Crossing the Atlantic is a perilous undertaking for any company – no matter how successful and seemingly unstoppable it might be.
Even household names on both sides of the pond have come unstuck by assuming the winning formula that worked so well at home would serve equally well abroad.
It’s particularly hard for US companies. Especially those which adopt a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to expanding and recruiting in Europe. You can’t just scale up your business on autopilot.
This Is Not America
America is full of very smart and extremely professional business leaders. The very best lead the world with their marketing skills.
And yet many have little or even no previous European experience.
So some cling to a ‘cookie cutter’ strategy when it comes to scaling up.
That might have worked just fine when their companies were building teams in CA, NY, Boston and the Midwest.
But they risk trouble if they reach for the cookie cutter when expanding into France, Germany and Italy.
Language is the large and very obvious elephant in the room – but still one that so many companies still manage to underestimate.
Companies used to dealing with of 50 states that speak English suddenly find themselves facing 28 EU countries (plus various non-EU nations) with a plethora of languages. Switzerland alone has four.
Native speakers are the key. People born or living in the countries in question. Not Americans or Brits with foreign language degrees. Sorry – but that’s the reality.
There’s also an important element of trust. Parachuting in a US VP will not be as popular as appointing locally.
Hire People Who Understand The Subtleties
Actually it’s more than a question of language. It’s a matter of cultural fluency – each country has its own particular ways of doing business. Even those under the harmonising EU mantle.
So you will need the right people for each country. And the right marketing collateral to support them.
Without native speakers in place you will never be able to understand and profit from the nuances that make these countries and their markets tick.
And that is a failure which could prove to be very expensive in the long run.
So be prepared to adapt to the local culture of each country. Even to the heartbeat of each city in some cases.
Just as LA is not San Francisco, Barcelona is not Madrid. Torino is Turin but not Naples. Marseilles is not Paris. Istanbul is split between non-EU Europe and Asia.
It pays to be flexible with your sales model. Be ready to modify and reinforce it quickly if conditions on the ground are not what you expected initially.
Don’t Underestimate European Employment Law
Europeans can be precious about their employment rights.
EU workers enjoy a cosseted life compared with their US counterparts – longer holidays, greater protection.
You can’t just fire them on the spot. This is not The Apprentice, despite the new president’s heritage.
Hiring five workers just to keep the best three might be fine in Texas but it could prove very expensive if you try that in Europe.
Again it’s important to be aware of local subtleties – such as short-term contracts which are more prevalent in Germany than they are in Britain.
All these EU employment rules can be a pain in the six when compared with doing business in America.
But the cookie doesn’t have to crumble that way. We can help by making the process run more smoothly.
Let’s talk about getting you into the lucrative European market…