✏️ International Expansion: Key Questions To Ask Yourself

✏️ International Expansion: Key Questions To Ask Yourself

Arthur, CEO of Dolead ; Benjamin, CEO of Worklife are talking about how they did expand internationally.
🎙️ Interviews
Country ManagementLeadership
Meeting Date
November 19, 2020

New country expansion: To go or not to go?

Before taking the plunge, you can validate the relevance of setting up in a country using 2 criteria:

  • The opportunity/business risk ratio:
  • What is the cost of setting up my business (recruitment, marketing to counter strong competition, etc.)?
    What is the business potential of this market (market depth, market shares, ...)?

    "Covering the United States was twice as expensive as covering the United Kingdom and Italy (which are easier to access). However, the opportunity for value creation is 40 times greater." - Arthur Saint-Père, Dolead

  • Practicality:
  • Is this city strategic to attack the rest of the geographical area?
    Do I have the language skills?
    Is the time difference a problem (if operating in another country for example)?
    Does the equipment of this country/city allow me to conduct my business (stable internet connection, servers, ...)?

"Our sales team is based in the US and our operations in Paris. We chose the East Coast because there is only a 6-hour time difference." - Arthur Saint-Père, Dolead
"For India, we had considered 3 cities: Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai. Beyond the cost of Bangalore, it was the only city that assured us a stable internet connection." - Nils Lataillade, Meero
Fake it until you make it

To make sure you're ready for implementation: → Have your site translated “quick and dirty” (just for the test, don't keep the site like that afterwards!) → Set up a low-budget advertising campaign. → Analyze the results according to your acquisition cost.

Do I need to be established physically?

2 questions can help you determine if your physical presence is needed or not:

The importance of cultural barriers (the more important they are, the more you need to be on site);
The pool of potential customers in the target country that you can reach from your country of origin (the smaller it is, the more you need to be on site).
"We opened Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy from France because the cultural barriers were less important. " - Arthur Saint-Père, Dolead
"We had a sufficient pool in France to operate in 80 countries from Paris without having local offices." - Nils Lataillade, Meero

When should I choose an acquisition?

In a competitive market where historical players are already present, setting up a business is expensive, especially in terms of marketing. In this case, acquiring a local player can be a way to multiply the marketing effort by capitalizing on the history.

However, acquisition requires other qualities such as diplomacy: you must integrate the teams by finding the right balance between what should be kept, what should be imposed and what you can extend to your operation.

First operational issue: recruiting

A challenge that is already complex in your home country, it is even more difficult abroad.

What is the right profile to open a country?

The right profile is :

A person who knows and lives the local culture;
A person who has a local network;
A person who knows how to manage and who will take care of recruitment and cultural adaptation;
A person who speaks the local language.
“I recruited an American to open the UK, that was my biggest mistake.” - Benjamin Suchar, Worklife (ex Yoopies)

If language is a barrier, it is much less important than knowledge of the local culture.

Best practice Once you have found the person who will be in charge of opening the country, include in your onboarding process a time to soak up your know-how and expertise in your country of origin. This will facilitate the creation of an office with a bi-cultural base.

How to attract the right profiles?

By having an attractive salary policy that is consistent with the market (stock options on the local branch);
By developing your employer brand through a top-notch employee experience;
By choosing a tactical location.
"The aura of a French startup in the US is the same as an Estonian startup in France." - Arthur Saint-Père, Dolead

Discovery While Arthur had chosen Boston for family reasons, he realized that this geographic location was an asset: less recruitment pressure than in a city like New York, lower salaries, lower turnover and ideally located next to Harvard and MIT.

How to evaluate the quality of candidates?

The language barrier and the non-verbal language specific to each culture, do not allow for a clear analysis of a candidate.

Best practice In order to quickly gain skills, the Worklife (ex Yoopies) team met with a dozen people who had made at least 10 recruitments in the country of implementation.
I recruited 5 Americans and only 1 is still with us. They are very good at selling themselves but less good at executing.” - Arthur Saint-Père, Dolead

What are the impacts on the marketing strategy?

Tailor the messages

As you can imagine, copying and pasting does not work! If in the countries that are close culturally, you can reduce the effort of adaptation, it is essential to review all sales and marketing materials.

Japan, China, the United States, etc. are all countries that require real adaptation work.

We reworked all our media in less than 3 months with the help of a specialized agency for about 100K€. This was an essential investment that helped us sign 47 clients in 9 months.” - Arthur Saint-Père, Dolead

Adapt the channels

Across the world, there are strong differences in media usage. The marketing and acquisition strategy that you have put in place in your country of origin must therefore be totally revised according to the specificities of the target market.

For example:

  • In Japan, having a Linkedin account is very badly perceived;
  • In Saudi Arabia, Twitter is used by +50% of the population;
  • In the Philippines, communicating via influencers works very well.
"We are biased by what we know. We have to question ourselves and listen to local people. One of our interns in Saudi Arabia had strongly advised us to go on Twitter, which we didn't believe because in France, Twitter doesn't work on our segment. However, he was right.” - Benjamin Suchar, Worklife (ex Yoopies)

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