Last week I kicked off a series breaking down the pivotal roles required for a super-hot company to go global and go big. My first post focused on key attributes of a globalization manager who has what it takes to bring a rising star to new markets. This post describes qualities of the rising star that must be present for the role to be effective.
Rising stars are super-fast-growing companies, normally driven by a major innovation or some kind of industry disruption. At five- or six-figure revenues, the company is enjoying annual growth of 50-100+% in its home market. Having caught the attention of global buyers or distributors, the company is working hard to meet the needs of a growing international customer base while starting to establish a localization infrastructure.
If you think your product can cut it on the world stage, then here are the five best practices your company needs to handle the pressures of launching in new markets from your rising-star position.
It’s not enough that your product or service is enjoying success in your home market. Continuing runaway growth on the global stage requires an offering that transcends cultural boundaries and taps into something foundational – something about what it means to be human. Offerings that solve tactical problems require focus only on markets that experience those tactical problems, and thus, constrain overall growth. Help people get jobs; organize the world’s information; enable people to share their passions: a product that taps into a larger human need is positioned for global success.
Expanding to global markets can’t be just the vision of a lone developer or VP’s pet project. The executive team must be clear and aligned around a vision for going global: Clearly defined revenue goals. Committed investments. Headcount. Tools. Training. Above all, senior leadership must agree to prioritize globalization as a mission/directive within the company. Building a localization infrastructure will require cross-team collaboration. That can be like pulling planets out of orbit when passionate resources have been building momentum around other key initiatives for months, so it’s crucial to have the full weight of the executive leadership steering toward new markets.
Empowering, not Micromanaging
The corollary to executive vision is a willingness to empower the globalization manager to achieve the goals, without dictating roadmap elements like which target languages, tools, or vendors to use. Hire an experienced professional with the traits required to be successful, let them put a plan together, and support them by removing obstacles that will pop up around the company. Implementing a global strategy requires major changes to many functional areas in the company. Without strategic access to executives, the role will be buried under one department that has no power to enforce its vision on other departments, and then your whole initiative is stuck.
Rising star organizations tend to be energetic, entrepreneurial, exciting places to work. People commonly wear multiple hats based on their skillset, tribal knowledge, and area of interest. That’s really helpful for getting a localization program off the ground quickly! The globalization manager needs to be able to reach out to other teams and learn about existing processes, resources, requirements and constraints – all while educating other teams about localization basics and building relationships to support tight collaboration over time.
Startup culture tends to be forgiving of initial missteps, and rising stars need to cling to that perspective. Wild success in your home market can dim those painful memories of bad prototypes, disinterested focus groups, campaigns that landed with a thud, and so forth. Going global is a process of discovering what’s unique about your offering in the context of different cultures, and you have to expect to learn things you would have preferred to know at the beginning. That’s life. But the benefits of being first to launch a mostly-great game-changing solution outweigh the lost opportunity costs of perpetual delays in search of perfection. Remember to gather data from every experience and then learn from it.
These best practices create a successful platform from which the globalization manager can organize and execute a plan with buy-in from all key stakeholders. Hiring the right person for the job is crucial – but so is providing the framework for the role to succeed. Therefore, if you’re missing one of these elements, get to work incorporating it into your executive strategy before its absence cripples the overall effort.
Tune in next week for the third and final installment in the series: critical success factors of the localization service provider. In the meantime, have you been part of a fast-growing organization on its way to new markets? What other qualities influenced successful outcomes?