Originally from Liechtenstein, the software company PHIOS is aiming for decentralized growth. With new branches abroad, the company intends to strengthen software development for projects in the Principality of Liechtenstein and enable the establishment of international teams. A long-term goal is to also provide customer service in the new locations. In the middle of the pandemic, PHIOS had the audacity to establish a branch office. In the search for its first international location, the company was supported by Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE). Following the successful establishment of a branch in Valencia, Spain, PHIOS is now looking to Vienna, where another location is being set up.
Klaus Studer, Chief Executive Officer at PHIOS, explains in an interview what he expected, and received, from S-GE.
What is the reason for your desire to expand?
We want to enhance our software development for projects managed in Liechtenstein. Our goal is to have mixed teams that are supervised from Ruggell. At the same time, we also want to expand our team to serve more international clients.
Why did you choose Spain as a location?
The workforce in this country is highly qualified. In addition, the market offers an excellent price/performance ratio and superb availability of potential staff. Spain has a good country rating thanks to high security and low corruption. It is also an attractive place to work from an employee's point of view. And, last but not least, the team leader we have sent from Ruggell is Spanish, so he has neither language barriers nor cultural differences to overcome.
How did you find out about S-GE?
Quite simply, by searching the Internet. We revised our strategy in spring 2020 and decided to expand the company by way of facilitating decentralized growth. To this end, we are planning to establish several competence and development centers in the coming years. We contacted S-GE to get support in choosing and setting up a location, as well as networking with regional contacts.
And what was S-GE able to offer you?
They took us on a five-day entrepreneurial trip to Spain. Our individually arranged fact-finding mission, which was monitored by the Swiss Business Hub (SBH) in Spain, took place in the summer of 2020. Despite difficult conditions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the trip was successfully planned and carried out. Participants included the three members of the Executive Board and the future team leader in Spain.
Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE)
Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) is mandated by the government of the Principality to support Liechtenstein SMEs in their international business. These benefit fully from the offers and services of S-GE. The Office of Economic Affairs offers impulse financing of up to CHF 10,000 with export cheques for the purchase of export services from S-GE that are subject to a fee, for example for searches for distribution partners, market analyses or for participation in international trade fairs.
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More information at www.s-ge.com/li.
What were you able to achieve during the trip?
In the provinces of Valencia and Galicia, we were able to evaluate two possible locations and meet with Swiss IT companies on site to talk about their experiences. We also established interesting contacts with local authorities, universities and the Honorary Consul in Valencia. And, finally, we had the opportunity to see office and co-working spaces. Furthermore, S-GE organized video meetings for us with other Swiss companies already established in Spain. Our expectations were met in every respect! We had hoped for competent guidance, help with networking as well as support with organizational tasks, and we received everything.
To what extent did the Covid-19 pandemic affect your fact-finding mission?
The trip had to be postponed from July to September, so unfortunately we were not able to have all the meetings that were originally planned. However, in the meetings that did take place, the difficult circumstances brought us together – because we were all in the same boat, in a way.
What happened after your return?
With the close support of the SBH and Beat Kuster, the responsible consultant from S-GE, we were able to start implementing the necessary measures. Several remote meetings with various experts took place during the preparatory stage as well as the actual establishment of our branch. Since then, we have dedicated ourselves to building up the team and further expanding the site.
Concrete support from S-GE
Support from S-GE and the local network of experts was provided in the following areas, among others:
- company establishment in Valencia
- legal/fiduciary matters
- recruitment and hiring of new employees
- cross-border administrative issues
- tax matters
- exchange of experience with business networks
How has the situation in Spain developed since the new branch has been established?
The integration of the Spanish employees has worked out well and the cooperation between the mixed teams is excellent. Our customers, who are used to international teams, have also accepted the new constellation immediately.
What were the biggest challenges in setting up your new branch?
The delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic was difficult. Recruiting employees and handling the major administrative differences between the Principality of Liechtenstein and Spain also turned out to be challenging.
Did you also receive support from other sides?
While we selected our new location, we were able to count on the help of various local and regional institutions. We were also supported by contacts from our own network. Finally, we received financial aid in the form of an export check from the Office of National Economy of the Principality of Liechtenstein.
How did you find out about the export checks?
We received a tip from S-GE that the Liechtenstein Government was promoting export in this way. By subsequently searching the Internet, we were able to clarify the general conditions and modalities and find our contact person.
How was cooperating with the Office of National Economy?
There were no problems when we applied for the export check via the online desk. We then clarified a few open points directly with Margarethe Hoch from the Office of National Economy. We were given the opportunity to provide a brief report on our initiatives and previous successes. The entire process was very pleasant and the check payment was made without delay. We would like to express our sincere thanks for this support. We look forward to further cooperation.
The domestic economy is strongly export-oriented and strengthening export capabilities is an important component of a sustainable economic policy. The export check is based on impulse financing and helps SMEs to open up new sales markets. It can also be used for participating in a leading trade fair.
The Office of National Economy is responsible for issuing export checks. Interested parties should contact Margarethe Hoch ((+423 236 69 42, ). For more information on the export check, click here. To apply online, click on this link.
Going back to the Covid-19 pandemic, how did you find your way out of the crisis?
We used the crisis to work creatively on our corporate strategy and make some innovations. Concerning the way we work, very little has changed for us. Before the crisis, we already had a comprehensive infrastructure for remote, digital communication. Virtual meetings are now both common and appreciated by our customers. In some areas, we have even increased our efficiency.
What are the medium- and long-term plans?
Due to the good order situation, we are already planning to expand the team in Valencia. We can also imagine setting up a second location in Spain, possibly in Galicia. Moreover, we have initiated a further expansion to Vienna, where we are establishing a Competence Center. We have also relied on S-GE's support in preparing this company establishment.
So, has the cooperation with S-GE been worthwhile?
Definitely; both from an entrepreneurial and a personal point of view. We were able to benefit from the organization's expertise and good network – not only in setting up the site, but also more generally, for our company development. In addition, the new contacts are also very valuable on a personal level. We hope to work with S-GE again when we set up another site.
What is your advice to other companies considering a foreign location?
We advise entrepreneurs to thoroughly collect information in the target market regarding customers, employees, administrative issues, etc. And we would unreservedly recommend S-GE as a partner for this.
About Philos AG
PHIOS AG is a competent partner for the implementation of intelligent software systems in industrial and commercial enterprises. Founded in 2007, PHIOS can look back on almost 15 years of experience in the areas of digitalization and consulting in the IoT environment. During this time, the company in Ruggell (Principality of Liechtenstein) has built up a highly qualified and motivated team of around 25 employees. Among the most important customers are large companies in the German-speaking area, such as Bühler Group, LIEBHERR, HILTI, OMICRON, Oerlikon, ALPLA, etc. Part of the corporate strategy of PHIOS is decentralized growth. The company's employees in Valencia, Spain, support the core team in the Principality of Liechtenstein in implementing customer projects. With the planned Competence Center in Vienna, the company intends to open up the Austrian market in the coming years and build up a well-qualified team for on-site support.
More information at www.phios.li