Key factors of choosing the right mentor and coach

Choosing a great business mentor and coach is a critical decision that can significantly impact your professional growth and success. 
Here are key factors to consider when selecting the right mentor and coach for your business journey:
First: Assess their experience and expertise. Look for someone with a proven track record in your industry or a related field. Their practical insights, knowledge, and successes can provide invaluable guidance as you navigate challenges and opportunities.  
Second: Compatibility and rapport matter. A strong mentor-mentee relationship is built on trust, respect, and effective communication. Seek someone whose values align with yours, and with whom you feel comfortable discussing your goals and challenges openly.
Third: Consider their coaching style. Determine if their approach aligns with your learning preferences. Some mentors are hands-on and provide specific instructions, while others encourage self-discovery and offer guidance through probing questions.
Fourth: Seek feedback and recommendations. Reach out to others who have worked with the potential mentor or coach. Their experiences can shed light on the impact and effectiveness of the mentoring relationship.
Fifth: Availability and commitment are crucial. Ensure the mentor or coach has the time and willingness to invest in your development. Regular and meaningful interactions are vital for ongoing learning and growth.
Sixth: Evaluate their ability to provide constructive criticism. A great mentor offers not only praise but also challenges you to improve. Constructive feedback helps you identify areas for growth and development.
Consider their network. A well-connected mentor can introduce you to valuable contacts, potential clients, or partners. A strong network can accelerate your business’s growth and increase your opportunities.
Eighth: Assess their adaptability. The business landscape evolves rapidly. Look for a mentor who stays updated with industry trends and can guide you through changing dynamics.
Ninth: Clarify expectations. Discuss your goals and what you hope to achieve through the mentoring relationship. A clear understanding of expectations ensures both parties are aligned and committed.
Tenth: Be open to diversity. A mentor from a different background or perspective can offer fresh insights and challenge your assumptions, fostering innovation and creativity.
In Conclusion: Selecting a great business mentor and coach involves careful consideration of their experience, compatibility, coaching style, feedback, availability, willingness to challenge, network, adaptability, and shared expectations. A well-chosen mentor can offer guidance, inspiration, and support as you navigate the complexities of entrepreneurship and business growth.

Mark Wilcox MEng, Dip. Psy, CMktr, FCIM, FISM    
Business Set Up   
Managing Director                                                         
Telephone: 02920 666605
Mobile: 07775 825248

The Hidden Secrets of Building and Growing Business in Hungary

Written by Steven Paul  CEO, Kirra Advisory Ltd

Hungary enjoys a particularly strategic location in Central Europe. The country poses attractive business opportunities for international trade and small medium businesses or established corporates, thanks to its export-driven and open economy, which has been on a fast track to growth in recent years. Based on numerous sources Susanna Toth and Steven Paul of the Hungarian British Business Alliance (HBBA) shares a renewed perspective for firms wanting to explore or grow their businesses in the markets, and an outlook for 2023 and beyond.

Why is Hungary Important for International Business?

Foreigners doing business in Hungary will benefit from the educated and skilled workforce and business culture, which is close to that of Western countries.

Like many countries in the Europe, Hungary transitioned from a centrally-planned socialist economy to a market economy after the fall of communism in 1989 and has been a member of the European Union since 2004. The capital city, Budapest, hosts offices of many multinational companies, including Microsoft, Pfizer, IBM, and Ericsson, and is a center of technology and innovation.

According to Uniworld, Hungary has over 400 wholly-owned US companies, while the government states that US affiliates employ 110,000 Hungarians.

Foreign direct investment in Hungary has helped to improve infrastructure, modernize industries, boost exports, create jobs, and put growth on the fast track. Since 1989, the cumulative FDI stock accounts for more than $98 billion and is focused on key sectors like IT, automotive, agriculture, etc.

To stimulate even more foreign investments, Hungary’s corporate tax is at 9%, making it one of the countries with the lowest corporate tax rates in the European Union.

The country ranks 52nd out of 190 countries when it comes to ease of doing business. It landed the first spot when it came to trading across borders, was the 25th best country for enforcing contracts, and did quite well at registering property as well (DB rank 290.

Unique Features of Doing Business in Hungary

Hungary’s direct investment abroad expanded to $1.6 billion in March 2022. According to Trading Economics, Hungary’s Foreign Direct Investment is forecasted to rise to around 594.05 million Euro in 2023 and 598.26 million Euro in 2024.

Foreign investment has a considerable impact on Hungary’s business environment. As a result, business opportunities in Hungary are rife and quite accommodating to foreigners. Aside from an excellent geopolitical location, Hungary has various benefits to offer.

As a part of Central Europe, Hungary connects Eastern and Western Europe and continues to be a social and economic hub in the region, but also for global interconnection into Europe. The country is at the crossroads of three of Europe’s transport corridors, has the highest motorway traffic in Europe, and has four regional business and three international airports.

The country’s geographical location means it can make morning calls with Asian countries and afternoon calls with the US, which is why it is one of the preferred locations for shared service centers and a perfect place to establish a business hub.

Hungary also has one of the lowest capital requirements in Europe. For a corporation, the minimum capital requirement is 18,000 euros, and for an LLC, this requirement is further reduced to 10,000 euros. To put things in perspective, a joint-stock company in Germany will need a minimum capital requirement of 50,000 euros.

This means businesses will have less of their capital locked up, and it is another great reason to invest in Hungary.

Businesses that are looking to employ talented human workforce at a beneficial cost can do so in Hungary. As of December 2021, the labor force consists of 4.7 million individuals. The country has a low unemployment rate of 3.6%, a minimum wage of 563 euros, and a minimum wage for skilled workers of 732 euros.

Personal income tax is at 15%, and the employee’s contribution is 18.5%. Employers have a social tax rate of 13%, and they can apply for various social tax allowances for certain employees as well.

The country also has an advantageous corporate income tax rate of a flat 9%. There is no withholding tax or requirement for any outbound payments made to foreign business entities. Local businesses may be charged a tax anywhere between 0 to 2%. Dividends are also exempt from corporate income tax unless received from the CFC. Furthermore, it also operates a participation exemption regime for the purpose of capital gain taxation as well as a favorable group taxation regimen. Foreigners may also get the opportunity for VAT-free trading.

Keep in mind, though, that Hungary is not exactly a tax haven. It is a member of the EU, OECD, NATO, and the WTO and offers valid solutions for tax reduction.

As a part of the EU, much of Hungary’s legal business climate is in harmony with European law. The country allows new business entities to be established in various forms, but the most common type is a limited liability company.

In many simple cases, it takes no more than a day or two to register a Hungarian company. The associated costs are considered quite low in the EU. Another benefit of doing business in Hungary is the wide range of incentives offered by the government to increase competitiveness.

Hungary offers a maximum regional aid fund that varies from 30% to 50%. In some cases, the aid may be increased for SMEs. In addition, counties eligible for Just Transition Fund may get an additional aid of 10% if the EU Commission approves of their status.

The government also offers a VIP investment cash subsidy, which is designed to attract investments in the manufacturing and shared service center sectors.

Another major cash subsidy opportunity based on individual government decisions is the Investment Aid Scheme for Large Enterprises, which was created to promote investments in the industrial sector and in storage and warehousing.

Furthermore, businesses may also be eligible for various tax incentives for energy-efficient investment projects as well as subsidies from the EU funds.

Market Challenges in Hungary

Hungary’s regulatory climate can make it a bit more challenging for companies to set up businesses in the country. The value-added tax is at 27% for more products and services, which is the highest rate in the EU. The country is also unfortunately plagued by persistent corruption, which has a big impact on the public sector. Hungary is listed among the top most corrupt EU states. In 2016, the government withdrew from the Open Government Partnership after it refused to address concerns about good governance and transparency.

To start a business in the country, you may have to follow some extra requirements. Companies need to be represented by a lawyer when setting up a business in Hungary. Half of the subscription amount needs to be deposited into the bank amount when subscribing. Plus, the business also needs to submit the Registry Court applications before social security can be set up.

To get a construction permit, a business needs to navigate 26 complex procedures, which take about 102 days. Several inter-governmental departments will carry out inspections before the company can get a statement from the Municipal Planning Committee and a letter from the Tax Authority. After this, the business needs to get the Occupancy permit and finish the registration of the company.

Hungary is also in the bottom 50 countries in the world when it comes to ease of electrical connection. It can take 252 days to complete the entire process.

The country offers cheap trading across borders; however, the procedure can take a long while. Exporting goods can take an average of 17 days and importing goods can take an average of 19 days.

Opportunities in Various Business Sectors in Hungary

Hungary is currently focused on key business sectors, including agriculture, automotive, electronics and ICT, tourism, healthcare, and technology, which have shown to have a lot of impact on its economy.

About 70% of the total land area in Hungary is available for agriculture, while 40% is arable. Prior to its political and economic transition, agriculture accounted for about 17% of the GDP and 22% of the total food exports. Today, agriculture accounts for just 3.3% of the GDP and 7% of the export. Despite the reduction, the Hungarian agriculture sector remains self-sufficient, and export focused.

The country is a leading producer of poppy seeds and the second large producer of foie gras. It also exports wheat, corn, potato, sugar beet, sunflowers, and various fruits. It has several wine countries which produce famous wines and has 33,000 farmers engaged in animal husbandry.

Hungary is one of the preferred destinations for investment in the automotive industry. Major car manufacturers have their plants in Hungary, including General Motors, Suzuki, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Opel.

There are 350 car component manufacturing companies in the country that employ over 100,000 people.

The electronics industry accounts for about 22% of Hungary’s manufacturing production. As the largest electronic manufacturer in Central Europe, the country is responsible for 26% of the region’s electronics manufacturing and directly employs 115,000 people in the industry.

The ICT sector consists of IT, hardware, software, and telecommunication services and is responsible for 10% of the GDP and employs 100,000 people. Today, the country is the leading manufacturer of communication tools and computer assembly. 

Hungary is one of the hottest travel destinations in the world. The tourism sector employs over 150,000 people directly as well as offers indirect jobs related to the media industry.

The country is home to the breathtaking Lake Balton, which brings in one million tourists annually. Budapest is the most visited region in the country, bringing in 3 million tourists each year. 

The country has a well-established and solid healthcare system that is run by the National Healthcare Fund. Pharmaceutical businesses thrive in the country and offer significant contributions to the economy.

As far as technology and AI (artificial intelligence) is concerned, the government is placing significant focus on the ICT sector since the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation momentum in both the private and public sectors.

Currently, software development in Hungary contributes a growing portion to Hungary’s economy and represents about 6% of the total GDP. The country also outsources many IT services within the region with over 80,100 specialists employed in the IT sector.

The country has also implemented IT-friendly policies like offering financial support, assistance, and incentives for R&D that have helped the country bring in multinational tech companies like Microsoft, Nokia, Deloitte, Siemens, TATA, and more that have built their research centers in the country. The country is now seeking to bring IT-related growth to the healthcare, banking, and transportation sector.

The IT spending is expected to grow at 2% throughout 2022 and is driven mostly by increased spending in the public sector.

The hardware sector is expected to be flat through 2023; however, systems integration is forecasted to grow at 2% through 2022 and software at almost 7%. As for artificial intelligence, Hungary has a vision to benefit from the opportunities provided by AI. The country has already established a National AI Laboratory and partnered with Finnish projects to provide 1 million people with basic AI knowledge through several training courses. 

According to Innovation Minister Palkovics, artificial intelligence is expected to contribute 11-14% of Hungary’s GDP by 2030.

Keeping in mind these variations in growth rates in different technology sectors, the Hungarian market offers opportunities in new technology including cyber security, fintech, digitization, machine learning, business acceleration, artificial intelligence, and Industry 4.0 enablement.

A panoramic view of the capital city of Budapest in Hungary

The beautiful panorama over the Danube in Budapest

Outsourcing and Nearshoring Opportunities in Hungary

Although most companies that opt for outsourcing do so to cut costs, finding the perfect location for offshoring is a complex process. Businesses need to find out if the country offers a talented and skilled labor force, has a language barrier and a compatible culture, has expertise in the back office or service sector, business security and intellectual property regulation, and of course, results in cost savings.

Hungary ranks high in all of these aspects. When it comes to cost-cutting, although Hungary may not be able to compete with countries like India in terms of labor cost, it does very well in comparison to Western Europe, the United States, and Canada.

The minimum wage for skilled labor is 732 euros per month and labor productivity is very high in the Central Europe region. Budapest and other university cities have resulted in a new and highly educated generation of Hungarians that are contributing groundbreaking research and innovation to the fields of science and technology. In addition, multinational companies also report that Hungarians are eager to learn and quick to understand.

As such, the country is an offshoring haven for foreign businesses looking for affordable, young, and talented workforce.

In fact, for European countries and particularly Western Europe, it makes more sense to look closer to home when considering outsourcing. Hungary is only within a 2-hour flight of Europe’s major metropolis and capitals and a gateway between Western Europe and the fast-developing economic market in Eastern Europe.

A growing labor shortage in many CEE countries has resulted in Hungary being targeted for nearshoring, which is responsible for the country having the highest share of outsourced IT services in the region.

In recent years, Hungary has seen an influx of significant foreign direct investment, which has encouraged it to rapidly adopt best business practices. Since 2004, when it became a part of the EU, Hungary has witnessed an increase in labor mobility and a stable tax, business, and legal environment.

The country has made heavy investments to build the largest, most extensive motorway network in the Central and Eastern Europe region, which has also resulted in easy access to the country by neighboring states. It has a very technologically aware population and a sophisticated telecommunications infrastructure.

Much of the economic activity is strongly centered around Budapest which has attracted two-third of FDI and one-third of the employed workforce. As such, dozens of companies have chosen to nearshore many of their operations to Hungary.

Opportunities for British Businesses in Hungary

A high-growth business hub, Hungary offers a liberal and modern business environment that offers various opportunities for British companies to set up shop.

Hungary’s economy has become quite liberal, thanks to the injection of FDIs, privatization, and the introduction of commercial laws. The country has a DB rank of 52 and a score of 73.4. The culture of Hungary is similar to the United Kingdom’s, and English is widely spoken, so British companies may find it easy to work with local businesses and partners.

Because of its strategic geographical region, Hungary is a perfect business hub for British companies to expand their footprint in Central and Eastern Europe — the country is a nexus to three major trade pathways. As such, many businesses from across the world have selected Hungary to be their regional center or global office.

The country also has a high rate of education and offers a highly skilled and educated workforce. This makes it particularly advantageous for UK businesses who want to set up shop in the country and need local staff.

UK businesses can reap various opportunities across various sectors, particularly energy and life sciences. The country’s clean energy, renewable energy, and nuclear sector can benefit UK companies. There are also many opportunities in electrical machinery and equipment production. The life science sector also offers opportunities in research and development and supply chain-related services.

Made-in-UK products have a very good reputation in Hungary, particularly when it comes to medical equipment and healthcare. The country imports most of the equipment needed to run its strong healthcare sector, which creates various opportunities for British businesses to offer high-quality products at competitive pricing.

There are a significant number of small and medium biotechnology companies in Hungary, which are showing steady growth. This offers excellent collaboration opportunities to British biotech firms with Hungarian ones.

Setting Up a Foreign Business in Hungary

To set up a Hungarian company, businesses need to register it with the Hungarian Court of Registration. As we mentioned before, the registration process will be represented by a lawyer who will prepare and countersign all corporate paperwork and file the application electronically for registration.

Foreign investors do not have to come to Hungary to sign the relevant documentation. This can be done aboard as well, though the presence of a signatory will be needed to open a bank account of the company.

The business registration process is not too complicated and follows the steps below:

  • The investor will need to decide the company’s name, management, registered office, type and amount of share capital, a person of delivery agent, etc.
  • The lawyer will then prepare your relevant documents, which will include the articles of association and statutory declarations.
  • The corporate documents will need to be signed in front of the Hungarian lawyer or abroad. If signed abroad, notarization or super legalization by the Hungarian embassy certification consular or Apostille will be necessary.
  • Your presence will be required to open a business bank account in Hungary, where the share capital will be placed.
  • The Hungarian lawyer will file the executed and countersigned documents and electronically apply for the company’s registration.
  • The company will be registered by the Court of Registration that will provide the company with the VAT number and statistical number.

The companies will be able to start their business operations as soon as the filing is done, with some restrictions. The registration process will take about 1 to 2 days from the date of the filing.

Businesses can also apply for expedited registration, which may be completed in a week; however, you will need to prepare the articles of associations based on a template without making any additions or deletions.

Registering a general partnership, the limited liability company, and a limited partnership does not require any fee. To register a private company, you will need to pay a duty fee of HUF 100,000 and HUF 50,000 for registering a branch office. Additional charges like statutory publication fees, legalization, translation, and courier fees will also apply. 

Outlook for 2023 And Beyond for Companies Doing Business in Hungary

The economy of Hungary continued to grow rapidly in the first half of 2022 due to the strong fiscal stimulus injected by the government, which resulted in higher consumption and more investment in the public sector. In addition to higher employment rate and income growth, household income was also boosted by one-time income tax rebates and pension and public wage increases during the year.

In the coming years, the labor market will continue to show signs of improvement. In the meanwhile, the high wage growth and currency depreciation may lead to higher inflation as well.

Industries are expected to continue to recover. Industrial production and exports exceeded the pre-pandemic level, resulting in increased business confidence. The labor market has also improved, showing an increase in the employment rate.

Some risks that businesses may continue to encounter are supply chain problems, which can delay the export of goods. On the flip side, a quick recovery is expected from major trading partners in Europe, which can result in growth, considering Hungary’s focus on exports.

If supply chain constraints continue or recovery remains slow due to unforeseen circumstances, it would be worthwhile for Hungary’s government to keep their focus on maintaining its supportive fiscal policies and aid in the rest of 2022 and beyond. Labor taxes can be further reduced by cracking down on tax evasions, broadening the consumption taxes base, or increasing environmental taxes.

Enabling of key sectors such as Hospitality, Tourism, Technology and Innovation, and several other key industries will continue to be a rise, with Hungary becoming one of the hottest hubs for EU regional and global interconnections.  

Creating strategies to decarbonize the economy to meet environmental goals would be another priority. In addition, structural reforms are also needed to increase labor force participation and enhance productivity to improve the potential for growth.

Where to Get Help to Do Business in Hungary?

If you are interested in starting a business in Hungary, you need to get the right information. The Hungarian British Business Alliance and the Institute of Directors can offer assistance to companies seeking to expand their businesses in Hungary. The platforms allow investors to become a part of the community and grow their business by gaining access to tools and resources like information, education, and high-profile networking opportunities in Hungary, the UK, and Central European countries.

Here are how these resources can help businesses:

Consultancy: Offer expert guidance and consultancy services on a variety of business-related topics.

Business Promotion: Offer word-of-mouth, referrals, and members-only events to help SMEs and established businesses grow.

Networking: Offer opportunities to meet with the big names in the industry and form partnerships that can lead to growth.

Workshops: Offer masterclasses, seminars, and workshops on a variety of business, legal, economic, and political matters.

Embassy Access: Provide you access to the Hungarian Embassy in London during classes and presentations.

Susanna Toth, Chairwoman of HBBA

Paul Steven, Economic Advisor of HBBA

About the authors

Susanna Toth is the Founder & Chairwoman of the Hungarian British Business Alliance, and Founder MD of H-Net Global, where she helps businesses set up, expand, and invest in the UK and Oversees, whilst enabling international trade and business development consultancy network via boutique agency work.

Steven Paul is the Economic Advisor to the Hungarian British Business Alliance and MD of Kirra Advisory, where he works with businesses, c-level executives, and boards across sectors to build, launch, expand and transform businesses on their strategic, business and leadership agenda locally and internationally. Steven is also a Chartered Director and brings excellence to the Boardroom of businesses. 

Grow your business and make profit

Written by Erika dr Szita-Szegedi. HBBA Legal Advisor, CEO, ST Consultancy 

We all know how big an impact Brexit was, and it fundamentally changed trading inside and outside the United Kingdom and also changed trading between the European Union and the United Kingdom. 

In a nutshell, I’d say: its tons of paperwork and extra costs.

So how can we do it right?

Brexit affected so many areas of UK and EU economies: reduced investment, recession, manpower issues and increased trading costs.  The legal consequences were massive as EU legislation applied to the UK on 31 December 2020, became part of UK domestic legislation under the control of the UK’s Parliament. From the 1st of January 2021, UK Companies are no longer able to take advantage of the EU cross border merger regime.  This basically means every export above the value of £135 from the outside UK attracts VAT. For shipments with a value of £0-£135 when being sold by businesses to consumers in the UK, VAT is collected at the point of sale and will therefore be the seller’s responsibility. 

In the EU, to be able to export into the UK, you will need a couple of things before you start exporting: 

  • Export licence: An export license is a document issued by government bodies allowing registered companies or individuals to legally ship goods that are otherwise restricted.
  • EORI number: It needs to be started with GB.
  • Custom declarations: Exact details about your shipment.
  • Commodity Code: Required to lodge customs declarations and to find out if there are any restrictions that apply to the goods and what the import costs are. This determines customs duties and the other charges levied on the goods plus the preferential treatments that may apply to their import, restrictions and prohibitions that apply to the import-export and transit of specified goods. So be sure to use the correct commodity code so that you can set the right price for your products and avoid any back taxes. 

Golden rules you should follow to make your business successful:

First of all, get your business ready to import or export and be sure you have all documentation and licences required. Always calculate export/import deliveries using a wide time scale to allow for delays. You can save a lot of money by planning ahead of time, because well-planned shipping can be significantly cheaper! Never forget that trading is a full-time job. You have to monitor your shipment in every possible way. Use technology as an aide on your side because knowing your shipment is stuck in customs clearance immediately helps you to keep your client informed and shipment date. Provide the authorities with required information as quickly as it possible. 

It is important to note that protecting your trading capital is not synonymous with never experiencing a loss of trade. All traders have lost trade, but protecting capital entails not taking unnecessary risks and doing everything you can to preserve your trading business.  Be a student of the markets every day as everything has an impact on trading markets: world politics, news events, economic trends or even the weather, keep yourself up to date!

Never risk more than you can lose, be sure the money in the trading account is expendable. Losing money is traumatic enough, but even more so if the capital shouldn’t have been put at risk in the first place and your solvency is at risk. 

You should know when you need to stop trading, but also keep in your mind to accept wins and losses. Setting realistic plans and goals is an essential part of keeping trading in perspective. 

Understanding the importance of each of these trading rules, and how they work together can help a trader establish a viable trading business. Trading is really hard work with so many legal and financial rules to follow. Traders who have the discipline and patience to follow these rules can increase their odds of success in a very competitive arena. 

Restarting the Engine after Lockdown

“Cars that have sat un-started for months, maybe even without oil, don’t take kindly to an abrupt wake-up call. They can be as nasty as a grizzly bear prematurely jolted out of hibernation, and you will pay the price of its wrath.”

As we begin to recover from the effects of so called pandemic , which has not only locked down individuals but put many businesses into near hibernation, our thoughts have turned to getting life back to normal. The above quote gives some sound advice on how to treat your pride and joy classic car which has sat under covers for the winter, the rule is don’t just rip off the cover and turn the key! That makes me think about how we restart the engine of our businesses as  we get back to some form of normality… Whatever that may be.

The words lockdown, social distancing, symptomatic, asymptomatic, positive, negative, isolating, quarantined, and furlough will soon be put to the back of our memory bank, as we resume our lives from a period which will hopefully never be experienced again. But getting back to normal won’t be easy, business is about culture and despite the often promoted hype about working from home, the fact is the structure and intimacy of business is what creates the “why” 

The so called lockdown meant the daily commute was replaced by staying at home, a novelty and much needed rest for most people. A chance to walk the dog, read, take up yoga and find our spiritual self. A 14 hour day didn’t allow much time to reflect, or think. Initially everyone seemed to take the opportunity to just stop, for once slow down from the 24/7 always on, e-mail, social media, too busy being busy world we lived in. But now what? 

The daily Zoom calls will dissipate(as will the share price) but we’ll always cherish joining our colleagues on camera, without the customary suits, but replaced by the worst array of novelty t-shirts ever seen ( especially IT people) hair disheveled as they peered into the camera from their bedroom with the customary well stocked book shelf behind them. Were they real? And did we ever realise so many people had dogs? I’ll miss people talking on mute, the background of San Francisco from a house in Luton, people wearing a fleece, and ending the call wondering what was the point, pretending I had another to go to just to excuse myself from the chaotic scene. Give me a room and a white board any day please. 

 I for one missed putting on a nice crisp shirt, getting in the car and driving with a purpose, rather than for a loaf of bread. The joy of a proper Italian coffee from that rather nice deli near the office is something we’ll never take for granted again. The chance to jump on a plane again is a novelty as though it were 1920,  and I even missed the security screening at the airport… Well maybe not that!  

So how do we get back to “normal”? What will the new normal even be? There are two ways this will go. In some of our businesses we’ve found remote working has actually increased efficiency, the multitude of tasks on the back burner have had the focus they deserved, the packed meeting calendar has given way to productive short punchy video calls, and generally people have taken this time to tidy things up. In a sense the true meaning of Agile working has been forced upon us, and it’s worked for some. 

But on the other hand old habits die hard, there is much talk of things never being the same again, will we ever travel as much, why go to the office when working from home has worked so well? Did we really need all those long drawn out meetings with the requisite biscuits followed by a two hour commute?

We are creatures of habit though, give it a while and many of us will be back in the old routine as though none of this ever happened. We all promised ourselves there would be a new normal, but the memory fades and habits reform. Rather like the promise  to never drink rose again the morning after the night before. Until the next barbecue on a sunny evening… How a  business copes as the lights are turned back on will be a true test of leadership. 

But beware, the engine won’t start first time, in fact as our car friend suggests it may be terminal to even try to turn the key without some proper thought. Business leaders need to have a plan for getting everyone back into work mode. Strategic plans  will have been forgotten, customers neglected, relationships temporarily broken, Sales people out of practice. All of this needs careful attention if the return to optimum working effectiveness is to happen quickly, or it could take months. 

We’ve had the green light to restart the engines, but make sure when you whip the covers off you’re very careful how you start that engine! 

The pros and cons of trading in a territory directly versus distributors

The HBBA is all about collaboration and it is in that spirit that any partnership between a Principal and a Distributor should be undertaken.

Collaboration works best when both parties understand what is expected of them to generate mutual success.

As depicted in the graphic above, the interests of a Principal and Distributor are unlikely to entirely overlap. For example, the principal will operate in other territories and the Distributor is likely to represent other brands as well as their own.

The graphic below indicates some of the key considerations and on which side the relationship the primary responsibility and control might lie:

These areas of responsibility and control within the relationship may blur and require consultation within the scope of any legal contract.

The principal will want to control the perception of its brand, but the distributor has the relationship with the end user and is largely responsible for inventory. For example, if the distributor has cashflow constraints, it may want to move stock quickly and resort to discounting, which may have a negative impact on brand perception.

The principal controls unit cost, but this is often impacted by volumes, so the size of orders placed by distributors affects volumes and hence unit cost. However, size of orders placed are likely to be impacted by the payment terms agreed. Better payment terms for the distributor means it can sell some stock prior to paying for it.

Payment terms are likely to be negotiated with respect to targets and discount levels. These will normally progress as the relationship becomes established and traction increases.

The speed the distributor moves its stock will depend on the amount of promotional activity it is able or willing to fund. This maybe consolidated across multiple brands or packaged across several brands.

However, in early stages, distributors may request help to pay for advertising from its principals, so there can be a sliding scale where the level of discount increases and any contribution to advertising decreases in line with increasing volume targets.

The thorny issue of exclusivity will also need to be carefully considered and balanced against the targets requested and discounts offered. Bear in mind that exclusivity may reduce the access a principal has to the end user in terms of valuable market intelligence to help with future innovation.

Larger distributors are likely to have greater logistics and customer access, which should be able to create a steeper sales curve when entering a new territory.

Typically, any growth curve resembles an ‘S’ with a relatively slow start, a steeper growth phase and then a slowing of growth due to logistical limitations or market saturation.

The above graphical representation by volumes between direct versus via a distributor, shows the ‘S’ curve for a distributor compared to the slower growth usually seen when going direct.

This difference should be balanced by the significant discount often required by the best distributors, sometimes as high as 65%. The graphical representation by revenues net of such a discount is shown below.

Of course, the distributor discount includes for them promoting the product, so the graphical representation below shows direct sales net of a 20% ad spend and you can see the comparative crossover moves further out.

We should also compensate for logistical overheads, but as this varies considerably depending on the type of product, this exercise has been left for you.

You should also model the impact on the cash requirement of going direct or via distributor as many smaller companies may not be able to fund a direct campaign.

Below is a useful summary table of the pros and cons of trading in a territory directly versus via distributors.

Before deciding whether to enter a market directly or via a distributor, it is also important to consider the impact on the valuation of the business, especially in terms of exit strategy.

Whatever you decide, we wish you every success.

Launch of the Hungarian British Business Alliance

In 2021, the United Kingdom and Hungary celebrated 100 years of diplomatic relations. 

Historically, there has been a colourful and close relationship between the two countries which included in 1924, Britain financing Hungary’s reconstruction and re-entry into European commercial activity post-breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and following Hungarian independence from the former USSR economic zone, Hungary’s exports to the United Kingdom are now over $3.71 billion of trade, being mostly electronic equipment and machinery. 

Last Wednesday saw a host of British, Hungarian and international guests from businesses in many sectors fill the Hungarian Embassy to celebrate the launch of the Hungarian British Business Alliance (HBBA). 

The Honorary Members, Executive Committee and Team arrived to be ushered into an anteroom that within the past week hosted the V4 Prime Ministers meeting. Here they were introduced to the His Excellency Dr Ferenc Kumin Phd, Hungarian Ambassador to the Court of St James’s (London), Judit Czako and Tamás Amer Investment and Trade Commissioners for the UK. Both the Ambassador and his Attachés were charming beyond words and delighted to greet us! 

Before the reception I did not know what to expect regarding the wine. Never having heard of or as far as I was aware drunk Hungarian wine, I decided to curb my expectation A glass of sparkling wine was served that completely exceeded an expectation that I may have had if I was visiting, say, the French Embassy! It was elegant: dry, crisp and cold. 

At six o’clock we proceeded upstairs to the main reception room along with 150 guests arriving. One of the lovely friendly waiters served me white wine. I was skeptical: but it was even better than the sparkling! A full-bodied smooth dry chardonnay with the most delicious vanilla aftertaste. 

Not the first of its kind but certainly the newest, the purpose of the HBBA is to promote and facilitate bilateral trade growth between the two countries by providing access to networks, business resources and high-profile events. 

In his speech, Ambassador Ferenc Kumin emphasised trade as a deterrent to conflict and highlighted the importance of the business community in successful national alliances. Hungary is bordered by Ukraine. It has taken over 200,000 Ukrainians displaced by the conflict and is accepting more refugees every day. What I see as the real opportunity is the timing now of Hungary to replace Russia as UK’s ‘Eastern’ trading partner. 

A very surprising aspect of the evening was that the Ambassador stayed until closing time. He is extremely charming, witty and down to earth.

Hungary has a skilled workforce proficient in English and similar values with royal relationships going back generations. It has the lowest corporation tax (9%) in Europe. 

According to the Government, benefits for UK businesses exporting to Hungary include:

  • English accepted as a business language
  • western style business culture
  • over £28 billion European Union (EU) funding between 2014 and 2020
  • UK ‘brand’ viewed positively

Strengths of the Hungarian market include:

  • strategic location in the heart of Europe
  • well-developed transport network
  • open economy
  • good infrastructure and communications
  • investment incentives

In addition, the United Kingdom is the 6th largest foreign investor in Hungary and there are around 900 British companies operating in Hungary, with almost 55,000 employees.

Right now, it feels like we are at the cusp of a change of pace in UK and Hungary business relations for anyone who grasps it and I’m excited to contribute to the Hungarian British Business Alliance and members to enable greater trade. The HBBA’s mission is to Connect, Communicate and Collaborate. Guided by the co-founders Susanna Toth and Alireza Yaghmaei, and the Honorary Chair Peter Wilcock the Association has a large and comprehensive remit which myself and the team plan to achieve as fast as possible.

Both individuals and companies can join. If you would like to find out more about membership or the Association, please contact me at