Member of the Month

"We need to create a kind of Amazon for Swiss products"

Member of the month December 2020 – UFirst Group

S-GE supported UFirst Group in the evaluation of a foreign branch. Thanks to the large network and trusted local partners, the company was able to make the right decisions. UFirst Group has been developing e-commerce portals and customized software products since 2010. CEO Patrick Petzold gives us insights into international business and shows us which export markets are the most important.

UFirst Group
UFirst Group helps its customers to become digital pioneers and to respond quickly and dynamically to market changes by consistently embracing agile processes and mindsets.

UFirst Group's Service Design department supports its customers in brainstorming, constructing or testing prototypes or finished software components. Its design teams digitally enhance brands and create design systems that cover all common device representations and are sustainable, i.e. easy to maintain and integrate into software. UFirst Group supports its clients throughout the entire process: from brainstorming, planning, design and production to maintenance and operation.

Mr. Petzold, what are your most important export markets?
Our export markets are those of our customers. And they mainly supply the European and US markets. But our core business is clearly supporting our customers in the digitization of their processes. This also includes the trade with products at home and abroad.

What surprises have you already encountered in the export business? 
We are struggling with data protection regulations, which are both a curse and a blessing. Some of the laws are a bit difficult to comply with without sacrificing a lot of benefits for the user. The interpretation is also not always clear. It’s about finding the right balance. Furthermore, especially in the B2C area, consumer protection regulations are quite different and thus complicate the logic on which the systems must be based. We are actually very fond of complexity, but this alone will not automatically enable us to achieve our goal of creating or increasing value. I also find the differences in user behavior worldwide interesting: cultural or market-specific behavior can be seen and felt much more quickly as a result of digitalization, and we can learn a great deal very quickly.

Where do you see your export opportunities for the future? 
Switzerland’s reputation for quality and design is good to very good, but Swiss producers are not yet often directly active on the market. Some of them lack the courage or the willingness to use direct sales channels. In addition, in some cases the brands or manufacturers are unable to manage or even establish direct sales. I therefore see a great opportunity if the manufacturers and brands were to work together to build up a marketplace. We need to create a kind of Amazon for Swiss products that showcases Swiss values. 

To what extent has S-GE helped you succeed?
We approached S-GE to see if it made sense to set up an office in Spain or Portugal and to examine possible hurdles and opportunities. We had a plethora of questions about employers' rights and obligations, how to set up a business and also how to choose the right location. S-GE was able to show us our strengths and weaknesses and put us in contact with companies that have solved similar problems. We benefited from a large network and were able to rely on entering into trustworthy partnerships offering good value for money. We felt excellently supported.

What do you particularly appreciate about S-GE's consulting and organized business trips?
The insight into regional developments and the local roots. Making a choice on paper is one thing. Visiting a place or region in advance to experience the mentality of the people and the attitude to life 1:1 is the other. And it helps immensely. Sure, the time was short and the program was intensive. But it helped us to make the right decisions. The follow-up is also excellent.

We would recommend every business that doesn't yet know its desired region well to take advantage of this offer.

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