Expanding Your Business to The UK

Starting a business today requires little more than a strong coffee and a laptop, but expanding abroad can be a particularly challenging proposition.

Starting a business is like cultivating a crop garden; planting the seeds is the easy part, growing it is where the challenges lie. This is particularly candid for those considering the move into new, international markets.

business expansion to UK
photo credit: Vaughan Leiberum

Great Britain is among the best locations for businesses in the US to expand into, thanks to the highly compatible culture and language, and an economic environment that fosters entrepreneurialism. If your start-up has found its feet stateside, it may be time to look into branching out over the Atlantic.

In a digital age of social interconnectivity not only are there business ideas aplenty, but there is also an ecosystem enabling ideas to take off. Coffee house culture and wireless capabilities allow people to work flexibly and remotely, and there is now a range of services geared towards micro-businesses in order to fuel the underbelly of Britain’s corporate world.

According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills‘ business population estimates for 2012, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are popping up at a considerable pace. There are more than 3.5 million sole proprietorships, one million micro-businesses and 167,670 SMEs. These businesses employ an estimated 23.9 million people and have a massive £3,100 billion in annual turnover combined, accounting for 99.9 per cent of all private sector businesses, 59.1 per cent of private sector employment and 48.8 per cent of private sector turnover.

Most entrepreneurially-minded people will have at least one good business idea in their lifetime, but running with a plan that could potentially disrupt a market is easier said than done. Financial requirements and tax and regulatory compliance can quickly divert the owner’s attention away from being innovative and towards running a business, which is an entirely different concept altogether.

But life in the corporate world doesn’t have to be as rigid as it first seems. As micro-businesses become a bigger part of the corporate world, services to support seed companies, especially those expanding from overseas, have become more commonplace. Here are a few areas where flexibility could help nurture your business.

Embracing flexibility


Starting a business is a strange mix of ambition and reality. On the one side, there is an entrepreneurial spirit and vigor for the product or service, but on the other, there are the trials and tribulations of making that idea grow in the business world.

Being flexible in terms of expectations is key to getting the business off the ground. With a range of services available to start-ups and a new micro-climate now geared towards the sector, taking an idea and growing it into a fully fledged corporate has never been easier.

Office space

Traditionally office space was leased on a contractual basis over a number of months, usually years. However, new office space providers have liberated the market of fixed-term contracts and instead offered services that allow your business to grow at its own pace. This is especially important for US businesses looking to expand to the UK who may not want to risk committing themselves to a long-term contract. With office space, virtual offices and secretarial services, companies such as Your City Office foster young businesses by cutting costs without impacting processes.

Administrative help

Coffee house culture has many benefits for businesses, particularly from a cost perspective, but it also has its drawbacks. Without a permanent address or secretarial services, companies dealing with your business are projected an entity that is less professional than established corporates. Thankfully, there are services which can give start-ups the best of both worlds. Virtual office packages, for instance, allow you to trade as a well established, fully functioning business with an address, a dedicated phone number with live phone answering and a dedicated fax number. This is invaluable to companies based in the US as they can establish a physical office at a real location before making the big step to move across the pond.

Alternative financing

Since the financial crisis, overdrafts and bank loans have become less relied upon and in their place a new wave of alternative financing methods has emerged. Crowdfunding – online portals where companies stake equity to a ‘crowd’ in return for investment – is proving to be a particularly innovative way of funding start-ups. According to Nesta, crowdfunding raised US$1.5 billion for businesses in 2011, and in 2012 one project raised over US$1 million, highlighting appetite from both an investor and business perspective.


Business expansion – to the UK or any other locations – is challenging. Every aspects of your business need to be able to accommodate and facilitate your business in the new location – not mentioning the culture shift, the new market, and so on. One of the ways to accommodate those is by embracing flexibility.

When you and your business have adapted, you are one step closer to success.

About the Author: This article is written by Nick Brahannin