Expanding your tech startup or scaleup to new international markets can be a game-changer, but it’s also a complex journey. We’ve gathered insights and tips from industry experts, Alun Baker – CEO of Clario & non-executive Chairman of Arkk Solutions, Laurent Gibb – Startup Consultant and international Expansion Advisor, Jeff Wellstead – Founder & CEO of Big Bear Partners, and Annemie Ress – COO of Innogy Innovation Hub to help guide your global expansion.

Tip 1: Distribute your leadership team and set clear expectations early on.

Alun Baker

You should distribute leadership, hire someone accountable for the region you want to expand to. If you see the US as a 60%-70% market for you, think of putting a senior person in charge – you could hire a Chief Revenue Officer for the US market once you got the momentum.

To avoid further challenges and pitfalls – set expectations clearly and early for your team, plan ahead your hiring strategy and expansion timelines. Big advice: if you have international clients, try to use them for early sales to gain momentum or at least use them to test your market messaging.

From personal experience – hiring someone in a country where you want to expand to brings better results, they are more culturally aligned. In some countries, it makes a huge difference when you have a company representative who has a large regional network.

Stefan Ciecierski – Talent @Newfound

In the first stages of creating a business, culture is very important. The first people that you hire tend to define that culture. So when you are expanding overseas, the question that would need ask is not “How can I translate my culture internationally” but “How can I allow  my culture to evolve and to take international opportunity”

If today your products got really good momentum, you want to take that momentum into a foreign market as quickly as possible.

Alun Baker – CEO of Clario & non-executive Chairman of Arkk Solutions

Tip 2: Plan for growth

Laurent Gibb:

I think it’s really important to make sure your whole team is aligned, that there is stability in the business. You ultimately need to consider the core areas such as the legal, the financials, the funding, the culture. And it’s really important to involve your leadership team in making those decisions, doing the necessary research, since as a CEO you have millions of responsibilities.

When it comes to doing research, you should really understand where the gaps are: So will your business be accepted in a different market? Does it need to change? Do you need to have people on the ground in specific markets or not? Can you do it in a decentralised or centralised way?

Alun Baker:

You need to put a plan in place, absolutely. But recognise the fact that if you think you’ll make your first sale in three months, it probably will be six, and just look at it from a really much more severe outcome. We have momentum time-wise with our products. Our product’s lifecycle is not 510 years, it’s one or two years in its current iteration, and then has to evolve and you’re going to have to evolve with it. But if today your products got really good momentum, you want to take that momentum into a foreign market as quickly as possible.

Tip 3: Tap into intrinsic motivation to create a loyal global brand

Annemie Ress

It is particularly important to tap into intrinsic motivation, and really use employees internally to not only create the external or the employer brand but to live it. Sometimes it’s really helpful to involve your internal employees in the creation of their brand, which sounds so obvious, but then you’re really going to get to what inspires them because great people attract great people. And they can become your brand ambassadors in the external world.

Jeff Wellstead:

It would also make sense to work very closely with the marketing department, have a shared budget, tie into their assets. Try to create no fewer than 5 videos about the different aspects of your organisation.

Tip 4: Drive a sense of belonging in your team and audit your hiring experience

Jeff Wellstead:

One of the common mistakes made by companies – they try to make themselves look attractive to the outside world, rather than looking at what they have, and how to translate that into something which others can identify with.

A great quote from Maya Angelou: “People won’t always remember what you said, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel”. You need to drive a sense of belonging within your team: you’re unique, you’re different, you’re special. And as a candidate, you need to join us because we’re all like you too.

When assessing your employer branding, start with an audit. I would audit from your candidates’ perspectives and see what the hiring experience looks and feels like. And then just take notes on what needs to be improved. Prioritise those things and take them one at a time.

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