International Business

Scott Francis
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Colliseum

I never imagined my wife and I are both traveling to Europe for the second time in a year.  We were actually headed to different cities for business, and then meeting up in Rome for a few days.  And we each have at least one more trip to Europe on the calendar this year for business.

My wife’s business is Red Velvet Events, and as their business with international customers has taken off, her need to travel to support those customers has, too.  More and more international companies are paying attention to Austin (F1, SXSW, and ACL Fest don’t hurt, but neither does just running the best event planning business in town).  Meanwhile, quite coincidentally, BP3 has invested in bringing our brand of BPM to the UK and Europe, via an acquisition. Brazos is spreading rapidly in Europe, and having a team based in the UK is really helping us support that adoption, and improve customer experiences.

We had some interesting experiences with process while traveling in Europe. For example, enforcement of security rules (talk about a process with variance – which also begs the question, maybe variance in process is actually a good thing for security outcomes, I’m not sure).  Or the VAT refund process. We went to a foreign exchange office at 10am, and they told us that VAT refunds aren’t available until noon.  Okay, we thought – maybe someone else comes on staff at that point.  At 11:50am we returned to the office… and at 11:55am, the same person who had been there all along, said she could go ahead and process our VAT refund. So… why did we have to wait til noon?  No reason that we could discern.  The stuff process practitioners’ nightmares are made of.

Getting involved with a business overseas is intense. Working with our UK team reminds me of early days at BP3.  There’s this sense of immense opportunity, and shared risk.  We have this amazing team to leverage, just as BP3 did at the same size in the US. Our meetings with partners and customers are similarly intense- there’s a sense of shared mission, us-against-the-world that happens when you’re so far from home.  Each day was filled with meetings from breakfast to dinner, thanks to the the hard work of our UK team.  I’m so impressed with our team in the UK, our partners, and their commitment to customer success.  There’s no way I could feel that sense of confidence without making the trip myself to look our team, our partners, and our customers in the eyes and see how serious and committed they are. 

Building a business in Europe wouldn’t feel nearly as achievable if not for the direct flight that British Airways has installed from Austin to London.  While videoconferencing and phone calls are fantastic, nothing has yet replaced meeting over a meal, a drink, or a dinner, for connecting at a personal level.  Nothing replaces walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.  Not to mention, if you’re going to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, it might as well be more like 25,000 steps a day in London and Rome.

Because I choose Austin, I’ll be flying that direct flight through London every time I go to Europe from now on.  And I’m more likely to get to Europe because they just took 2-4 hours of duration off of my trip time.  That deserves some loyalty and investment in my view.