The Art of the Expatriate
Brand protection and location selection are the bones of creating a truly global company, but the heart of such an expansion is the people.
To be a truly global company, the elements that make the brand at home must be appropriately replicated abroad. For OtterBox, we strive to infuse our company culture into the brand and take our customer experience from just a product to a full sensory experience. Given that goal, selecting the right leaders for a new office can make or break the brand.
That being said, we knew we needed to have the right people on the ground. Ones that truly embraced and understood the company culture--people with great Ottertude. We selected a few key internal players who we knew we could trust implicitly and sent them off as expatriates to bring OtterBox to the world.
This is not at all an easy process. Many rules and regulations apply specific to the country or region that the office is located. My suggestion is to get expert advice on how to properly expat someone--it will cost a bit, but save a lot of headaches in the long run.
Process aside, selecting the right person to take the brand, vision, culture, etc. overseas is one of the hardest choices to make as a business owner and CEO. The responsibility is enormous and trust is the No. 1 consideration.
For those familiar with E-Myth (if you're not, I recommend that you do so), the person or people that take on this job would be a blend of entrepreneur and manager. To get the best of both worlds, I recommend tapping two people--an operations rock star and a sales prodigy.
Once these trusted company insiders have established the bare bones of the new office, it's time to start filling it. Selecting talent from within the market is crucial, but even more important than the skill sets and connections is the culture fit.
When possible, we bring new candidates abroad to our U.S. headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado, for training. This allows them to absorb the culture, learn from their American counterparts and feel like a part of the family. That's not always feasible, so the expat leaders serve as cultural cross-pollinators.
The workplace culture in offices around the world will never be mirror images of the home office due to overall cultural differences. Trying to force it will have the opposite result. A focus on core values, which should transcend typical cultural boundaries, will act as a bridge. The literal translations for things like accountability, passion, and integrity will be varied, but the essence of those traits is universal.
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