Category Archives: Operations and People

Lean Internationalization – how to enter new markets with less financial risk

A note as to finding the right Country Manager for your US-operation

Ask yourself the following:
– Who on my team has worked with me for a very long time,
– do I trust fully with a P&L of the USA and to do the best thing for the company,
– knows the ins and outs of our business,
– do i respect and can make me change my mind,
– is able to think strategically and provide input down to the tactical and operational level based on market feedback,
– knows our organization inside and out and has trust throughout = can get things done by people that do not report to him,
– is able to engage and listen to customers in a professional manner,
– is able to translate customer feedback into actionable insights for his organization (product, support, sales, implementation, pricing, etc)
– is resourceful and creative and has proven to be able to take on the hardest and toughest projects that require stamina and determination to succeed?
– is able to work well together with someone native from the USA,
– speaks and writes good English,
– has the family environment conducive to our ambitions.

Were you able to check off all the boxes? Congratulatins, you’ve found a great candidate to be your Country Manager!

The importance of local presence when seeking success in the USA

There are lots of factors necessary to successfully engage, close and grow a customer based relationship with a US-company. Ofcourse your product must have the right elements of price to value, you must provide differentiation along an axis that your client cares about, your support must be up to par with the market, and numerous other factors. One element of successfully growing your US-business, one that is less discussed, is the element of local presence.

When speaking with clients we define local presence by distance from the target market:

  • In the neighborhood = in the same metro-area as the multi-national so as to be able to visit “immediately”. Being in the neighborhood of your client is always a benefit but can be particularly helpful if “community” engagement and dependencies, on-site support, strong elements of co-development, rapid and iterative cycles, or high logistics cost and supply chain dependencies exist. Added benefits of being in the metro-area allows you to engage at a certain level in the community and get to know the client and its multiple stakeholders; something that is a key ingredient if you want to grow the client.Consider for example the Wind-energy industry.
  • regional-presence = WIthin 3-5 hours driving distance so as to enable for frequent but pre-planned meetings. This is the degree of localization that most of our clients are advised to provide to their clients in the USA. Being in the same region where you can drive to the client is a big difference from requiring a longer plane flight; requiring a flight is a mental hurdle in the minds of most companies. Being in the same region allows you to pick up some of the local flair (example: knowing about college football in the South is a big plus as most executives in this region have some interest in this sport) and you’re never too far away to be able to execute a face to face meeting….which many times is the factor that makes or breaks the deal.
  • National presence: When speaking of achieving success in the USA it’s imperative to have at least this level of presence to your customers. First and foremost you’ll be able to communicate with the client and his team via phone, something that is greatly hindered if you’re 6-9 hours away (example: Denmark). In addition you may be required to have local presence to comply with customer purchasing requirements (many Fortune 500’s require to be doing business with a local legal entity for reasons that include risk management).

Summarizing the importance of local presence I’ll quote one of our Senior Relationships with one of the world’s largest companies, a firm headquartered down the road from us here in Atlanta:

“While we don’t mind getting on planes to meet with vendors, you should realize that we are busy people. We may find it hard to find the time. In addition we are “lazy” 😉 If you’re local you’ll definitely increase your odds of doing business with us.”; Senior Executive at Fortune 50 company in Atlanta

What value do VC’s bring to the table for startups wanting to achieve success in the USA?

Why do startups take VC money? The money aside, is there any other value add? In my experience the typical VC speaking to “why them” typically will state that they “add more value than just the check”. I’ve never taken outside capital so I don’t have a personal story to lean on.

I’ve heard many of my friends state that their VC’s really did not bring much to the table. Perhaps they didn’t get the right VC…perhaps they were right?

It’s safe to say that I’ve contemplated this for some time and so during an event tonight here at our offices I decided to ask a VC:

Can you provide me with some examples of how you specifically have added value to your portfolio companies?

The answer was interesting and made me think of some other conversations with entrepreneurs that I’ve had about their VC’s and said support.

Below are some examples of what kind of specific value I’ve heard VC’s adding in support of making their portfolio firms successful in the USA:

– Facilitation of key-hires: For example helping a portfolio firm find their CTO, 
– Providing the entrepreneur with valuable experience that is key to the strategy of his company: One story stands out: “You should lower your burn rate, take more time, extend your runway”. The VC, a serial entrepreneur, gave this advice to an Entrepreneur who was on a strong growth curve but where monetization was not yet in place. The entrepreneur told me this particular advice was very valuable; he was about to stack the team and go full force, something that may have caused him to “burn out and fade away” too soon, 
– Introductions to key potential customers: No doubt this one is a value added!
– Introductions to key industry experts that allowed the company to accelerate their learning. The impact of such learning can quickly be turned into “dollars saved” if considering the time it would have otherwise taken. 
– Providing the entrepreneur with support when putting the reporting documents, financial models and presentations together, 
– Helping the entrepreneur raise the next round. 
– Providing perspective from other companies and industries, perspectives that can be applied to this company, 
– Support with pricing 

We’re a toolset. We help with which ever is needed to grow the business; VC answer

My personal conclusion from my dialogue with the VC is that the list of value added elements are exactly the elements for which why our clients hire @katapultgroup. We bring expertise from having worked in over 100 industries, with over 350 companies (big and small), having started companies, having sold companies, having built software, having raised money…having gotten our hands deep into the operations and execution. We actually go the extra mile and close deals, hire and fire, file the paperwork…do what ever it takes to grow the business. This makes me grateful and happy. I realize how much value we bring to our clients, besides just closing deals. 

Tonight i’ve gained more respect for VC’s and what they do for their companies. Tonight it’s also clear to me that we are an alternative to VC’s; We can help you grow your business without you giving up 40% of the company. Next time someone mentions that they are looking for VC money I’ll offer up the idea of considering finding someone like @katapultgroup as an alternative. 

The Startup Chasm – the most difficult journey for international companies entering the USA.

Small and medium-sized international businesses who want to enter and grow in the USA will need to pass the “Startup Chasm” – the most difficult journey for international companies wanting to enter the USA and achieve success.

I define the Startup Chasm (inspired by Geoffrey Moore’s Chasm theory) by the critical first period you have to go through after evaluating the market and having said GO to entering the USA, but before you have a significant customer base and a steady and ongoing business in the United States. Looking in the rearview mirror the Startup Chasm is easy to recognize and rationalize however looking ahead and into the Chasm, the Chasm most often is appearing as small, insignificant and very temporary. A small hole in the ground that will be easy to surpass.

Most small and medium-sized international enterprises are sadly unaware of the depth of the Startup Chasm and the resource requirements for successfully making it through. This lack of respect and know how of the Startup Chasm is, in my experience the primary reason for international businesses to fail in the US market.

If you want to survive in the US-market, you need to be highly aware of the Startup Chasm, the resources and team work it takes to overcome it and the time before the Chasm is behind you. Most companies that fail in the USA fail for some reason related to being unable to make it through the Startup Chasm. 

The Execute to Impact Model – A simple tool to decide between US-market initiatives

Lightweight tools are critical to your success in the USA

Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable; Eisenhower

 

As a small business with an operation in the USA it is fairly important to use lightweight tools that don’t take too much time to use, are easy to understand and bring enough clarity to the situation for your company to find it useful. The tools should be able to easily incorporate into the reporting processes already in place while, once again, not bring added overhead.

Added overhead is what can start to derail the company in its progress simply for the fact that there are more small tasks than one can ever imagine, most of them important but not drivers for sales and growth. These items are invisible to the HQ location and therefore pose enormous risk to the US operation. Anything that is an urgent task to the US operation, but is invisible to the HQ poses a risk as it takes away resources, to In another blog post on @SuccessInTheUSA we will discuss what these items consist of and how to manage them so they do not overtake the resources of your company. 

When planning initiatives to drive sales and growth in the US-market, we have been using a super simple framework called The Execute to Impact model. See illustration below:

The Execute to Impact Model for choosing which initiatives to pursue

The Execute to Impact Model is a simple, easy to understand and easy to communicate tool that you can use when deciding between which projects/clients/initiatives to go after in the US-market. 

Here at Katapult Group we use it regularly, whipping up the model on the whiteboard then placing the initiatives within the Execute to Impact model supporting the placement of each initiative with discussion related to the two defining parameters: Potential Impact vs. Ability to Execute. 

The beauty of the model is its simplicity and flexibility. It is very easy to engage in constructive dialogue around each initiative, whether you have the ability to execute (resources, competencies, time, money, support from HQ, relationships, etc.) as well as quickly defines which initiatives have a bearing in reality, i.e. which initiatives you know and can quantify to create value for your company. The model can be further refined to encompass specific parameters, such as size of the circles for the resources required, color of circles based on the type of effort, and other. 

Lastly, the Execute to Impact Model encourages having at least one initiative that stretches the organiation. Google calls these initiatives Moonshots, the initiatives that have a minimum potential impact of 10X to the organization.  

The Execute to Impact Model is a simple and easy to use planning and prioritization tool for small and large international companies wanting to achieve success in the USA. 

Let us know if you would like further information on how to use the Execute to Impact Model. We are very curious to hear your feedback and if you have found it useful. 

What is your Sales Manager really doing back there???

Welcome to doing business in the USA!

The United Stated of America. This is place where time never stops, when everyone is 24/7, where expectations are high….Are you ready for it?

If you sell technology your lonely wolf, the person that “runs your US Operation” will also have to be:
– The Account Manager
– Your 1st level supporter
– Your book keeper
– Your Junior Legal Councel
– The marketing department
– Your shipping and handling department
– Your Risk Management department to handle insurance coverage needs with your enterprise customers

His or her most important role is to be your Sales Manager. Please make it possible!