14th December 2017
One Size Fits All?
Frank Horvath, MD at Link Financial Outsourcing, looks at the challenges of maintaining the same standards across different regions and cultures in this month’s CCR Magazine.
While the concept of establishing an international business with cookie cutter operations in multiple jurisdictions may be an attractive one, in reality, businesses need to be more flexible about the products and services they offer from region to region to be successful.
In the world of debt recovery, one example is that different legal and compliance regimes mean following the spirit of TCF in the UK, while following the letter of the law in more codified countries. Then there are differing HR and cultural approaches which mean that what is perfectly acceptable in one country is completely verboten in another.
So against this divergent background, how can a company establish a set of business standards which apply internationally?
Know your values and apply them
You should ensure that the business is underpinned by a set of corporate values which accurately represent the company’s culture and ethics. Having those values fully embedded and promoted throughout the group will go a long way to ensuring multi-jurisdictional consistency and best practice which will satisfy your staff, clients, customers and shareholders.
Recognise your strengths
What are the major strengths in my business? Once you have answered this question, you can determine which of those strengths you want to – and are able to – carry forward to your operations in other territories. Not all will be portable or appropriate, or the mix of skills needed to achieve them may differ by country.
You may decide that your key strengths include a particular system, an operational process, your suite of management information, a strategy that drives your business, the goals and measures you use to set and manage business performance, your unique management structure or performance management process for your agents.
Once you have identified the key areas you need to replicate internationally, the next step is to understand those which can be directly copied and those which have limited geographical transferability and will need greater creativity to reproduce.
Try ranking the key strengths from most important to least and then start with those which are the highest scoring. Review them critically, not just for the importance they bring to your business model, but also whether they are truly stand alone or only add value in combination with other factors.
Process makes perfect
Look at your process flows and determine which elements of the process are not transferable due to their specificity to one particular market. Mark these on your process flows and discuss with colleagues in the local market to understand what competitors are doing in these areas. Such differences may represent local legislative demands and limits, restrictions on contact methodologies and contact times or uncodified practice.
The identification of cultural differences that challenge an operation’s effectiveness can be identified from a number of sources. Firstly, and most importantly, local management should be trusted to add local value. They should know what is right and what will work in their territory. Similarly, feedback from customers passed on via agents and staff members as well as complaints should be used to drive changes to a standardised approach. Where debt is purchased from or placed by another institution, lessons from their original approach can be taken onboard. Finally, any local operation should join with local associations in their industry to learn from other professionals and businesses as well as giving some of their own experiences to enrich the whole process.
By following this approach, you can develop the optimal operating model for each territory. Hence, the resultant operating model will maintain the best common factors, while being adapted to each local market and their relevant rules and regulations.
Standards will ultimately be maintained not through individual processes or strategies, but through the quality of management and controls used to drive performance and compliance in the business.