Bringing Your Brand Abroad: 4 Steps to Going Global
Eric Bershad started Phillip Jeffries, a wall coverings company, in the early 1970’s with less than $5,000 in his pocket and three cases of Japanese grass cloth. Today, the international wall covering business makes frequent appearances on Bravo TV’s Million Dollar Decorators.
Based in Fairfield, New Jersey, the business has stayed in the family for nearly 40 years, and is now run by with Eric’s two sons, Philip and Jeffrey, running Phillip Jeffries Ltd., which sells more than 1,100 natural wall coverings from all over the world.
Approximately 10 years ago, Philip and Jeffrey joined Vistage. They were keen to grow the family business—and one core focus is the international market. Phillip Jeffries ultimately launched its London showroom in 2014, and has learned quite a few things on the way. According to Philip and Jeffrey, there are four steps to follow before going global with your business:
1: Hone in on the right location.
As a luxury brand, Phillip Jeffries wanted to find the right marketplace abroad. Initially the company considered a less focused approach based on tradeshows, leads and inquiries etc., but then settled on more developed markets. The family business liked the idea of Western Europe, specifically the UK, which has rich a history of decorating (and appreciation for luxury goods).
Phillip Jeffries also had a longtime partner in the UK; another reason to start their global empire there and expand throughout Europe.
2: Do your due diligence/research.
International expansion can reveal a new set of challenges for any business—including legal and language barriers, and limited access to human resources and raw material. For Phillip Jeffries, there were many “a-has” along the way: for example with tax implications, different rules for transport.
Philip advises: Consider a partner in your international expansion. You want someone who can help you get your feet acclimated to a new environment.
3: Stay true to who you are.
Over a span of several decades, Philip and Jeffrey’s business continues to be the industry leader in grass cloth wall coverings. They also have a deep belief in conscious capitalism.
“We’ve created at Phillip Jeffries this great and worthy purpose, something bigger than ourselves where we’re including win-wins for our employees, our vendors, the community, the environment and at the same time we’re trying to double our business in the next three to four years,” said Philip.
So with any expansion, Philip and Jeffrey have worked to keep those some values engaged, with a core focus on a nurturing culture.
4: Have a peer group in place to help guide your expansion.
With the right support system in place, you can stop thinking in the day-to-day, and start looking at the bigger picture of your business—including international expansion. For Philip and Jeffrey, Vistage provides much of that guidance.
“When I started the company there were eight of us including three family members. Today we’re 80 people,” says Jeffrey.
“We’ve grown our revenues more than 10 times when we started in Vistage and it’s become a more fun, dynamic, amazing place to work. Vistage has been a great incubator of new ideas, and really allowed us to continue to scale the walls in front of us to continue to grow our company.”