When Bullhorn launched in the UK five years ago, it was a one-man operation. I was Bullhorn’s first country manager outside the US and now, as Bullhorn expands its international presence, it is my responsibility to hire country managers in each new region.
Do your research
Cultural and legal differences must be considered when launching a business in a new country. Anyone that believes the way to conduct business throughout Europe is the same regardless of the country you’re launching in is labouring under an illusion. You must anticipate regional differences.
These are particularly apparent when hiring a country manager because of variations in employment law. For example, notice periods are different between France, where the notification period for the termination of an employment contract can be from one month to three months, and the UK, where notice periods can be shorter.
Not understanding the different hiring practices and laws in a country before you attempt to establish a business presence there will create problems. Do your research first.
When searching for employees, take advantage of your contact network across the new territory into which you are expanding. People you have built relationships with on the ground will often be able to offer employee referrals. You will also want to advertise on social networks, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, in the hope of finding a suitable candidate that is already connected with your industry.
Although the employees you are considering for a role may be living and working far from your central offices, a face-to-face meeting is essential at some point in the interview process.
More on international expansion:
- Going global: It’s not just for big business
- Worldwide expansion on a shoestring
- Partnering with China
However, this does not mean that a quick meeting in an airport hotel bar will do the trick. It is important that the person you get to fill the role has a strong sense of the company culture. As a result, the interview should ideally be conducted at the company’s headquarters. At Bullhorn we do interviews in London, the company’s international hub, and then, after being hired, the new company manager also visits the company headquarters in the US.
What skills to look for
A country manager should have experience working in the region they are responsible for as well as local contacts that can help them set up the business. For this reason, it is best to have candidates that are indigenous to the region in which they would be working. We also look for people that have previously worked in our industry and that have extensive sales experience, as they will be responsible for launching our brand in the new territory.
A country manager must be independent and self-motivated as initially it’s likely they’ll be working on their own. However they must also be willing and able to fit into the larger company structure. They should be ambitious and passionate, having thoroughly bought into the project of making their region a great asset to the business.
Not everyone is willing to have the success or failure of an entire region so closely attributed to them, so the ideal candidate needs to be able to handle a great deal of responsibility. Finding the right balance of soft and hard skills is the most difficult part of the search, but it is important that you do not compromise by making an offer before you find a candidate that ticks all of the boxes.
Finding a quality country manager takes patience. After finding an individual that is passionate about your company and the project, it is then up to him or her to take the necessary initiative to ensure the business is successful in the new region and grows quickly.