Locally connected, well-informed and willing to help. That sums up the GlobalScot network - an astonishing success story in helping Scotland build its exporting prowess.
More than 600 executives around the globe make up this network, which links in to the highest levels of international business and economic development. In many cases, and to coin WB Yeats’s quote:'There are no strangers here; only friends in high places you haven’t yet met,' because the GlobalScots are able to help build valuable relationships for businesses keen to export.
Guy Crawford, based in the Gulf, has opened the doors for dozens of companies in the Middle East. He has been responsible for building the Jumeirah Group, the Dubai-based luxury hotel brand, into one of the most successful in the world. He recently retired from the 20-strong five-star hotel group, which includes the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach and Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, and the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management.
Why does he do it? “Most of us are very proud of where we are from. We’ve been lucky and successful in our careers and it is a desire and wish to see what we can do in a commercial sense to help Scottish companies,” he says.
“We can assist in getting doors opened and explain the cultural challenges that exist in so many parts of world, which are important.
The GlobalScot can help people understand what these are and overcome them in a positive way.”
He says companies must have a compelling reason to be successful on the international stage. There is no room for being ‘wishy-washy’ and companies should be clear about their target markets.
GlobalScot Martin Oxley, who is the director of UKTI in Warsaw, was the chief executive of the British Polish Chamber of Commerce, and an expert in healthcare and life sciences. He has met a number of Scottish companies interested in moving into Poland in the IT sector, food and drink and renewables.
“Poland is growing and is the largest of Europe’s recent accession states and often an under-estimated opportunity. We can help them with signposts for distribution leads. We have our office in Warsaw, where we are happy to meet Scottish companies,” says Martin, who is part of the Embassy team.
Martin, who has spent 15 years in Central Europe, has been involved in events, setting up a Polish-Scottish Association - with whisky tasting around the country, and building on existing relationships between Krakow and Edinburgh, to increase tourist opportunities and share trade missions.
He agrees with Guy Crawford that companies have to be as realistic and as clear as possible about what they are hoping to achieve.
“That will enable us to answer specific questions, which will help them move more quickly. We need a clear brief on what companies are trying to do, then we can help,” he says.
Gregor Mowat, who works for KPMG, is a more recent GlobalScot who has been one
for around a year.
“I see the role of a Global Scot as helping Scottish businessmen and women do business around the globe,” he says.
What advice would he give to a Scottish company considering exporting to Kazakhstan and Russia?
“Make sure you understand the environment well before you start. There is a difficult bureaucracy, sometimes unclear regulations and tax rules and corruption issues in both countries. This makes the operating environment difficult. However, with the right partners and advice, these difficulties can be overcome. Take your time and try and get it right first time to avoid potentially expensive mistakes. Come and speak to us!”
While Gregor sees the most obvious opportunities in oil and gas, he says there is plenty of room for new products and services in most sector areas in both Russia and Kazakhstan.
There are currency control regulations in both countries. However, these are not particularly onerous and can be comfortably managed through appropriate planning and advice.
“In terms of services, the things that Scotland does well, the export of well-educated human capital to help each country in areas where it does not have expertise, is a space that Scottish businesses can fill.”
There is room for business to flow back in the other direction towards Scotland too.
“There is significant liquidity in certain parts of the Russian and Kazakh economies. Often businesses will want to diversify their investments outside of the CIS and this creates opportunities for strategic partnerships and investments in Scotland by Russian businesses.”
High-quality brands and trophy assets are on the list of possible buys by businesses from Russia and Kazakhstan.
How do you think Scots are viewed in Russia and Kazakhstan?
“Where people have a view, typically Scots are viewed as trustworthy and straightforward. Braveheart was very popular in the CIS and so Russians are familiar with Scotland’s sometimes tempestuous relationship with its southern neighbour! This can sometimes form Russian and Kazakh views about Scots.”
Gregor says that being a GlobalScot is very compatible with his work at KPMG.
“I can begin by providing another GlobalScot with some background on doing business. If he or she decides to go ahead with an investment, KPMG can help through the provision of tax advice or other services.”
What does he miss most about Scotland? “The weather!”
Perhaps he should have added – our wry sense of humour.