The Great British Entrepreneur Scale-Up Conference: the first rule of scaling-up: do your homework

The Great British Entrepreneur Scale-Up Conference will attract an audience of 500 founders, entrepreneurs and business owners from ambitious businesses.

Working in association with Coutts, NatWest and RBS alongside significant partners and the media the inaugural Scale-Up Conference will take place in Central London on 20th November 2017 touching upon several areas of how to scale up your business from experienced entrepreneurs. Dr. Johnny Hon, Chairman and Founder of Global Group explains how to break into the Chinese market.

Now, more than ever, UK companies should consider the various opportunities to scale up outside of the EU. Many UK SMEs are not aware of the benefits that come with expanding into the Chinese market. The SME sector in China is booming – it accounts for 80% of private sector employment – and is perceived as the lifeblood of China’s thriving economy.

With twenty years’ experience under my belt supporting Anglo-Chinese business partnerships, my advice for anyone looking to scale up and expand into the Chinese market is to do your homework.

The UK has a very strong reputation in China, which is very useful to know for UK SMEs looking to expand into the market. The UK is associated with tradition, powerful brands and quality, as well as recognised for its open, developed economy and the rule of law.

Interestingly, many of China’s budding entrepreneurs and investors can relate to the UK business world, as there’s an increasing degree of familiarity with the British education system. Right now, more people in China are learning English than the entire population of the UK.

However, it is important to note that not every UK firm should assume that all potential Chinese investors will be aware of the cultural and business differences between the two countries and vice versa – there is much to be learned.

The most important thing is to appreciate how far and fast China has developed. Not just the first-tier cities that are household names, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, but the second, third and fourth tier cities as well, many of which contain populations in the millions, and where SMEs can enjoy a real competitive advantage.

It’s essential that both sides establish what they are expecting from any business partnership and be prepared to dedicate time to develop mutual understanding in the relationship and allow sufficient time for meaningful discussions.

The Department of International Trade (DIT) and CBBC (China-Britain Business Council) have excellent SME services and networks of regional offices that can provide initial help for any company looking to expand in emerging markets. Networking organisations like the 48 Group Club and Chopsticks Club are also fantastic for establishing contacts and gaining a greater understanding of how SMEs have much to gain from Anglo-Chinese collaborations.

For example, here, SMEs can learn about the vital importance of marketing a product, service or business on Chinese social media. A recent topic of discussion was how UK SMEs can support China’s growing consumer society that has an increased disposable income and tendency to look to the UK for luxury goods such as whisky and smoked salmon.

For companies looking for a bridge to the East, Hong Kong serves as a gateway between the UK and China. Its unique background, legal system and the innovative ‘one country two systems’ policy means it can act as a conduit between the two countries. This can be a favourable route for UK SMEs particularly if they are novices in the Chinese market.

Partnerships are vital for scaling up and the opportunities are endless, but you must keep in mind that you will not find success on a plate. Consultancy and strategic advice for SMEs both in China and the UK is at the heart of the Global Group, helping businesses in both countries to seek mutual benefit.


For more information on the The Great British Entrepreneur Scale-Up Conference visit here.