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The International Entrepreneur – Keeping that Entrepreneurial Spirit in Growth Stage Companies

The International Entrepreneur discusses how to keep that entrepreneurial spirit alive in a growth stage comapny

 

If you have ever worked in a startup company, then you know?

  • Entrepreneurs are normally in a constant fight for the survival of their fledgling venture. They offer high risk with the potential for high reward if the company succeeds.
  • Entrepreneurs are always stretching the boundaries of what is possible – in terms of innovation, business practices and often sanity.
  • Early partners and employees are bound to have a variety of offbeat and somewhat awkward bonding experiences.
  • While for many professionals, this sounds like a stressful and uncertain work style, entrepreneurs tend to thrive on this combination urgency, risk, and constant string of problem solving.

The good news for workers at more established companies is that every successful mid-sized and large company has survived its initial startup stage. Sure, larger companies can still fail (and they do), but finances are much more stable because larger companies have much more access to capital for financing growth and weathering economic downturns.

Entrepreneurial energy and engagement often gets lost in that transition to growth stage. It can happen when a charismatic founder leaves the company as part of a negotiated investment deal. Maybe it?s when the pressure to ?make payroll? is no longer a driving motivator for high productivity. Or it could be the hiring of new employees who just weren?t part of the earlier struggle. But something happens between the nearly full engagement required to get a startup company off the ground and the low employee engagement that dominates larger companies. Gallup?s annual report shows that consistently 33% of American workers and 13% of workers worldwide consider themselves engaged in their jobs.

How do you hold on to that entrepreneurial sense of engagement after the company succeeds?

First, I wouldn?t wish a lifetime of startup entrepreneurship on anyone. Yes, it?s a thrilling ride. Yet it can be utterly exhausting and often requires untold sacrifices born not only by employees, but their loved ones. Some entrepreneurs love the adrenaline rush that comes from beating the odds. If that is your personality type, then I wish you well in all your endeavors. But for the rest of us, there is some relief in finally making it the company?s growth stage. Even dropping down a few notches in effort is still a far cry from the unengaged masses.

Now here is my advice on how to keep that entrepreneurial spirit while moving forward as a company:

Hire Engaged Employees

Everyone is enthusiastic in their job interviews. No one is going to tell you that they spent the final six months of their last job surfing the Internet or playing Candy Crush. Ask interview questions about someone?s final project with their last employer. An engaged employee normally gets challenging projects. Staff that have ?checked out early? are often given routine, reactive assignments. Ask for examples of how the candidate proactively improved their company?s outcomes. And also consider hiring former entrepreneurs. They know how to work hard, are proactive and are excellent creative problem solvers.

Share the Vision and the Greater Context

Many companies create some kind of a vision statement, but then file it away somewhere to rarely be mentioned again. One of the reasons why entrepreneurial ventures are so engaging is that everyone on the team knows exactly what the company is trying to accomplish and what part their own efforts play in serving that vision. It?s powerful. Every employee in your organization of any size needs to know that the company vision is worthy of pursuit and that their efforts help move the whole organization towards that vision.

Set High Individual and Team Goals

While not the same motivation as surviving another month as a entrepreneur team, higher productivity comes when goals are set high enough for employees to stretch to reach them. Encourage creative problem solving and initiative as core traits you want from your staff. Then support your staff with resources to help them achieve their individual as well as the team?s goals.

Ideally you want to leverage the positive aspects of those startup months, but settle them into a longer, more sustainable employee engagement strategy. Leaders who spend time and efforts to cultivate an effective work culture will always outperform their competitors in the global marketplace.

The International Entrepreneur – 5 Tips to Motivate Global Telecommuting Workers

International Entrepreneur - Tips to Motivate Global Telecommuting Workers

 

Sam checked the time on his phone – 5:00am. As he sipped his coffee, Sam prepared for his phone call with Chloe in Ireland, his EMEA Regional Director. Since his software company had expanded globally last year, Sam was needing to manage new employees in new markets.

Sam?s problem was that he never felt like he could trust these new workers like he could his on-site staff. Sam had tried to solve this by implementing a detailed reporting process. That way, he would know exactly what Chloe and her counterpart in Hong Kong, Yang ?Oliver? Jun, were doing with their time. He also invited them to daily leadership conference calls, which they both regularly attended.

Sam wanted these foreign employees to feel included as part of the team, even though meetings were well outside of regular business hours. Sam felt the bristled tone as he and Chloe exchanged greetings. But how could Sam motivate his global remote-based workers to the productivity levels of his home office staff?

 

The Promise & Perils of Global Remote Employees

International employees in remote offices around the world present interesting opportunities and challenges. Companies are realizing that they can access a much larger talent pool when they offer telecommuting positions. And when expanding into new international markets, remote-based staff can be incrementally added based on a growing understanding of a new market?s potential for market access, supplier access, capital access, etc.

As Sam is discovering, managing from afar is not as simple as it appears. A leader does not have the same level of access to their staff. Throw in a half dozen time zones to cross and timing becomes an additional hurdle to online collaboration and supervision. The trick is to focus productivity and performance outcomes. With that in mind, here are:

 

5 Tips for motivating your global workers:

1. ?Set Clear Expectations and Stretch Goals. This is particularly critical for global employees because local business rules and culture are always different than at the home office. For instance, American companies have to set strongly worded company policies that comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), else American company offices could face harsh penalties and criminal charges in the United States.

Setting quantifiable goals for all staff takes the focus off of the ?how? things are done and instead focuses on ?what? needs to be accomplished. In other words, build whatever type of boat you want, but sail to Port A by Tuesday.

2. Hire employees overseas with a successful telecommuting track record. Add it to the job requirements and to the interview questions for candidates. Working remotely takes self discipline and independence. Not everyone is meant for this work environment.

3. Conference Calls and Complicated Reporting do not increase engagement, only resentment. Conference calls take away people?s ability to read non-verbal communication signals. When navigating between work cultures, these signals give international staff instantaneous feedback so that they can make real-time adjustments to communications. Without that, remote staff are flying in the blind and likely frustrated.

Reporting can be a helpful management tool. But more reporting rarely improves results. One EMEA Regional Director complained to me that he spent every Friday just creating the complex reports for his American home office. The extra reporting not only reduced his productivity, but his motivation as well.

4. Face-to-Face Video Conferencing builds trust and fosters problem solving. Time and again, a 1:1 video conversation with an employee is the best forum for asking and answering questions, setting expectations and reacting to updates – both positive and negative. To make the most of video time, send updates ahead of time for staff to read and digest the information. Regularly scheduled video calls?several times per week are best when it?s practical.

5. Don?t set your foreign employees up as independent contractors. Most countries do not allow employees to work separately as contractors because it circumvents local labor laws and employer taxation. Imagine what it would feel like when your company?s first request of you is to do something illegal on their behalf. Instead, either register an in-country subsidiary or hire them through Global Employment Outsourcing (GEO).

 

Back to Sam, our software company CEO and his new Asian and European Directors? he needs to call back Chloe as a video call to allow for face-to-face dialog. This will help him build greater rapport. Sam can ask questions about her progress on building her region for the company, as well as how it?s going working remotely. By asking the right questions, now much of the extra reporting can be eliminated, adding to Chloe and Oliver?s productivity. By receiving the review of yesterday?s management meeting, Chloe had time to think about how decisions would affect her region and was able to formulate better questions for Sam. Now both Sam and Chloe felt like their conversation had moved issues forward and improved their working relationship.

In time, a successful director will need to add local staff in an overseas market. But these first few employees are critical to long-term overseas growth. Their engagement needs to be a leadership priority.

For more information about growing and supporting your international company, join the International Trade Tribe:

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The International Entrepreneur ? How to Help HQ Staff Become More Globally-Focused

HR, global, international business, international entrepreneur

As I walked around the tech company?s office over the?weeks I spent on site, I heard quiet?complaints about international leads and clients from some of the?client-facing staff.

?That accent was so thick that I couldn?t understand her.?
?They don?t know how to follow a normal buying process.?
?I really don?t like dealing with people from _________.?
And a disturbing confession: ?I put the international follow up at the bottom of my task list.?

The top leadership of this software company, including the CEO and the CHRO, lived and breathed inclusion in all forms and were planning for the company?s impending global expansion. But neither realized the pervasiveness of anti-international passive aggressive actions from?on the front lines of the company.

This is not an uncommon problem as companies grow beyond their early domestic-only stage to accidental exporter. But the issue often doesn?t stop there. It continues on as companies realize the untapped potential of their overseas markets unseen because decisions are made subtly by often young, less experienced sales, marketing, client services and finance staff.

It would be simplistic to say that this is just a human resources issue. But it affects many company functions:
? It affects marketing in that new customer data is skewed away from international.
? It affects sales because potential clients are left underserved or ignored, leaving unrealized revenue.
? It affects customer service department performance ratings when international clients are left to wait longer.
? And it affects long-term financial planning where market demand is a key metric for deciding where to allocate resources.

So what can be done to ensure that your staff is ready to make the most of ALL opportunities? Here are a few ideas:

1. Expose staff to cultural differences.
While there may be some well-traveled, multicultural staff on your front-line teams, there are likely many that don?t have that background or perspective. If it can be worked into the budget, send a representative staff member to your newly opened overseas office to better understand the business style differences and to explain how the headquarters? processes. This could mean an up-and-coming sales rep gets to visit India for a week to dig into the differences between sales in the two markets in order to find best practices from both. Your staff member will likely return with many stories about his or her experiences, as well as be able to give perspective on Indian selling. One experience by one less-traveled staff member tends to have a multiplier effect ? sharing perspective with many peers and understanding that other cultures will look at the same situation in a completely different way. This approach can work well, but choose employees who would appreciate the experience and naturally share with others.

2. Incorporate Engaging Cultural Elements. Travel is the best but is not always possible, so another exposure option is to highlight a key market for a day. If India is a key market, then India?s Republic Day is January 26, Independence Day is August 15 and Gandhi Jayanthi is October 2 ? all good choices. Besides catering in Indian food for lunch and piping in Indian music, it can also be a day to highlight key Indian clients, leads, and market potential for the company. Staff pay more attention when they think something is important, particularly to leadership.

3. Train Staff on Cross-Cultural Communications.
Overall, foreign clients take more time to communicate, more time to build trust and have a higher chance of misunderstandings. So learning to interact successfully most of the time has direct payback. One of the highest ROI actions is to bring in a cross-cultural trainer to work with your staff. There are key differences and the right trainer/coach can zero in on issues staff are facing and give direct advice. This suggestion works well when international leads are growing significantly and also when a company is opening new sales offices abroad.

4. Acknowledge the Cross-Cultural Challenges.
Since many international challenges remain hidden, it is beneficial to bring up questions in department, team and/or individual performance meetings. Has anyone had a challenging interaction with an international contact for the company? What was the incident and how did the individual deal with it? What was the outcome? Is there any possible explanation for what happened?

It is natural to blame others who don?t follow our own business cultural rules. The Thai company executive may feel offended to be talking with a young person in the sales department. We may be frustrated with a Dutchman who we perceive as being rude when he interprets his comments as just being honest and open. Talking about challenges openly leaves room to troubleshoot and find best practice approaches for next time something similar happens.

When an employee stands out as the ?top international seller? or often stays late to call the leads from halfway around the world, the extra effort should in some way be acknowledged and rewarded. How this is done needs to fit in with your company culture, of course.

The company?s investments in cultural exposure, training and acknowledging top international interactors – all pay off as you continue to create your global culture. This is a conscience choice to develop values that support a multi-cultural staff. ?International customers and global business expansion is a natural progression for most companies. International accelerates growth and exposes the company?s staff to new ideas for product and process improvement. While it may be easier to see these benefits from a strategic level, it becomes critical to bring all staff along for the ride.

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The International Entrepreneur – How to accelerate global expansion

accelerate global expansion, international entrepreneur, international business

It?s ironic. Anyone who has spent time and energy expanding their company into international markets can tell you that the process is anything but fast. Global expansions are notoriously slow, especially when compared to what American and Canadian companies are used to as their domestic time to establish a new business. Registering a new business in some American states can take 30 minutes online and US$50. In contrast, some business registrations overseas can take over 2 years and cost US$20,000+.

In North America, we build our business processes and expectations around speed. Speed to market. Speed up the sales cycle. Speed in product development. Anything that slows us down is the target of constant complaint. Ask anyone who has been through a U.S. Food and Drug Administration?s approval process.

Despite frustrations, there are many compelling reasons why a company would still choose to expand internationally. There are new markets and customers overseas. The market may be global and market share requires doing business internationally. Global markets may balance out seasonal or economic cycles to keep the company?s revenue and growth on a steadier path. There may be strategic advantages for global talent, cost savings or a whole host of other reasons to go global.

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REALITY CHECK: No matter how compelling the reasons to keep expanding into new global markets, you still need to expend the necessary time and resources to bring success. If you can?t commit to at least 2 years? worth of work to get a new market off the ground, then I recommend that you don?t take your company global.

 

Here?s my advice for speeding up the international expansion process:

  1. Consistent Commitment. Nothing (and I mean nothing) will slow down your company?s global expansion more than the mixed messages of wavering leadership and financial support.
    This happened earlier this month to an international expansion director in the southwest United States. He had made all of the arrangements to meet with potential Middle East partners on a crucial trip. His company?s Board of Directors froze all travel and other international expenses for a short-term gain. ?Now when this director can finally return to this high-potential market, he won?t find the same level of welcome or interest in doing business.
  1. Travel to Your Markets. If you truly want to expand quickly, then put your company leaders and expansion staff on planes to your chosen target markets. Face to face meetings with potential partners, clients and other influential stakeholders in country dramatically speed up the time taken to form these key relationships.
  2. Consider Strategic Partnerships or Mergers & Acquisitions. While partnerships and M&A take substantial time up front to establish the relationship and agreement terms, they can expedite market entry where they already have established client base. So for instance, let?s say my company wanted to enter the Thai market. I don?t speak Thai or know this culture which is quite different from my own. But if there were a compatible partner company, I could reach potential Thai customers by piggybacking on the partner?s products or services as a point of entry. I could learn from my Thai partner about the market and the best ways to sell my offering.
    On the M&A side, buying or merging with a company in a key market means that you buy their assets and also their internal processes and market knowledge. This, of course, is also dependent on keeping existing staff happy post-M&A so that the knowledge stays with the company. Obviously M&A requires support from your current and future financial resources.
  1. Laser Focus Normally Beats the Shotgun Approach to Market Entry. Many companies take the reactionary approach to international markets ? they wait for foreign clients to find the company online and approach them with business. I am not saying that this is necessarily a bad starting point, but at some stage serving customers in 13 countries is less efficient than focusing on the 3 best markets and doing it at higher revenue and profit margins.
  2. Practice Agile Processes in Your International Expansion. Instead of starting and stopping every time there is a new challenge in a global market, I recommend using an agile process. Agile is a leading approach in software development where changes are made to code frequently to constantly improve the quality of the product. Marketing adopted agile because it allows for incremental performance evaluations and changes instead of annual reviews. I think this applies just as well to global expansion, where incremental changes can vastly improve results and speed up the process rather than waiting for a review from a large country roll-out.

While international expansion is an investment for companies with a longer investment time frame, there are definitely steps that can speed up the process. Consistency in support is a required foundation. Armchair expansion is much slower than sending staff into the field to meet and develop relationships with key in-country contacts. Focusing on key markets and partners is faster than waiting to see what drops in your lap. And always be ready to make changes based on the new insights you pick up during the new market entry.

I wish you all the best of success in all of your markets.

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The International Entrepreneur ? Interview with Safeguard World International?s CEO, Bjorn Reynolds

Bjorn Reynolds, Safeguard World International, GEO, global HR, This week I have?the pleasure to interview company founder and international entrepreneur, Bjorn Reynolds. Bjorn started his international payroll and HR management company in the UK. Now the company has grown to serve 165 countries.

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The International Entrepreneur (TIE)- Bjorn, since many may not know about Global Employment Outsourcing as a fast track to foreign market entry, can you describe how it works??

Bjorn Reynolds (BR)- GEO allows our clients to outsource their international employment responsibilities. From local employment contracts, to paying the actual employee and managing the statutory payroll deductions and managing and providing guidance on any HR issues ? all managed through our network of carefully vetted and in-house partners in over 165 countries. What this means for the end client is that they can outsource the entire employment responsibility and process to SafeGuard, all without having to register a local entity and navigate the bureaucratic headaches that such a process typically brings.

 

TIE – As the originator of the GEO employment model, can you tell us how you and your team at Safeguard World International found this market need and innovated the GEO solution?

BR – Our identification of the GEO market was primarily two fold:

1)??????We observed a demand from our clients for contingent labour that they could deploy on their medium and short term projects. Historically multinationals have turned to Independent Contractors, particularly in countries where they do not have an entity established, agreements of which frequently fell foul of employment law due to unfamiliarity with local rules and regulations. We devised the service to help our clients hire individuals on a temporary basis and in a compliant manner, removing them from any potential risks and fines associated with the utilization of IC?s.

2)??????Clients were encountering difficulties going global and expanding their business into new countries. Expansion into new territories if often a daunting and complex task ? setting up bank accounts, registering entities with the local authorities and navigating local rules, regulations and cultures is a considerable undertaking for any organisation, no matter their size and amount of available resource.

 

 

TIE – ?What is the biggest challenge you currently hear from companies expanding their global talent teams?

BR – The biggest challenges that we continually hear pertain around ?how to? and navigating the local rules and complexities that are frequently encountered when expanding into a new country for the first time ? even for large multinationals. From an appreciation and understanding of cultural, time zone and language barriers to understanding what needs to be provided to employees both from a statutory and customary perspective in order to attract and retain the best talent. Coupled with the daunting prospect of completing all the necessary registrations and tax remittances, companies are often deterred from following through on their intentions to expand into a new country.

 

TIE – As a leader in your field, can you give any advice to companies who are planning their first international expansion?

BR – Many organisations often feel like expanding internationally is out of reach ? they don?t have the resources or expertise in order to grow their business on the international stage. This simply isn?t true. While it?s certainly worth noting that international expansion should be a carefully considered and evaluated decision, especially when exploring the time it would take to expand and register your business in a new country, by partnering with the right expert, such as SafeGuard, SME?s and startups should no longer fear taking their business into new territories. With GEO the world becomes truly borderless and I love helping companies not only make their first foray into foreign markets, but also reap the benefits that international expansion can bring to an organisation.

 

About Bjorn Reynolds

Bjorn is the Founder and Chief Guardian of SafeGuard World International. A recognised industry leader and strategist for the global payroll markets, Bjorn?s passion for payroll is the driving force behind SGWI?s vision, strategy and culture, instilling his enthusiasm for Service Excellence and success throughout the organisation. His?entrepreneurship led SGWI to a prominent?position in the U.K. Sunday Times ?Virgin Fast Track 100? and he has been personally recognized in the ?Payroll Top 50? by?Payroll Magazine?and?as a ?Game Changer? by?WorkforceMagazine. During his early career, Bjorn worked for HFC Bank (part?of the Global HSBC Group) where he was quickly promoted to branch?manager after one year in post ? the youngest ever Branch manager at HFC?in its history.??He later?ran marketing and channel functions within the HR and payroll space for one of the top three global payroll and HR service providers.

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