4 keys to building your international business

MCR LLC wants to expand its international business, and its strategy offers four lessons that any company looking to grow globally would be smart to follow.

We’re used to companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman talk about the importance of growing their international business.

Both companies have made investments around the world as a means to offset contraction and slower growth in the United States.

But going global doesn’t have to be just a play by the big boys. I recently spoke with Neil Albert, vice chairman of MCR LLC, a mid-size company with about 600 employees. International growth will play a critical role in the growth of the company as it looks for new clients for its integrated program management offerings.

Here’s a rundown of how they plan to do it.

Building from their base

For several years, MCR has been helping NATO through contracts with the Defense Department and the Air Force. Now, it is beginning to win work directly with the defense agencies of NATO countries, providing engineering services and cost and financial analysis services.

“We’re helping with a lot of downsizing, so they can analyze where they need to put their people and their resources,” Albert said.

Many of the services they provide to U.S. clients in the area of planning and acquisition support also translate to international customers, in both defense and civilian agencies. “That’s our core competency,” he said.

Some of their early success includes work with the Eurocontrol, which is the European agency focused on safe air navigation, and the European Space Agency. The company also has worked with the U.K. Ministry of Defence Cost Assurance and Analysis Service, the Korean National Defense University and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Building partnerships

Currently, MCR only has about 15 employees based outside of the United States, so the company has a lot of subcontractors. “The NATO component countries like to see companies based in their countries on the team,” Albert said.

But as MCR’s foothold grows, it’ll hire more of its own employees.

Building its reputation

Working with a variety of partners, both as the prime and the subcontractor, is important for building a reputation. MCR has partnered with much larger companies such as QinetiQ.

The company also participates in associations and professional conferences in Europe to raise its profile.
The conferences also are a good way to gather intelligence on upcoming opportunities, Albert said.

Help on the home front

MCR has gets about 8 percent of its revenue from international customers and Albert said he’d like to see that number grow to 20 percent to 30 percent over the next five to 10 years.

The McLean, Va.-based company was recently tapped by Virginia Economic Development Partnership to participate in its two-year Virginia Leaders in Export Trade program.

The program will help MCR in several ways including navigating the myriad banking, legal and regulatory requirements of doing business in other countries. Some of these are U.S. requirements such as International Traffic in Arms Regulations, known as ITAR, and other export regulations. Individual countries also will have their own regulations, Albert said.

“They’ll help on those and provide advice and support,” Albert said.

The program, known as VALET, also will help with business development efforts, and MCR might have the opportunity to participate in trade missions.

“The program should really help with our long-term success,” he said.