I recently attended a renowned industry leader’s presentation where she described helping an entrepreneur launch his international start-up in India. She delivered a compelling talk about opportunities, challenges and lessons learned. What resonated for me during her talk was that the entrepreneur was adamant to only hire the BEST people into his new business. The first employee he recruited was an HR professional. I was the only HR person in the room and was (internally) grinning from ear to ear. This was another reminder that the common denominator for business and, in particular, when “going global” is PEOPLE.

As interest accelerates within small and mid-sized companies to expand globally, the need to dramatically increase global competencies is significant. Business, Finance and HR leaders must master a number of skills to become effective including:

  1. International management expertise and experience in areas such as:
    • Business structures
    • Competition
    • Political and economic environments
    • Finance and business issues such as contracts, taxation, intellectual property, and risk
    • Employment and leadership
    • Cultural norms, values and differences
    • Technology
  2. Global mindset combines an openness to and awareness of diversity across cultures and markets with a propensity and ability to see patterns across countries and markets. This mindset also includes the ability to deal with ambiguity and walk into unfamiliar business territory.
  3. Develop cultural intelligence (CQ) – CQ is the capability to function effectively across national, ethnic and organizational cultures. While the basics of global mindset mentioned above will get you in the door, enhancing your cultural intelligence (CQ) will keep you there. What works in one culture often times simply does not work in other cultures. Developing this skill is a must-have for successfully “going global”.
  4. Understand international labor differences – Employers handling employee labor issues overseas need to be careful to understand the variety of laws in the countries and localities where they operate. Common areas of differences are in employment contracts, overtime laws, data privacy, leave time, unions, noncompetitive agreements, and termination policies. All can be very different overseas and each country’s laws have their own issues.
  5. Effective handling of remote, dispersed talent and teams
    • Ensure remote workers are comfortable within your company – If possible, facilitate in-person or onsite visits to locations or with key employees.
    • Utilize technology to make collaboration easier – e.g., video conferencing, Skype, Yammer, cloud-based or web-based (always accessible) management tools.
    • Foster company culture – deliberate efforts to keep relationships and information flowing and accessible.

Back in the day, business owners who wanted to expand business operations may have added a location outside their own neighborhood into the next community. Times have changed. The world and the global market are wide open for those willing to go for it.