LONDON, U.K. – Stuart Wheldon is taking English lessons.
He’s Canadian, so the language itself isn’t an issue, but he recently located to the U.K. to establish a London office for his Toronto-based software firm Eloqua Corp. and he’s learning what it takes to do business here.
“In reality, Canada isn’t that far away, but it is an ocean away. Culturally, although we speak the same language, it is very different,” explained Wheldon, Eloqua’s director of client services, who was actually born in the U.K. but moved to Canada as a child.
Now that he’s back, he’s discovered that Europeans have a somewhat different outlook. “They love face to face communication. In Toronto, when you have a customer in San Francisco, you just jump online and share a PowerPoint presentation,” he said. “That’s perfectly fine. But over here, it’s ‘Let’s meet. Let’s talk. Let’s do business.’”
London is the first overseas outpost for Eloqua and a means to service existing customers in Europe and discover new ones. ITBusiness.ca recently met with Wheldon in his new London home to talk about European prospects and the process behind the transatlantic move.
ITBusiness.ca: What kind of software does Eloqua make?
Stuart Wheldon: We position ourselves as a demand generation platform. We’re basically tracking every step from contact to close and then through our analytics, prioritizing all this data so that we can pass it into a company’s CRM system.
ITB: Why the interest in Europe?
SW: It actually happened quite quickly (after) maybe six or eight months of discussions. There were a number of factors. Our enterprise base is growing quite quickly, so there’s a need to service our customers globally. That was a growing request. At the same time, we were getting an increased demand from Europe for our products and services. It made sense. We could have said, “That’s it, we’re going to go to the U.K. full tilt, invest a lot of money, hire a bunch of people,” but we decided instead on a more conservative approach. I came over to set up infrastructure. We’re very committed to the U.K. market and the European market, but coming over here we’re setting up our infrastructure in a way that makes sense – to keep in very close contact with our Toronto office and grow our (London office) as our sales and needs dictate. We just brought on a U.K. sales director, who started this week.
ITB: Why were you chosen to set up the London office?
SW: I’ve been with Eloqua for about four years. Back then we were a little smaller. I actually came on board as their first solutions manager. I’d been running our support team for a while and dealing with a lot of our global customers. The CEO had been discussing the idea (of moving) because we were definitely getting the request more and more. The sales people were getting the same questions: “Do you have regional offices to support us in a global deal?” To honest, being a British citizen, it’s an easy move for me. (Wheldon holds both Canadian and U.K. citizenships.) For me, personally, it made it a bit of an easier decision. And, of course, it’s a fantastic opportunity. I mean, why not?
ITB: Is it also an move that will improve the company’s image?
SW: As a company, we’re software and services. I don’t see us having a large base here. We would keep as much as we can in Toronto such as technical support, some of the service resource requirements. However, due to the nature of the way we sell services, there’s a lot of face time required. It makes sense to have what we call solutions managers on the ground within the time zone and work with (customers) to make sure they’re getting the most of the system. Europe in general is a huge market. We’ll focus on the U.K. first – it’s a huge market after the U.S. in terms of technology. Then we’ll grow into Europe, probably through Scandinavia, then Germany, France, Spain.
ITB: Do you have any customers in Europe?
SW: There’s Axios Systems in Edinburgh. But primarily, the London office is to service the European arms of our global customers – Sybase, Seagate, Nokia.
ITB: What are the advantages of setting up shop in London?
I would say one of the things that makes it an easier decision to move to London is there’s no language barrier. Between Canada and the U.K. there’s lots of good trade agreements, so it’s quite easy to set up your organization quickly and efficiently. There’s a lot of services between the Canadian and British governments where they offload a lot of the operational services such as finding office space, finding a lawyer, finding an accountant. They’re great services I would recommend to any company.
ITB: Are there any cultural barriers to overcome when dealing with the European market?
SW: There’s issues that you need to resolve when you go into continental Europe, such as language. With global companies, it’s not as much of an issue. Typically if you bring on a U.S. company that’s global, most of the time all these people you would deal with around Europe speak English relatively well. Our software is designed to handle all languages – whether it’s Mandarin or German – however the interface is English. To date language has not been a problem, but these are things that we have to think about as we move into the other European markets where English is not the primary language.
ITB: Does moving to a different country expand the number of partnerships you can form with other companies?
SW: Sure. Absolutely. What we’ve done is maintain some of the existing partnerships and relationships we had in North America and expanded them over here. At the same time, there’s new companies that offer various services that can utilize our product and services to help expand their business that we wouldn’t have necessarily dealt with if we had stayed in North America.
ITB: Do you see other Canadian software companies making the move that you’ve done?
SW: Definitely. When I was dealing with the British High Commission (in Toronto) when we started looking into this, I think they told me there was already more than 700 Canadian companies investing in the U.K., which I believe is second to the U.S. To be honest, I had no idea at the time.
ITB: Do you have to do a lot of software localization for European customers?
SW: It depends on the size of the customer. With a Fortune 500 customer, because they’re so large, they would have very specific processes for that particular region or country. There would be more localization or configuration of the product to allow them to make standard decisions for the regions. Whereas in a smaller company that might have field offices over here or in other regions, there would be less localization. It would be more about providing them with the tools so they have what they need to execute
ITB: Are Europeans facing any different technology issues?
SW: Talking to decision-makers over here, they’re all facing the same issues that we found in North America. But they tend to lag in technology adoption a little bit, which is exciting for us because we’ve grown immensely over the last 12 months and so has our understanding of how to best apply technology. So to come here, we’ve got that knowledge that we can apply straight away.
One thing that we’ve found is that the pace of business is a bit slower. They take a little longer to make decisions on things. You could come back 12 months from now and I could tell you it’s the same. Europe is definitely more conservative than the U.S. I think Canada falls a little bit in-between. They like to make sure they’re making the right decision.