There is a strong business benefit in being able to project you business across the globe. By lifting geographical boundaries, you open up new markets and can take advantage of new opportunities that previously may have never existed for you. Turning your business into a global brand is certainly worthwhile, but you need to make sure you do so in as safe and secure a manner as possible.
The internet is a wonderful tool for selling products abroad but it isn’t always the best method for opening up a new market. Often you will need to go to the target country or send your employees – for example, to meet with potential buyers or to assess suppliers.
Often this can be an exciting opportunity to experience new cultures and discover avenues for your business. As such, if your circumstances support it, you should take full advantage of what this offers.
However, as with all things, you need to be fully aware of the security implications – and possible risks – that this activity entails. If it is an employee you are sending you have an obvious duty of care, but even if you are going yourself then you need to remember that if anything happens to you, your business will suffer.
Before this sounds worrying, keep in mind that millions of people travel across the globe every week and very few endure a security incident as part of the process. While every country is different, it is simply a matter of doing some planning and taking sensible measures in-country to minimise your chances of becoming one of the few victims.
As with most things, the first step is carry out a security risk assessment of the country you are travelling do. This is very important – there are obvious differences between going to a formal meeting in the centre of Berlin and visiting a housing development in El Salvador. The output of this stage will help steer you over deciding if it is better to send someone or use a local contact.
Once you have decided the business justification exists and outweighs any obvious risks, the next stage is to run through some common sense planning stages:
- Local knowledge. Ensure that whoever is travelling is fully aware of any issues in the country they are visiting – the FCO website is a useful resource for this.
- Money. Make sure you have some form of payment that is acceptable in the country. A credit card specific for the business trip is specific and unless absolutely necessary only the bare minimum of cash should be carried.
- Technology. If IT or business data is to be taken make sure this doesn’t breach any legislation in the country you are going to. Halkyn Security Consulting always recommends whole disk encryption but this is prohibited by some governments.
- Stay in contact. If its an employee going abroad then make sure you have at least two ways of contacting (eg. a mobile / cell phone and a landline number in-country) them and establish a schedule when you will make contact. If you are going, then make sure people back home know where you will be and arrange for regular calls-home to reassure people.
- Insurance. Make sure your insurance policy covers the trip and that there are provisions to cover predictable risks such as airline failure. If you are going to an area where kidnapping is a significant risk then see if this is covered as the costs can spiral.
- Travel. If at all possible, arrange all travel plans before you go but remember that there will always be unexpected situations. Unless you (or your employees) are going somewhere well known, then it can be better (and less stressful) to arrange executive transport services rather than rely on driving around local roads or using local taxis / buses etc.
- Specialist Advice. If you are going off the beaten track, or the area you are going to is one of increased risk, then it makes sense to get specialist security advice from a Security Consultancy (this is a service that Halkyn Consulting provides). This will allow you to discuss all your options with security professionals and get advice on cost effective mitigation measures.
In summary – travel abroad is a fun and exciting way to expand your business horizons, it can be rewarding to employees (if used sensibly) and can create new opportunities for you to expand into. However, with all things there are risks and it is sensible to take reasonable measures to ensure you can maximise the benefits with minimum risks to your (or your employees) safety.