Going Global: Committing to the Unique Needs of New Markets

In today’s economy, “going global” isn’t just an option; for many, it’s a prerequisite for success. Recently, Rajeev Singh was invited by the Washington Technology Industry Association to talk with entrepreneurs and other business leaders about Concur’s experience of going global. On the agenda: what lessons were learned from entering new markets and deploying internationally. In this second part of three parts, Singh shares the importance of making a commitment to new markets.

At the time when Concur first decided to expand operations into another country—in our case the UK—we hired one person. Then we waited to see what would happen. This was a logical approach for a small company. Who knows how things are going to work out, right? We didn’t have a whole lot of extra cash lying around that we could risk on a foreign adventure. So why not get someone on the payroll in-country, let them have a look around, and then see what happens from there? What could go wrong?

Well, it turns out that like anything in life, your success is directly proportional to your level of commitment. In our case, we thought we were committed. We had a staff member and rented an office and printed up business cards and registered with local authorities so that it was all official. But in fact, we were treating global expansion like it was just another sales territory, like we were simply hiring someone to cover southern California, instead of truly committing to serving an entirely new market with unique needs and specific ways of doing business.

We also realized quite quickly that using the one-man-band approach to global expansion means you’ll only be as successful as that one person you hire. Now you might find yourself hiring a superstar, who will in time become a cornerstone of your leadership team, and has what it takes to get you up and running in your new country in no time. If you happen upon that person, consider yourself incredibly lucky. More than likely, if you go into a new market looking for help, you’ll hire someone who has many great strengths, but also has some potential limitations, or in the worst case scenario, just turns out to not be a great hire. It happens to the best of companies. So what then?

We learned that if you want to expand your business into new territories, then you need to truly commit. First, consider assigning a current leader from your own organization to head up the new operation. At Concur, we believe that culture is everything in a company, and having someone who you trust and who also shares a commitment to your company’s culture is probably the best thing you can do to help establish your presence in a new market.

Then, continue that commitment by hiring two, three, four, or as many people as you think you’ll need to be successful. You can look at it as hedging your bets, you can think about it in terms of spreading the risk, or even consider that you’re making a statement to the market and your competitors about your commitment. However you need to rationalize it, in the long run, this approach pays dividends.
Mind you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing due diligence, sending in scouts, and learning on-the-ground how a particular market operates. That might be something that a one-person office could help you with. But the moment you tell yourself, or your investors, or your employees, or especially your customers, that you’re entering a particular market for real, that’s the moment that you need to truly commit to that market—with both proven leadership and the appropriate level of staffing to get the job done.


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