The talent acquisition challenges of international expansion
Developing your business in a new country will involve risks and there are certain factors you’ll need to carefully consider to ensure success in the future.
For some time now retail and consumer companies have looked outside of the UK to grow their businesses. In most cases, the UK is a saturated market and in order to placate shareholders and investors, smart money looks at developing markets and the growth they offer.
Where are the best developing market opportunities?
Ten years ago, Eastern Europe was a growth area, now although the markets still show growth potential, they have increasingly moved towards saturation and growth opportunities are harder to come by. As a result, companies are looking further and further afield. Even the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) markets have come under some pressure and there are challenges such as China’s slowing growth and infrastructure challenges of doing business in India.
The new MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) countries offer fantastic opportunities to grow. Given some of the lessons we have taken from development within the BRICs, it is important to make the right decisions now, to ensure greater success and profitability.
What to look for when headhunting for leadership roles
When looking to recruit leaders for organisations in developing markets, the first point of call for western businesses is often to take advantage of global expats who have made their careers through opening up and developing new markets.
During my years in the global recruitment business, I have seen first hand the phases of growth (and contraction) that organisations go through. In most cases, developing in any new country will involve risks and these are exacerbated by the following key factors:
- Is the market developed enough for the concept?
- What customer need does the concept fulfil?
- Does the economic and political infrastructure support it?
- If the organisation does grow rapidly, how do you control it?
- How do the people needs of the organisation change as the business grows and the market develops?
- As competition comes in (as it inevitably will in any new market), how do you cement the advantages that you have as an early adopter?
Maximise your chance of success
From the HR and headhunter’s point of view, the challenges are numerous, and to maximise the chances of success there are several things to consider:
- The person to set up the operation is unlikely to be the same person to grow it beyond a set size and scale. The challenges of the operational setup require very different skills to effectively managing a medium-sized organisation.
- It is possible to sacrifice direct category experience in exchange for someone who has a cultural understanding of the country. For example, I have conducted several searches where the most important factor is ‘in country’ experience rather than direct industry experience.
- People always significantly underestimate the challenges of a relocation, especially if you are looking at a third world country. I would always consider looking for people who have already worked in challenging markets.
- You will reach a point where you will hand over to local employees. This can take a long time depending on the level of economic development of the country.
- Always consider returning expats.
- Never underestimate language skills.
In conclusion, there are rich pickings to have in new markets however one should never underestimate the challenges, risks and people required. What may initially seem to be a ‘no-brainer’ can quickly devolve into an expensive and potentially embarrassing mistake.
As with any new venture, the most important thing for success is the careful selection of the right leadership to take on the challenge. This will comprise of a combination of existing company employees, expat ‘facilitators’ who have been there before, country experts and local resources. In order to succeed it is essential that these elements are combined in the right way.
Page Executive has a proven track record, across our global network, of providing innovative recruitment solutions to address these challenges for organisations. To discuss international sourcing challenges and strategies for your business, get in touch with Simon Nolan, Head of Consumer Practice.
Head of Practice Consumer
T: +44 1932 264056