“Local contacts and expertise are crucial for international success”

Aargau-based Coresystems was founded in 2006 and has since grown into a leading provider of mobile and cloud-based software solutions in the field service management and workforce management segments. In the following interview, founder and CEO Manuel Grenacher explains what role internationalization can play in business success.

Manuel Grenacher: “We in the IT and software industry are definitely sensing a trend towards more protectionism.”
Manuel Grenacher: “We in the IT and software industry are definitely sensing a trend towards more protectionism.”

Manuel Grenacher, Coresystems AG is an international operation with offices in San Francisco, Miami, Berlin, Fribourg, Shanghai, Sao Paulo and London. Taking a look back to the beginning, has it become more difficult to grow internationally?
On the contrary, international growth has become even easier. Thanks to professional social networks such as LinkedIn, we are more connected to than ever before and better able to make and maintain business contacts. Furthermore, employees with international experience are bringing with them a wealth of knowledge; this knowledge expands a company’s prowess and thus helps it to grow. Whether these energies are unleashed depends on how open to internationalization the respective company is.

Are you noticing a trend towards more protectionism above and beyond the political debates, and more specifically in the IT and software business?
We in the IT and software industry are definitely sensing a trend towards more protectionism. The issue of data protection has spread panic in many companies, especially since the EU General Data Protection Regulation came into force. Small companies and startups are under particularly high pressure because they have to meet the same requirements as corporations, but do not handle such large amounts of data. The costs of the required technology and employee training are also considerable and constitute an additional burden.

Have you ever decided against approaching a new market because the barriers to market entry seemed insurmountable?
We haven’t yet decided against entering a new market. Even in difficult markets, such as China or Brazil, we have grown together with our customers.

Which countries do you consider present more challenges when it comes to market entry formalities and other local regulations?
We know from experience that entering the Brazilian or Chinese market is very challenging. That's why we at Coresystems place out trust in local contacts who know the market and have the skills and expertise to work with local authorities. We also work with organizations such as Switzerland Global Enterprise to help us gain a foothold in international markets.

What should a company do when it wants to tackle a new market or take the next growth step in this market? What is the first thing to clarify? Which experts do you work with?
Cultivating a new market is an important strategic step and requires thoughtful planning. Gaining knowledge of the respective local conditions is particularly important. This is why we work with experts in the respective country during each expansion; for us, possessing the necessary expertise is just as important as presiding over an extensive network. At the same time, it has proven useful to first penetrate markets where we already successfully work with customers. This enables us to lay the foundations for further growth. Only then do we actively open for business.

Do you use free trade agreements, and how important are they for you?
We’ve thus far not made use of any free trade agreements. They’re not very important for us because we’re an IT company and we don’t export goods.

What would be your main tips for SMEs – who typically have fewer resources for foreign projects – when it comes to growing internationally?
I recommend small and medium-sized companies to hire employees with an international background, whether this be based on their place of origin or previous positions. In the best case, these employees have already worked in an international company. A new employer can then benefit from these employees’ business relationships in individual countries and expand the business together with local experts. In some cases, however, such as in the US, it is advisable for the CEO to be in the location and establish the business themselves. Otherwise, entry into this market will be difficult to manage. In my view, business development companies are only necessary if companies don’t have any local partners to help them enter the market.

What do you think will gain the upper hand in the future: Globalization, supported by new technologies and the growing, affluent middle class in the emerging markets of Asia, Africa and Latin America? Or protectionism? Will that take on a more dominant role?
I’m convinced that new technologies will gain the upper hand because people value comfort over privacy. A good example of this is Google Maps: the application can guide us through the streets in real time and calculate routes in advance. However, we are prepared to give up our privacy and willingly offer up our data for this benefit. It is up to each individual to choose: do I protect my privacy, or do I take advantage of the full level of comfort offered by technology? Of course, both have their advantages and disadvantages. While there’s hardly anywhere you can sign up today without having to give away your data, there’s always a high risk that this data will be abused. Therefore, it is even more important for the market to establish security concepts.

About Manuel Grenacher

Manuel Grenacher is an entrepreneur whose vision it is to revolutionize customer service with crowd technology. The IT engineering graduate brought Coresystems to life together with three fellow students in 2006.

About Coresystems AG

With 160 employees worldwide, Coresystems is now one of the fastest growing developers of cloud applications in Switzerland. More than 155,000 users around the world currently use the company's products to optimize their field sales management. Customers include small, medium and large national and international companies.

Aussenwirtschaftsforum 2018

Wie kann Ihr Unternehmen im Spannungsfeld zwischen Globalisierung und Protektionismus wachsen? Tauschen Sie sich am Aussenwirtschaftsforum mit 600 teilnehmenden KMU und Experten aus, hören Sie spannende Referate zum internationalen Wachstum und nutzen Sie die Chance, Ihre Ideen und Strategien für den Export mit unseren Beratern und Experten aus allen Weltregionen zu besprechen. 
Aussenwirtschaftsforum: 26. Apriil 2018, Messe Zürich




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