance/Get-Export-Ready/