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International Projects blog by John Chapman


Exporting can open up new opportunities, fuel growth and dramatically boost your takings and profits. Selling your goods and service abroad can massively increase your customer base – and your profits. But successful exporting relies on understanding where good sales opportunities lie and how best to take advantage of them.

Delivering International projects

International project implementations require a different level of thinking to running a project purely in the UK. In addition to the usual project management considerations, there are further challenges to be overcome. Four examples of these are:

  1. Logistical
  2. Culture
  3. Planning
  4. Politeness and etiquette


1. Logistical

Perhaps the most obvious is the logistical challenges of getting to the site. Flights will be required from the UK to the destination, and for the more diverse parts of the globe, these will require inter-connecting flights. Travel time has to be included in the planning together with recovery time where jet lag occurs.

Prior to departing, business visas may be required, which require letters of invitation from the organisation who are being visited. The completion of the visa form can be time-consuming and is likely to require an elapsed time to get the visa returned from the local embassy or consulate.

From a health perspective vaccinations may be required and health insurance put in place to cover local costs should the need arise.

A key consideration is security. On arriving at the destination airport, are we to be met by a local security person to take us to the hotel and also the place of work.


2. Culture

We cannot assume that the ways of thinking in the UK are the same in other parts of the work. For example in many parts of the world business is personal. A great deal of time is invested in cultivating personal and long-term personal relationships. To put this into context here is a cultural riddle to consider:

Who would you rather deal with, someone you can trust or someone you can sue?

If we have a good relationship, are honourable in our dealings, and not going to behave in a disingenuous way then why would we need a contract?


3. Planning

Project Planning involves the identification of the deliverable, the activities required to produce those deliverables, the time required, and then dates booked to complete the work. In the UK and Western Europe the working week is Monday to Friday. Yet when planning for international projects we have to consider:

  • The working week could be Sunday to Thursday, or Saturday to Wednesday
  • There may be many more public holidays (such as 16 in Thailand each year) than there are in the UK
  • For countries where Islam is the main religion, Ramadan and the dates for Eid need to be taken into account
  • The working hours are not necessarily 09:00am to 5:30pm or limited to a 35 hour week? It might be that working week if 48 hours spread over five and a half days.


4. Culture and Etiquette

Do we kiss, bow or shake hands? In the UK a good strong handshake is a sign of wishing to develop a good relationship. A weak handshake is not considered good etiquette. Yet this is the antitheses in some countries. An open, non-forceful handshake is a sign of friendship and not aggressive.

Whilst international business may at first sight offer an opportunity to considerably improve revenue and profits, without a sound understanding of the nuances of doing business abroad, it can prove to be very costly. Touchstone have delivered projects across the world and have a good understanding of what to take into account for successful project delivery.

For references on international business see:

  • Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: Terri Morrion and Wayne A Conway, ISBN 9781593373689
  • When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures, Richard D Lewis, ISBN 9781904838029
  • Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business, Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, ISBN 1904838383


By John Chapman, Programme Director


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