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Going global: Should firms build beyond their borders or shore up business at home?
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Going global: Should firms build beyond their borders or shore up business at home?

Expanding to new markets offers many opportunities, including helping to grow revenue streams, increase staffing opportunities and facilitate strategic acquisitions.  

Professional services as a whole are in an exciting period of growth on an international scale, with several notable partnerships and expansion. For example, UK top-60 law firm Taylor Rose MW chose to partner with Australian firm GTC Legal, building a consultant law firm which has seen it grow to 500 fee earners.  

Finding the perfect pair: matching markets to client needs 

Regardless of industry. Professional firms that are looking to expand their business overseas should consider the nature of their clients, now and in the future.  

The expansion of global trade has created new opportunities for Australian businesses to explore overseas markets. 

For example, the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement and the newly active Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement, provide timely opportunities for businesses to review their growth plans and explore new markets these agreements may support. 

By offering support to clients with international service needs, firms can reduce the risk of losing work elsewhere. However, it is important to avoid over-reaching and instead focus on areas of sustained demand for overseas assistance. Strategic analysis of client demand will be key in determining whether providing services overseas or partnering with a firm in another jurisdiction will create long-term value for a firm.  

Picking the right market 

For many Australian firms the UK is an obvious first step for offshore growth, but the opportunities presented by broader markets can be just as fruitful.  

For example, New Zealand offers generous work rights and trade agreements and there are emerging opportunities further afield.  India and Singapore both provide strategic opportunities for growth, with the latter opening doors into the rest of Asia. Some of those markets require partnership with a local firm, adding a level of support when navigating local service regulations and expectations. The flip side is the unique challenges that can arise, particularly when considering cultural nuance. 

Cultural competency is important when navigating expansion, and strong cultural awareness in the markets being targeted will help firms to ensure consistency between what they consider clients want and how their offering is perceived.  

Cultural competency that is considered, managed and developed, as part of any cross-border expansion plan will create long-term value that supports a firm’s growth plan.

Keeping talented teams engaged 

Post-pandemic, the demand for Australian professionals in locations such as the UK and US has spiked, in some ways providing an edge for firms in the competitive talent market. A key driver for internationalisation across professional services has been the growing desire of firms to keep talented people long term. 

For some firms, opening a global office can help to retain promising talent. 

Some firms choose to solve this problem by opening satellite offices, essentially a single leader or small team given the freedom to work remotely on Australian engagements while growing an offshore business.  This may benefit some firms as it retains the corporate knowledge, IP and experience of staff while allowing freedom of work and testing the waters for greater opportunities.  

Strategically balancing the benefits with the needs of the organisational structure, service delivery and productivity, as well as the needs of a firm’s people will help to set a firm up for success.  

Putting a toe in together 

Joining a global platform like an industry network or association of firms can offer a lower-risk growth pathway, allowing firms to build cross-border referrals and partnerships ahead of any direct investment in expansion.  

By joining a network or association, firms can put a considered toe in the water and can leverage that network’s overseas contacts, methodologies and best-practice training. Depending on the inter-firm relationships, secondments and cross-border recruitment can also be simplified, and the network or association brand can also be leveraged in the firm’s home market.  

As with all strategic moves, firms should take time to assess the value proposition of each opportunity, and consider what partners are able to contribute to and gain from the network’s practice groups.  

Actions you can take

  • Think laterally about your international work — both the clients you have now that may need overseas assistance, and those you aspire to win in the future. 
  • Consider the countries or regions that align best with your firm’s growth plans and assess any regulatory barriers that might impact expansion.  
  • Identify the level of international aspiration in your team. Will they be enticed to stay if you offer more cross-border activity 
  • Explore the value propositions of the international networks and associations before you invest in moving offshore.  
  • Seek expert advice on staging any global expansion, to minimise risk and maximise return on investment.  
This content is general commentary only and does not constitute advice. Before making any decision or taking any action in relation to the content, you should consult your professional advisor. To the maximum extent permitted by law, neither Pitcher Partners or its affiliated entities, nor any of our employees will be liable for any loss, damage, liability or claim whatsoever suffered or incurred arising directly or indirectly out of the use or reliance on the material contained in this content. Pitcher Partners is an association of independent firms. Pitcher Partners is a member of the global network of Baker Tilly International Limited, the members of which are separate and independent legal entities. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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