Expanding to new countries during a global pandemic
I bumped into an old friend who told me an exciting story about activating crowds of independent professionals on demand to increase business efficiency. He told me about how this fast growing Dutch company, Roamler, was slowly but steadily changing the way people work in different fields, from retail to healthcare to technical installations. He continued his story, telling me that Roamler had just been allocated millions of euros to roll out the success they had with in-home installations in the Netherlands to new markets, with a specific focus on Germany and the UK. Not only was it fun to catch up after 15 years, but he also asked me to join the project and help them expand in these new countries.
That is how I took on my next challenge: launching crowd-supported technical installations in Germany and developing existing professional crowds in the UK.
I have moments when I get really optimistic and confident (especially during the summer), so I gently asked permission from my family and joined Micha Willemse to work on a plan.
Over the years, I have learned that there is one crucial step you have to take before engaging with new businesses: always ask for advice from the market before building your plan. Entering into new markets means making many mistakes and learning the hard way, but avoiding some pitfalls is a great start. So we reached out to a wide network of local entrepreneurs, and — to my surprise — lots of them gladly jumped in on brainstorming and feedback sessions. It was amazing to see how the quest for efficiency and for a more sustainable business model still is both a top priority and a major pain point across Europe.
In particular, these sessions revealed a significant disparity between how in-home installations are currently performed in most countries and consumer expectation.
Our impression is that the German market is better regulated than other European markets, and consumers there are more prone to follow the process. On the other hand, the UK approach seems to be more customer-centric in theory, but in practice it often lacks quality. The commonality that emerged across all countries — perhaps not surprisingly — is that there is a huge gap between the supply of highly skilled technicians currently active in the installation market and the demand for those technicians. Overall, Roamler’s concept of utilizing specialized professionals on demand for executing repeatable, high-volume, widespread in-home installations was well received.
As a next step, we felt that we needed more quantitative data on these markets in order to fine tune our proposition. We conducted research to investigate how European consumers experience in-home installations and which factors could significantly improve their level of satisfaction. This delivered some great insights; you can find the UK results here. For questions just send me a message.
After this study, we felt we were prepared to engage with these new markets. In the UK two pilot projects with national brands were ready to be launched before Covid-19 hit us hard earlier this year, but we decided to use this unexpected "delay" to build and expand our local teams further. Starting with recruiting sales and operation professionals can be a great way to learn about the market and adjust your proposition, but finding the right people is obviously a challenge when you are still trying to establish yourself. We did get some exciting new talents in both Germany and in the UK, but how we got there is a topic for the next blog.