By Paul Fifield, Chief Revenue Officer, UNiDAYS
Assuming you’ve got great product/market fit and you have it worked out in terms of capital (ie: you won’t run out of money any time soon), there are five areas you need to get right to make a company work globally, whether it’s in one country or 50. These are very much the key secrets of the Silicon Valley approach.
Vision & Mission
Hiring (this is fundamental)
Mission & Vision
Getting the mission and vision nailed is really important. It's not easy, and if you haven’t done it yet, I’d suggest making it a company wide initiative, lead by the senior team. Some have just the mission statement, some opt for both a mission and a vision, but the aim is the same - create company wide alignment behind one clear purpose. It should be inspirational, measurable and attainable.
All decisions then can be set against that clear mission. If an idea, product feature, partnership or initiative does not in some way help to achieve that mission then its not right. And should be ditched.
Culture & Values
Getting this right means you can craft and then maintain a consistent culture across the company no matter how many countries you are in. The ambition should be that you could take down the company signs from your office, but you would know the company you had walked into.
Culture is the collective personality of your company - not just today but also what you aspire to be. The values are the ways you expect people to behave that then create the culture itself. They are the operating principles that also guide day to day decision making. Getting culture and values nailed means you know the kind of people you are looking for in hiring, it hugely influences on-boarding, training, performance evaluation etc etc. It really is the glue that binds.
The secret here with Mission and Vision + Culture and Values is all to do with decision making. As you scale into new territories and headcount grows from 100, to 500, to 1000+ thousands of decisions are being made every day assuming there is not an overbearing top down management approach (not fit for purpose for fast growth companies). These tactics help to ensure that decisions are made as if the senior team were making them. Its what Reid Hoffman describes as a ‘vertical not horizontal’ management approach.
In ‘How Google Works’ by Eric Schmidt he has a chapter called ‘Hiring - The Most Important Thing You Do’. Because it really absolutely is - people are everything and getting the right talent will transform your chances of success. I would suggest reading both Eric’s book plus ‘Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead’ by Lazlo Bock, Google’s head of People for inspiration.
And please don't say "well, we’re not Google we cant possibly do that". Within these two books there are many ways, without any resource, that you can improve your hiring process overnight and lower your chance of making very damaging or even fatal hiring mistakes. Having your mission, vision, culture and values down is really key here.
Getting a world class hiring process in place is fundamentally important before you put the foot on the gas of international expansion. So do it!
Finally communication. Company wide and one to ones are crucial.
Company All Hands
I would suggest every 2 weeks for a company all hands is about right. Google since the beginning have done it weekly (TGIF - thank Google its Friday), but I think every 2 weeks is the better cadance. And the All Hands shouldn’t be lead only by the senior management team, but provide a platform for others in the company to talk on specific areas of interest. It breeds a culture of openness and transparency which smart, invested people will like.
One on One’s
I have teams in 6 offices, from Sydney to London, Silicon Valley to New York. I can honestly say none of them feel like remote outposts because of my regular weekly one to ones and team calls that I do. In the beginning when teams or individuals are really new it's not unusual to do a daily 20 min stand-up to make sure questions are answered quickly and people feel supported.
These regular calls, with shared docs to create agendas and track action items also have a powerful unifying and team bonding effect. Everyone has different styles but I also set aside time to talk more freely about any topic, both personal and work related as if they were a colleague sitting near you in your own office.
Paul Fifield, Chief Revenue Officer, UNiDAYS, is speaking at Global Expansion Summit 2017.