UK perspective: Global business in a post-Brexit world
Business Management

UK perspective: Global business in a post-Brexit world

This is a contributed piece by Andy Gent, CEO of Revector

My business has never relied solely on either UK or EU trade to survive.  In fact, it could not exist without global trade.

Revector creates anti-fraud solutions to detect and eliminate complex criminal activity against telecommunications providers around the world.  Telecommunications minutes are a commodity, traded in open markets like gold or corn.  Whilst there is a legitimate need for these markets, there are also several frauds and scams that distort these markets and deliver a sub-standard product for telecommunications providers.  We detect this and eliminate it, helping telecommunications companies recover revenues for their shareholders and reducing the amount of illicit money being siphoned off into criminal activity. 

The problem is that there are a very small number of companies that we could help in the EU, much less in the UK.  The business model simply does not stack up until you embrace business with the entire world.  Since 1999 we have traded in more than 100 countries across every continent and in some of the most hostile and remote territories on planet earth.

In fact, I was in Afghanistan, on a telecommunications consultancy project, when I first came up with the idea to build a solution that could detect and eliminate fraud for telecommunications companies. I had first identified the problem as CEO of a large mobile network in Pakistan.  We were losing revenues to fraudsters and I wanted the money back.  It was when I saw the same issue in Afghanistan that I realised it was a global problem.

Like so many start-ups, I built the prototype in a garage and worked with a major operator for six months free of charge to prove the solution. Since then the company has worked in South America, Africa and Asia.  Perhaps surprisingly we do little business in the USA, the EU and the UK.  We are a small business that uses technology to trade globally.  Even today there are less than 10 full time employees yet we are trading in more than 60% of countries in the world.

There are challenges of working globally - I am frequently on calls at 4am or 10pm with various parts of the world.  However, I challenge anyone to argue that it is not possible to globalise quickly and effectively in the digital age.  Websites and social media have globalised marketing.  Cloud computing has completely changed the way we deliver reporting and feedback to clients around the world.  I also find a vast number of people use Skype, so that becomes my default mode of communication.

I have worked in some of the most dangerous countries in the world: Afghanistan; Pakistan Iran; Haiti and Sudan.  Yet I have never felt under threat.  In fact, my most negative business travel experience was being robbed in Barcelona during a telecoms event.  I have found that by planning a trip in advance, arranging to meet relevant people, being respectful to local business practices and embracing the local culture go a very long way.

Last year I spent time in Cameroon.  Unknown to me the Minister for Finance wanted to meet me to discuss how the country could generate better revenues from reducing fraud in telecommunications networks.  The meeting escalated into a full presentation to a Parliament committee.  At the end of the meeting I was told the Prime Minister of Cameroon wanted to meet me later in the day.  My flight was due to leave so incredibly, after the meeting, the Prime Minister lent me his motorcade to get me to the airport on time.  It is impossible to know how or when something like that will happen but it is not the first time I have experienced something incredibly privileged when on global business travel.

Often companies are concerned as to whether they will get paid for work overseas.  In my experience, just because a country is perceived as developing has no impact on a business’ ability to pay.  In many countries, custom ensures that the loss of face not paying a customer would be too shameful.  Sometime I wish many of my local customers had similar customs!

In 2012 Revector was one of only four companies in the UK to win two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: one for Innovation and one for International Trade.  This was an incredible boost to our business.  Around the world these awards are the most prestigious awards that a company can receive and the reaction to this news was sensational.  It really provided the company with a mark of credibility and reliability. 

Of course, every business is different but I have only positive experiences of global business.  It has generated the majority of our company revenues as well as providing me with a wealth of memorable business and personal experiences.  The tools are truly available in a digital age to do business globally for any size of company.

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