I am writing this from a meeting room overlooking the lake of Zürich. Last night I enjoyed an aperitif from a 5th floor restaurant overlooking this picturesque Swiss city, enjoying some splendid views before listening to a quality speech from former EU trade commissioner Lord Brittan, somebody who clearly knows what he is talking about when it comes to international business. It’s a tough life.
It actually could have been a really tough life. Trying something new is always a leap of faith. It involves an element of risk and moving out of your comfort zone. Without forethought and planning it may be a disaster. Even with planning and help there is no certainty of success. For me, as a naturally cautious accountant, trying to promote our outsourced CFO offering in a new market was potentially a daunting task.
Fortunately I had some excellent help from the British Swiss Chamber of Commerce (BSCC) and the team based in Zürich. Aside from organising a great event, they furnished me with contacts and introductions, and allowed me to use their office to work in when I had some spare time. Their encouragement to visit Zürich for the AGM, at which Lord Brittan was the keynote speaker, was a real spur to get me to move my Swiss project forward.
The whole experience brought to mind another recent meeting at Canary Wharf (again with panoramic view – if I was a photographer this would be a great job) as part of my involvement in the London Local Chambers initiative. This is aimed at publicising the existence of the 20 plus locally based chambers of commerce within greater London, chambers that have a real feel for local business opportunities, and which offer good local contacts as well as engagement with local government on business issues.
People often see chambers of commerce as networking organisations, there purely to provide sales opportunities. However their real value is more than being a good way of building contacts and relationships that may develop into opportunities in the future. They can also provide an opportunity to contribute to a wider movement dedicated to increasing business and trading opportunities for everybody, particularly on the international side. This mixture of international and local knowledge and presence is a major reason why well run chambers continue to be the first port of call for organisations looking to develop new markets.
Was it worth the visit? Ah that would be telling, but there is a clue in the fact that I am really glad that I took the opportunity of visiting Switzerland for the BSCC AGM. You have to take a chance if you want to develop something new. However moving out of your comfort zone does not mean you have to take silly risks. There is a lot of help available and existing networks to work with. These are clearly no guarantee of success, but they make it a lot more fun trying, and who knows where it will lead to one day.