20th August 2012

Expert Study Advises on Business Growth

A major study undertaken by the Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Wales, Newport has identified ways in which businesses can increase their exports to global markets.

Professor Stephen Hagen, a leading expert in linguistics, carried out research for the European Commission as part of a study on how languages are used by businesses to grow the economy.

The Pimlico report on best examples of top-performing companies based on export success identified the language gap or defects of European companies trading abroad.

It covered 2,000 companies across Europe, and singled out aerospace manufacturer Spectrum Technologies of Bridgend for significant praise for its understanding of the importance of local languages in international markets.

Recent research suggests that finding ways of overcoming language barriers in foreign trade could prove to be more of a science than an art for many British companies who are prepared to think laterally about solving the multilingual challenges of global markets.

Spectrum has an advanced language management strategy, developed after recognising that some markets required local knowledge and people who spoke local languages to facilitate business transactions.

The company uses representatives in countries where little or no English is known and where it is easier doing business in the local language – such as Japan, Russia and South America. Spectrum’s strategy has meant an increase in turnover of 16-25%.

Native speakers are employed for Italian, Russian, Chinese, Mexican/Spanish and Indian markets. Field staff in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Bangalore, Italy and Mexico will come to the UK once or twice yearly for training. The employment of native speakers has above all helped to communicate with workshop technicians during equipment installation who usually speak little English.

Professor Stephen Hagen said: “There are four key variables which, if companies follow them, they have the potential characteristics associated with significantly higher trading performance; namely the employment of native speakers, recruitment of language graduates, use of professional interpreters and translators, and having a language management strategy in place.

“I recently presented to the all Parliamentary committee to set out recent findings on how foreign language and cultural competence could assist UK companies to achieve greater export growth in non-English speaking markets.”

John Meahan, Sales & Marketing Director at Spectrum Technologies said: “Spectrum Technologies’ customer base is global and exports account for 98% of sales. We do not see this trend changing but we are aware that our customer base will stretch into new countries as well as maintaining the existing ones.

“Our approach is to be close to our customer base with local contacts, supporting this from our main office by supporting and developing individuals that are, or can become, well versed in a range of languages, and are appreciative of the cultural challenges across our wide customer base.”

(This article has been amended by MediWales.  For the original article, please click here).