Who is going over when you expand internationally?

Expanding your business overseas is a big step. You need the right people to make it. Hannah Godfrey from Winning By Design shows us how to choose.

Last month we staged our 5th Sales Confidence live event at GoCardless HQ London. We had 100 SaaS enthusiasts watching two sales leaders, a consultant and a coach sharing their secrets. Even if you couldn’t make it, we want to share the inspiration and education with you through our articles.

Our first speaker was Hannah Godfrey. Hannah is an experienced sales leader, turned startup advisor at Winning By Design. With previous companies, Hannah got to work in Sao Paulo, New York and San Francisco. Now, at Sales Confidence, she shared with us three questions you need to ask before you expand your startup abroad. You can find an article about Hannah’s first question, ‘Why do you want to expand internationally?’ right here.

Question 3 — Who?

‘Who is going over to launch your new international office?’

Does it have to be the CEO?

It seems like a no-brainer, and it’s certainly how many businesses do it, but Hannah warns against sending the CEO overseas to start the new expansion.

‘Your business is growing really well in the UK. You’ve got a good thing going. But, having the main leader and pillar personality out of the main business can be very disruptive to the culture.’

‘We sent myself and somebody else to go there. 2 commercial people. The CEO would come out for a few weeks at a time but then go back. It actually worked really well.’

It’s good advice. You shouldn’t neglect the people who got you to where you are in the first place.

Who do you hire?

When you’re setting up overseas, you also need to think about the kind of people you’re going to hire when you get there.

‘We asked some of our best customers to recommend talented people from other vendors that we could maybe hire. They made the introduction, and we ended up hiring from our competitor. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. She left after 3 months.’

Hiring overseas isn’t like hiring at home. Recruiting for a new office abroad isn’t like hiring for an established business at home. Overseas, everyone is learning as they go at the start.

‘It’s chaos, so hire people who can deal with chaos.’

Incidentally, if you’re ever face-to-face with Hannah in an interview, here’s some advice.

“Take notes. If you don’t take notes, I won’t hire you. I’ll tell you on the spot!’

Risks of having the wrong people

We’ve already talked about the risks to the culture of sending the wrong people, and the dangers of making the wrong hire. There is also a financial risk, which is greater or lesser depending on where you are.

‘In the US, you really do have to pay for healthcare!’

There’s also the lost time and lost potential revenue of having the wrong people in your office. If you’re ever in that position, don’t let it happen to you.

How about you?

Over to you now. Have you been part of an expansion abroad? Did you go? Who went with you? How did it go? Let us know in the comments.

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