The importance of local professional knowledge for businesses looking to expand their operations overseas in countries like Greece has been highlighted in the results of a recent survey carried out in the UK.
The survey, which was carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), contacted over 4,500 businesses to gain their views on exporting and overseas trade.
It found that the number of firms that reported carrying out exporting activity is continuing to increase, but that some fundamental barriers existed that were preventing a greater number of businesses from taking advantage of an overseas market. These barriers include business owners lacking the knowledge on how to take their firms’ goods or services to another country, and not enough business owners or managers possessing sufficient foreign language skills.
Kosmidis & Partners are a firm of English speaking lawyers based in Greece that can help firms overcome these obstacles. Our lawyers have all the necessary skills and experience to assist overseas businesses looking to establish trade links with Greece, or set up a base of operations here.
Lack of knowledge on operating overseas
Areas of knowledge that business owners felt they were lacking and that were preventing them from operating overseas included:
A gap in commercial knowledge, such as financing and negotiating bureaucracy in other countries.
How to get the product or service to an overseas market. This lack of knowledge was particularly a problem for IT, manufacturing and media firms, according to the survey.
Lack of confidence – 58% of firms that were not currently exporting their goods or services said this was because they didn’t feel their product was suitable for export. According to the BCC, this suggests a lack of awareness of the opportunities to be found in a global market.
Lack of language skills
There is no doubt that not being able to speak the language of the country that has been identified as an ideal target market can be a daunting prospect.
The BCC survey found that 62% of businesses that would like to trade internationally feel their lack of ability to speak or understand another language is preventing them from doing so.
Some business owners reported having a degree of knowledge of a foreign language, but not many considered themselves to be proficient enough to conduct business deals in this language.
Local professional advice is available
Although a lack of knowledge and inability to speak the local language can provide a barrier for firms looking to expand overseas, these barriers are not insurmountable. Once an overseas target market has been identified, there will be local professional services such as lawyers and accountants available to help businesses negotiate their way through the rules and procedures of operating in that country.
The benefits to be found in expanding overseas can be invaluable for businesses, both in terms of tapping new and potentially lucrative markets, but also in terms of new contacts and trade links that can be established, even if they don’t immediately lead to increased sales.
“The overseas market may seem daunting to a non-exporter, but the rewards that these companies get in return can be outstanding, as I see first-hand from the successful businesses that I meet every day,” commented John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce.
“It is critical that firms understand the challenges and opportunities attached to the export market. Helping companies forge new connections, through trade promotions and incentives, will help companies to think internationally,” he added.
When it comes to setting up an overseas base of operations, experienced commercial lawyers with local knowledge are essential, as they will be able to advise businesses of the national laws and rules governing business issues such as:
Forming a Greek limited liability company
Operating branches of an overseas company in Greece
Mergers and acquisitions involving Greek companies
The English speaking lawyers at Kosmidis & Partners are experienced in all these areas of commercial operations in Greece, and can offer invaluable advice and assistance to overseas organisations looking to conduct business in Greece.
More people are looking to work overseas
It’s not just businesses that are setting their eyes on moving overseas; many people are also looking to move abroad to further their career.
The latest figures from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, have shown that in 2012 there were in excess of 15 million foreign citizens working in the 27 EU member states, and they accounted for around 7% of all employees in these countries.
These foreign citizens included over 6.5 million citizens of a different European Union Member State and 8.6 million individuals from non-EU nations.
This increased mobility can be very beneficial for businesses because it can provide a much wider pool from which to select the most experienced and best qualified employee. However, it can also present a number of pitfalls for unwary businesses, as different rules may apply depending on whether a national or foreign citizen is being hired. Local legal knowledge is essential to ensure compliance with the correct labour laws and also to ensure any immigration issues are taken into account.
Greece proactively seeks investment
Greece welcomes foreign firms that are looking to do business overseas and has recently been proactively involved in a series of initiatives to encourage foreign investment.
Most recently, the BBC reports that the country has been involved in a two-day Greek Investment Forum in New York, where representatives from over 20 different companies, including a number of Greece's biggest banks and energy companies, have been promoting the benefits Greece can offer as an investment destination.
The event has apparently been very successful, with around 400 potential investors already registering their interest - double the number that expressed an interest at a similar event held last year.
Speaking to the BBC, Yanos Gramatidis, president of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, explained why he thought this year’s event had been so successful. He said that investors "understand that now a Grexit (Greek exit from the eurozone) is not an option, this is the time to grab an opportunity as if we were an emerging country."
If you are looking to expand your business operations overseas, then Greece must rate highly on any list of potential destinations. Contact the lawyers at Kosmidis & Partners today for expert legal advice on how to go about doing business in Greece.