Eero Tohver: 3 Key Things we Keep in Mind When Expanding Uptime

Uptime has now been in business for over 30 years and in that time we have looked beyond our original home market of Estonia. Over the years we have expanded to Poland, Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland, and on top of all that increased our presence in Estonia. 

Eero Tohver, Uptime’s CEO, notes in this blog post that while the first steps in our expansion story were marked by failure – in Finland, for example – then by now we have developed a clear understanding and strategy of how to grow in a way that benefits everyone. While with our first attempts to expand, we tried to do everything on our own, we have now realized that it makes more sense to take a different approach.

So, how do we set our expansion plans today, what do we keep in mind, and what has been the key behind sustained growth, that benefits all parties involved?

Nothing beats local knowledge

While in our first attempts to expand, we tried to build everything from the ground up ourselves, we have now realized that if you can come to an agreement with someone already operating in the local market, it is worth doing so. That’s why we’re focused on finding common ground with existing businesses, trying to see if we can be useful to each other. In the end, this approach is a win-win situation: we can support the new team with our resources, knowledge, and a broad contact base, while at the same time bringing in a team with extensive market knowledge, an existing client base, and unique skills that we may not have had today.

With this approach, we have entered both the Danish and Norwegian markets, acquired a majority stake in two companies in Poland, and expanded in Estonia. We first implemented this approach in 2015, and can see that everything is working exactly as planned – the teams that have joined us have been reinvigorated with additional knowledge and resources, and the group as a whole has grown in size and strength, enabling us to provide services to larger clients whose anticipated workloads would have been impossible to manage without a larget foothold.

It’s a people business

When we’re looking for a new company to join the Uptime group, it’s obviously important that it’d be a financially rational decision. For us, it is important to see that we could grow the new business together more than either party could individually. More important than plans and numbers, however, is that both parties share similar values and ambitions.

That’s why we put a lot of emphasis in the negotiations phase on what the future could look like. The key for us is to understand whether we can strive towards the same goals and whether there is a critical common ground and ambition to deliver something excellent. We know what we’re trying to achieve and what our values are – if these core components don’t match, there’s not much hope for a silver lining.

IT is a people business. Human relationships determine how successful working together can be, and what potential problem areas need to be prevented. We make a conscious effort to find the right match.

Leaders must be able to lead

Part of Uptime’s expansion philosophy is to allow the experts of a specific market to be the experts there. This means that when a new company joins the group, we don’t want to dictate how they should operate. Rather, our aim is to give them all the support they need, to provide them with advice and guidance, and to help them set clear goals that will allow them to grow and succeed.

Just as Uptime’s managers do not micromanage every employee, the head office does not constantly try to interfere in the work of local markets. Of course, it is important to have the right direction and to be supportive of the other companies in the group, but that is largely where things stop. Exactly who to take on as a client, exactly what services to provide, how to build the team, and how to work is up to each country manager to decide. If necessary, we can share lessons learned from the past and point to what worked well and what didn’t, but final decisions are made on the ground.

While some best practices are universal, each market is slightly different. It is naive to think that someone in Estonia, Denmark, or Poland knows better than the locals how to do business in the Netherlands, Germany, or Bulgaria. If we believed that, the most sensible thing to do would be to start building a business from scratch everywhere – but actual experience has shown that experts in their market know their market the best. That is why it makes sense that the final decisions are in the hands of leaders on the ground.

We are always on the lookout for new and exciting companies to work with. Want to talk? Feel free to get in touch!

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