Deliver services overseas

Advice for exporters on delivery of services from a UK or foreign market base.

Last updated 11 September 2019

Services to overseas markets can be delivered:

  • from the UK
  • by your staff in-market
  • with a permanent presence in-market

Tips from our trade advisers

Factors that can help you decide the right approach for delivery include:

  • geography – is the market a considerable distance away?
  • regulation – does the service require a fully regulated local presence?
  • market size – is there going to be a consistent volume of work, or just occasional projects?
  • global versus local – is there a preference among consumers for a global name or a local supplier?
  • type of service – does it require ongoing presence, such as maintenance, or can it be delivered in short bursts, like training?

Deliver from a UK base

Delivering services solely from the UK, or with staff in-market and no permanent presence, is usually cheaper than establishing a base overseas. However, you’ll still need to invest in overseas travel to develop relationships, win business and manage projects.

Manage your in-market presence

Think about how you’ll build your in-market presence from the UK. This should include market visits, regular communication and any aftercare services.

Consider:

  • the best locations in the market for your activity
  • which staff you’ll deploy, and their function
  • frequency and purpose of visits
  • travel arrangements and accommodation
  • regular communications to maintain oversight and presence

Select and support staff from a UK base

You may wish to operate with one or two key people, or through a team of contacts. The second option may be preferable for business continuity. Your staff will need to have the appropriate skills, sensitivity and ability to work independently from the rest of the business team if they’re travelling overseas.

You’ll need to think about:

  • language skills and cultural awareness. Do you have any members of staff with this knowledge already?
  • ongoing technical or skills-based training, including costings for location hire and travel
  • appropriate professional or technical accreditation or approvals your UK-based staff will need to operate overseas.
  • travel or residence documents, including visas and work permits if required. To find out more contact the embassy of the appropriate country
  • business support infrastructure, for example an office or other workplace, and regular contact from the UK for help and support
  • the business continuity arrangements you’ll need to support staff and cover for absences

For information on accreditation, approvals and regulatory matters, you can check with local professional bodies such as local bar associations and financial regulators. Your local international trade team can help you to identify contacts in these organisations.

Deliver from overseas markets

Even if you can deliver your services from the UK, you might decide that it’s preferable to set up a presence in your most important markets. This will help you support clients and provide a base to grow your business faster. Many organisations will start off by servicing a market from the UK, and then decide to set up offices in countries that are particularly significant for them.

Set up your overseas operation

The common models for overseas services operation are:

  • an office, or offices in a number of locations
  • a subsidiary business in the market
  • field-based staff working remotely in the market

Setting up can be lengthy and complex, especially if you’re under-prepared. Your business is more likely to be subject to local regulations if you have a permanent presence. It’s important that you make sure you have all the advice you need to support your planning and decision making. You’ll need:

  • local legal and professional advice
  • HR and recruitment advice
  • real estate and location planning support
  • PR and marketing support

You’ll find more information on options for setting up a presence in-market in our advice about routes to market.

Select and support staff in a permanent overseas operation

Many of the considerations for staffing with local nationals, or people based permanently in the market, are similar to those for UK-based staff. You’ll still need to select people who have the technical and practical skills to deliver services and manage relationships with clients.

You should also consider:

  • specific skills, such as language and cultural awareness
  • ongoing technical or skills-based training, including costings for location hire and travel
  • professional or technical accreditation appropriate to staff who are based permanently in the market
  • HR, financial and technical support appropriate to staff who are based in the market
  • a permanent business support infrastructure, for example an office or other workplace, and regular contact from the UK for help and support
  • business continuity arrangements in the local market for busy times, or periods of absence

Your local international trade team can help you to identify contacts in local professional bodies who can give advice on accreditation and regulatory matters.