Dos and don’ts of setting up in the USA – Part 2 – Don’ts

Taking your SaaS company stateside is a great opportunity, but you have to get it right. In this article, Peakon CRO Neil Ryland, who has been there and done it, shares his secrets for success. This follows on from ‘Part 1 – Dos’ which you can find here.

My time working at Huddle was full of highlights, but it’s difficult to beat the time when I went to San Francisco to help set up their first US office. It was an amazing opportunity and a real honour.

If you ever get the opportunity to do what I did, to go out to America with your company, I’d certainly advise you to seize it with both hands. It’s a great experience, you’ll learn more than you ever thought, plus it will boost your career. I mean, when you’re looking for your next role, what interviewer wouldn’t be impressed? Finally, and most importantly, it’s bloody good fun. You’ll return with stories by the bucketload.

However, you can’t underestimate the challenge that you’ll face. To follow on from my advice on what to do, here are some tips on what not to do when opening an office in the US.

1 – Don’t think location doesn’t matter

We Brits share many similarities with our American cousins, but we’re not the same. You need to think locally even though you’re global. Make the effort to use the right words when you’re talking to an American team member. It’s not a pavement, it’s a sidewalk! And you need to recognize that there’s a ‘z’ in recognize!

It soon comes naturally, and your team will appreciate the effort. Of course, this becomes even more important when you’re selling to Americans.

2 – Don’t forget America is a big country

America is 50 states in one country, and no two places are exactly the same. When it comes to sales messaging, what flies in San Francisco may not work in New York. Do your research and talk to people that have experience in those marketplaces to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I was lucky to have Lesley Young, our VP of US Sales at Huddle to point me in the right direction.

Then you have the time differences. There are 6 time zones across the US. Make sure you call your customers at a time they’re likely to actually be there. It may mean you have to get in early or stay late, but it’s part of the job when you work in the States.

3 – Don’t replicate your UK business model without reviewing it first

You may have been super-successful in the UK, but that’s no guarantee of success in the US. You can’t just replicate things like pricing strategy without review. It’s highly unlikely they’ll map. Before you set your prices, know your competition, do the benchmarking and run a SWOT analysis exercise. You don’t want to come in too high, or leave money on the table.

4 – Don’t think that buyers are all the same

One way in which we differ from the Americans is how we interact in business. In the US, they usually build relationships through business. You set out the details of the deal first, then a relationship will usually follow organically.

By contrast, in the UK we build a relationship first, as people prefer to buy from people they know, like and trust.

In America, active selling is expected and encouraged, often to a degree that may be regarded as excessive in the UK. Don’t be afraid to get to the point quickly when selling. Remember, time is money!

5 – Don’t ignore the small print

It’s expensive to set up in the US. There’s an office, the people, hiring and relocation packages, tax, health care and much more besides. You can’t afford to make expensive mistakes.

Don’t ignore the security and legal requirements that arise from the process of buying from your company in the US.

Make sure you’re watertight on this before you start, and you’ll be in a better position to avoid huge headaches and elongated sales processes, ad-hoc legal fees, compliance issues and angry customers.

6 – Don’t set up a satellite office

When you set up an office for your company in the US, or in any country, you’re not setting up a satellite office. You can’t start by making your US team feel like they’re playing second fiddle to London. You need them to feel they’re as much part of the team as anyone who was there at the beginning. At Huddle we did this by having one of the co-founders move over there, living and working there, along with myself (a senior manager) and another colleague. We made sure we were always front of mind within the company.

To conclude, as I emphasised in the previous article, the more preparation you can do in the UK, the smoother your US launch will be. I’m actually in the process of setting up a US office for Peakon, so hopefully I’ll remember to heed my own advice! I’ll let you know in my next article from across the pond.

Remember, opportunities like this do not come along every day. Don’t fear change, grab those chances with both hands. Work hard, and most importantly, have fun.

Over to you now. What advice do you have for people about to set up in the US? What mistakes did you make which you quickly had to learn from? Leave us a comment below.

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