During our reporting on doing business abroad, we tried to be mindful of the fact that the experience for a service company was by-and-large very different from the experience of a manufacturer. One of the main service companies that we write about in the magazine is the Hoffman Agency, a well-known PR firm based in San Jose, Calif. The company has several offices overseas.
In the article, editor Leigh Buchanan writes that founder Lou Hoffman has led the firm's push into foreign markets. "In 1994, as clients like Hewlett-Packard stepped up their global marketing, Hoffman yearned to expand along with them," she explains. "Planning to open his first international branch, he narrowed his sights first to Asia, because it was less competitive than Europe, and then to Singapore, a city-state that was more Western than the rest of the region. In fact, Singapore was so Western that Hoffman felt he could simply dispatch one of his executives to handle the office launch. He did. It worked."
Thereafter, however, expansion proved difficult. In some places, few people knew enough about Western style PR to be hireable. In other places, the economics of opening a branch office were conspicuously difficult.
I bet Hoffman's experiences are not unique, and I wonder how other expanding service businesses have fared when they went overseas. What has your experience been?