Richard Hunt, founder of British firm Turnkey Consulting, talks about establishing its first overseas office in Sydney, which has served as a launch pad for expansion into Asia
Australia is home to more British expats than any other country: 1.2 million at the last estimate. Back in the early noughties, Richard Hunt had been one of them, bringing his expertise in SAP software to organisations such as New South Wales Police Force and Melbourne-based mining giant BHP.
After he started his own venture in the UK in 2004, Turnkey Consulting, he had only one destination in mind when it came to expanding the business overseas.
“Having worked in Australia before, I realised that its market for SAP consulting was much like the UK’s,” he recalls. “Both countries have very similar legal and financial systems too. There was no reason why we couldn’t be just as successful over there.”
In 2007 Hunt duly appointed an Australian ex-colleague to start the firm’s operations in Sydney. “We left him to grow his own team locally,” he says. “We already had local contacts: people whom he’d worked with in the city.”
Turnkey started out in Regus-style serviced offices in Sydney, as the consultancy did most of its work on clients’ premises. Eventually it established a base in the central business district and added a second office in Melbourne in 2011.
Between them, the two offices now employ 12 members of staff. Their clients include Woolworths Australia (which has the lion’s share of the nation’s grocery market), New South Wales Police Force and Melbourne’s Monash University.
Business has been robust in recent years, with the Australian operation enjoying year-on-year growth of 50 per cent. “We’ve had a rapid ramp-up,” Hunt says. “A couple of competitors emerged in our first few years, but we’ve managed to outpace these as we’ve grown.”
Turnkey’s presence in Australia has also helped it to expand into East Asia. After working on consultancy projects for oil companies in the region, the firm was able to set up shop in Malaysia in 2013 and Singapore the following year.
The distance between the UK and Australia hasn’t dissuaded Hunt – a Chartered Director – from putting his Australian directors through IoD training courses.
“Stamping your firm’s culture on a business so far away is challenging,” he says. “But the cultural similarities between the UK and Australia are an upside. It’s definitely been symbiotic to have a business over there.”
While many British business leaders bemoan the relatively high cost of employment in Australia, Hunt recommends “adapting your business model to the wages. The cost of your service to clients should incorporate these costs. I don’t think you should be afraid to pay for the right people to join you.”
He also notes that employees are keen to transfer between the two countries. “Quite a few Australians want to come to the UK and vice versa. A lot of people going back and forth creates a nice cross-pollinating experience. Such interchanges won’t be too disruptive lifestyle-wise.”
Richard Hunt is a member of IoD London
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