London Calling: Expanding Overseas—Opportunities and Challenges

In August, we took our first step into the UK and Western Europe by opening an office in London. Now, six months later, Andy Friedman, O.D Consulting’s owner and Joint CEO, was interviewed about the opportunities of expanding your business and the challenges of managing a business from a distance. 

Expanding a business abroad brings with it multiple opportunities and challenges, just like any entrepreneurial endeavor. We interviewed Andy Friedman, owner and joint CEO of O.D. Consulting, about exploring new opportunities and dealing with the challenges he and the company faced in expanding the business overseas.

Hi Andy, could you tell us how you took your first steps into the UK market? 

In 2016 O.D. Consulting began working with a UK-based partner who represented our technological subsidiary O.D. Systems. This continued until the COVID-19 outbreak, which effectively brought our activities with this partner to a halt, but at the same time the changes that the markets and working environments underwent during this difficult time made it clear to us that there were significant new opportunities for O.D. in the UK and in Europe. They also made it clear that we needed to have a local presence to take advantage of these opportunities. So, after an in-depth assessment of challenges and opportunities, we opened a new office in London in August 2022. 

Why did you choose the UK market?” 

Our decision was based on a combination of circumstances and opportunities. We already had some knowledge of the UK market, but this wasn’t the main reason. The UK market, despite being perceived by some as conservative, is a highly developed and innovative market, ranking regularly in the top five most innovative nations globally. Israel, despite the success of its high-tech industry and perception as a start-up nation, rarely makes the top ten.  

In addition, London is one of the leading financial capitals of the world, usually ranking second after New York. It’s geographic location and role as a transport hub is also a serious asset – in an hour you can be in most European capitals and in five hours you could either in Tel Aviv, New York, or the UAE. 

This combination allows us to break through the growth limits imposed by operating in the Israeli market, which may be a leader in product development in our particular field, but it is too small a market to provide room for sufficient growth. 

Why now? 

Here again, COVID-19 played a role. The interaction between technological changes, remote working, and changing attitudes in the workforce created an opportunity to realize the potential of products and managerial tools we had been working on for years. For example, it normalized remote management and online consulting. Services can be supplied from anywhere to anywhere. The technological development of business intelligence software accelerated our entry into the sphere of people analytics in general and actionable insights in particular. The exponential rate of change in the business environment have reinforced the relevance and increased demand for our solutions in the areas of adaptive leadership and agile strategies. 

The convergence of all these developments made it clear this was a key moment in the evolution of our field in general and a unique opportunity for our company in particular to take a leading role in this area. 

Could you be more specific about the products you are introducing to the UK market? “

We decided to launch products that help companies create competitive advantages in a rapidly changing environment. For example Leadership Development Products based on our B-WISE model. Mid- and senior-level leaderships development programs that promote adaptive leadership based on proprietary models as well as models from Harvard university and MIT. 

The second product line we are introducing is Agile Strategies Solutions and methods that allow managements to assess the relevancy of their strategies/business models and the organization’s value proposition.  

Our third product line in the UK and Europe is Actionable People Analytics. This is a cutting edge area in the field. After many years of activity in the field of engagement surveys and performance management we upgraded our abilities with advanced solution which are at the eliding edge of people analytics technologies. Because of the opportunities that were created in the UK and European markets we chose them as our beta sites for these products and we will soon make them available in the Israeli market as well. These products position us at the forefront of augmented analytics developments. 

O.D. Consulting is a well-known company in Israel with large customers in all the leading sectors, but how do you plan to penetrate a market where you have no established performance record? 

This is the key to success or failure, isn’t it? We have three levels we are pursuing at the moment. 

First, because as you said we are well known in the Israeli market, we will target Israeli companies with a presence in the UK and Western Europe, focusing on areas where Israel has a competitive advantage:  telecommunications, FinTech, FoodTech, cybersecurity, aerospace and defense, and gaming. 

Second, we are focusing on the UK high tech market via forums and networking environments in which the UK tech companies are exposed to Israeli high tech managerial mindsets that they open to adopting in order to increase the organizational agility. 

Third, the HR-tech community is very well developed in the UK and is constantly searching for new actionable people analytics solutions. The fact that we can offer advanced technological solutions that were developed based on decades of experience in the field and state of the art professional practices, allows us to offer a unique value proposition. 

This is a very compelling plan, but I can imagine there are many challenges in putting it into action. Can you describe the main challenges you’ve encountered? 

There are three main challenges we’ve encountered so far: networking and cultural challenges, management challenges, and personal challenges.   

The first major challenge we faced when expanding into Europe was the need to create new business networks. In Israel, our clients are familiar with our skills and our products which makes it easier to market new products and expand our network of clients and partners. But in the UK and Europe we had to start from scratch, and no one cares if we bring something new and unique to the market. We have to prove ourselves all over again—identify the needs of players in these markets and weave new networks that will help us bring the right products to the right clients. We’ve had to adapt ourselves to the local cultural codes and business pace. For example, behaviour that in Israel might be perceived as determined and committed, might be perceived in the UK as pushy and inattentive. London is an international hub, with as many immigrants as “locals”, yet despite the richness and variety of cultures, language and culture barriers are still issues to address and overcome. They strongly affect how one networks and interacts with potential customers. 

The second major challenge is managerial. We are lucky at O.D. Consulting to have three CEOs, each one of us responsible for a particular business line in addition to being an active management consultant. They both do an excellent job and enable our Israeli operations to flourish. Everything they develop in Israel is assessed as a potential product for the global market. My own personal challenge is to learn to delegate and empower the other leaders at O.D. and to reduce my day-do-day involvement, while I focus my energies on key projects and on keeping in touch with customers. My energies as the company’s owner are transitioning from “doing” to “developing.” 

The third challenge is personal. For my wife and I, it’s a chance to embark on an adventure together, he says, but it is different for the children, who are faced with a new language, new school, and new social environment and are understandably homesick. We know that eventually, the benefits will outweigh the costs, but since both my wife and I experienced emigration as children, we are very aware of the toll it takes and are doing our best to be empathic towards their understandable homesickness.   

 You have a successful business in Israel, Why even take on the risks of moving your family to a new country and taking on a new and competitive market? “

I believe in doing my best to realize the opportunities life offers, to fight the demons that tempt us to remain in our areas of comfort, and to keep my feet on the ground while remaining aware of how my actions affect others. 

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