Navigating the international construction market

October 23rd, 2015 Posted in: Industry Issues, Lakesmere

It was back in 2009 that the Lakesmere Group first started making inroads in the overseas market and since then, it has been an interesting journey! As many of you will no doubt have experienced first-hand, there are many barriers in the way of international expansion but once these have been successfully negotiated, the opportunities can be vast.

We are particularly proud that our hard work and determination to establish Lakesmere as a key player in the global construction sector has been rewarded with a strong order book. We are working on the largest Kalzip roofing contract in the world to date for the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Saudi Arabia and a new passenger clearance building in Hong Kong as part of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project. Lakesmere now has six international offices across the Middle East and Asia, and this year was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for international trade.

However the challenges that we had to overcome to get to this stage represented a significant learning curve for us. The first issue we faced when we landed in Abu Dhabi all those years ago was undoubtedly the question that many companies who are essentially ‘starting out’ must ask – how can we identify our potential clients and opportunities?

Expanding overseas can be a risky business so we were very careful and considered in our approach. We opted to pursue prudent growth in selected countries where opportunities could be found through our existing client base and supply chain. One of the biggest challenges faced by any company is receiving timely payment and so working with clients that are both known and valued can provide much-needed security in those early days.

When the time came to seek opportunities with new clients, although Lakesmere brought with it an established heritage as one of the largest and most successful building envelope contractors in the UK, we found that local brand recognition took time to build.  With the successful delivery of projects, awareness of Lakesmere has increased, and with it brand recognition.

Here our work with agencies such as the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and UK Export Finance (UKEF) was invaluable.  The trade missions that the UKTI host have been vital in helping us to establish a presence in the foreign business community by providing opportunities to make and forge links with local partners.

When the first contracts start to come in, careful management of existing resources and investment in recruitment is vital. As well as utilising technical and design support from our UK teams, we have been keen to invest in local labour and we ensure that all our employees receive the same high level of health and safety training as we deliver in the UK. In this regard, other than the location there is no difference between work we do at home or abroad.

The international construction market can offer a world of opportunities for main contractors, specialists and suppliers. The trick is to know where to look and to take full advantage of the support that is out there as quite often, there is more than just a language barrier to overcome.

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