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New business survey finds the key to international success

20 September 2016
What are the keys to international business success?

A reputation for dependability, reliability and honesty and a willingness to network hold the key to international business success, according to participants in a nationwide survey of Australian firms conducted by the University of Sydney Business School.

The Australia’s International Business Survey (AIBS 2016) was commissioned by the Export Council of Australia with the support of Austrade and Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (Efic). 

It involved nearly a thousand companies in 19 industry sectors operating across more than 100 international markets. The respondents were largely SMEs with revenues up to $20 million. They also tended to be internationally experienced businesses with 63 percent of respondents reporting having first earned international revenue more than 10 years ago.

Factors considered to be ‘very important’ to continuing success in top markets were a reputation for dependability and reliability (84%) and a reputation for honesty and trustworthiness (83%). 

Also ‘very important’ were a reputation for:

  • A reputation for innovation and adaptability (68%),
  • A reputation for value for money (67%), 
  • A strong company or product brand (64%) and 
  • A competitive exchange rate (62%).

Respondents reported that the most important channels for understanding and operating in their most important markets were:

  • Access to foreign business or industry networks (42% very important), 
  • Having a local business partner (34% very important) and 
  • Engaging overseas employees with cross cultural or language skills (31% very important).  

On the other hand, the results suggest that the use of professional service firms (10% very important) and networking with Australian companies (13% very important) were much less important channels for understanding and operating in their most important markets.

“Accessing relevant networks overseas and developing relationships, including working with local business partners, was seen by many companies as critical to becoming accepted and reducing the liability of being a business outsider,” said project leader, Professor Sid Gray.

“Once established, a reputation for dependability, reliability, honesty and trustworthiness is clearly fundamental to continued success. Surprisingly, enhanced access to key markets via free trade agreements was rated as very important by only a minority of respondents (25%),” Professor Gray said.

Also participating in the project were Lecturer Wei Li, Lecturer Sandra Seno-Alday and Associate Professor Catherine Welch.

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