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The Advantages Of Going Global—And How To Get There


“There are inherent benefits to having a global structure,” says Peter Ferzan, principal at the construction and project consulting company Turner & Townsend (pictured right). He should know, given the company's international presence, spanning 90 offices in 39 countries. We spoke with him and the company's US managing director, John Robbins (left), about those benefits afforded by operating across so many different markets. We also identified four main traits a company will need to reach that global level. 

During the conversation, Peter identified four main advantages of being a global company: a centralized point of control, which he calls the “single source of truth” to manage risk and consistency, as well as boost efficiency; ample resources, which affords flexibility in adapting to changing market conditions; shared knowledge at all levels throughout your organization, like cost benchmarking and best practices for service delivery; and the accessibility of subject-matter experts. 

“Our global experience gained through local delivery allows us to view projects through so many different lenses," John adds. "We’re able to blend the right solutions to specific client needs within their markets."

Such advantages are formidable in today's information-based economy. But getting to the global level takes a very well-oiled machine, and that doesn’t simply spring into existence—it’s built. Here are the traits your company will need, according to Peter:

1. A “boutique” approach to service & client care

A common accusation leveled against large, global firms is that they cannot offer clients the kind of personalized attention as much smaller-scale businesses. A firm aspiring to the international stage must ensure this perception has no basis in reality. You must be able to provide consistently great customer service across all of your markets.

2. Controlled, thoughtful expansion

Global companies are disciplined when expanding into new markets. They may do so by organic growth or more quickly by acquisition to capture economic opportunities. Inevitably, having a solid business expansion plan helps companies avoid finding themselves in over their heads. Global firms tend to have a better sense of “timing and opportunity” in weighing whether to move into new territory, says Peter, as they simply have more experience with such decisions.

3. Make your information more valuable—invest in digital tools

Providing your clients with reliable and accessible data not only brings consistency to your organization internally, but also enables your client to make better, informed decisions. Digital tools also enhance cross-communication, which creates a path of knowledge to share best practices.

“As a larger organization, our client types come from diverse sectors of the economy,” John says, “so we can collect data from those activities, and deploy this information elsewhere in the company. But that information can’t be collected without strong and secure internal digital tools."

4. Eliminate borders, customize to local markets

Today’s global marketplace demands that companies have a clear understanding of local markets. The better a firm is at adapting to local regulations, work cultures, consumer preferences—the list of other variables could go on—the more likely it is to succeed there. 

This requires an open-minded company culture, where staff are encouraged to be mobile to address the needs of the market and the client.

“The structure of the organization should lend itself to a blend of local and international professionals,” John says.

Peter adds: “In our organization, we make it very easy to move from location to location and we encourage mobility. We also retain local resources, which ultimately brings consistency across the organization, with a focus on local needs and expertise.”

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