Going Global, Part 2: Staffing Up Your New European Sales Office

In part one, we examined when you should make the move and the best place to locate, given issues like costs, language, hiring, regulations, taxes, and other key drivers. Now it's time to consider who to hire for your new European sales office. Savvy staffing is a critical requirement if you expect your new office to achieve significant revenue growth; in fact, this factor will likely drive all the major decisions you make.

Finding the Right Talent

Access to workers should be top of mind before expanding to a new European location. For example, a B2B software-as-a-service company launching a sales and support office in Europe will likely need sales, sales engineers, SDRs, and tech support as well as finance, IT, and HR people who are used to working in a high-growth, fast-paced environment. Finding such talent can be daunting. However, there are a few guidelines that you can follow to make hiring local people easier.

First, while visiting your chosen city for a few days, talk to companies that have set up operations in the location you are assessing, specifically ones that have similar talent needs. You'll want to see firsthand how they hire and scale teams. While there, examine whether the location is attractive as a place to relocate to, because it's likely you may hire from across the European labor pool, not just locally.

It's also worthwhile to speak to local recruiters and use LinkedIn and Glassdoor. Meanwhile, post some openings on jobs boards in your chosen geography to get a sense of the available talent in that locale.

Focus on That First Key Hire

Having the right people is important at every stage of a company's growth, but this is particularly true when seeding a new team in a new location. The first hire is instrumental to setting the tone, culture, and success of the office. That person needs to get processes in place, hire the initial team, and deal with problems and issues as they arise.

While this first hire will have ownership of the new operation and hopefully drive it forward in a positive direction, consider establishing a "landing team." This often consists of two or three senior sales, support, and ops people who spend six to 24 months in the new office to help hire, on-board, and train new employees. Their knowledge of company processes and culture as well as their relationships with HQ can make a real difference in the long-term rapport and integration that the new office establishes with HQ.

Establish Your Corporate Culture

Establishing a foreign office can change the dynamic, culture, and overall nature of your company, so don't neglect the people aspect. Given human nature, hiring an office full of competent sales folks in Europe doesn't always guarantee a smooth-running operation. While it's tempting to let the culture develop organically, assuming some sort of "global culture" will emerge, in real life, a more hands-on approach creates better results.

The idea is not to squash local subcultures that are innate—your employees will likely have different backgrounds—but to overlay the HQ's culture while celebrating local diversity. Some proven techniques include holding well-planned all-hands meetings, bringing European team members to HQ to get tastes of the corporate culture, and having senior executives from the home office visit regularly.

If your product is good and your sales organization performs, you will grow. Using some thought, care, and planning in launching your first European sales office can save immense headaches and needless costs that come from not thoroughly strategizing this important step. Even the fastest-moving young company would do well to spend time on developing a solid approach first. 

Deirdre Moran is vice president of emerging technologies at IDA Ireland (http://www.idaireland.com/). In this role, she works with high-growth emerging companies and start-ups to assist these companies in exploring the opportunity of moving overseas to Ireland by providing information on the business environment, building business models, recruitment, finance, legal, tax, property selection, PR, and infrastructure.

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