More than five years into a concerted international growth strategy, Vision Critical Communications, a technology-driven market research company that ranked No. 281 on the 2014 PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, has evolved into a multinational player with 15 sales and service support offices outside Canada, and an overall workforce of 700 employees.
While the British Columbia company, founded in 2000 by Andrew Eid, has a substantial footprint in the U.S., Vision Critical’s reach now extends to Europe, Asia and even South Africa. As CEO and director Scott Miller explains, one of the most important challenges for an enterprise with such a large footprint is finding ways to project the company’s corporate ethos to its more remote offices. Vision Critical’s solution: dispatching a network of “disciples” to “distribute our culture,” as Miller puts it. Some tips:
- Find the keeners in head office and put them on the road. At any given time, says Miller, about 5 per cent to 8 per cent of Vision Critical’s employees are “working in a different geography than they were hired.” Dubbed “disciples,” these employees tend to be young and interested in gaining international experience, but they also have a two-to-three year track record with Vision, having worked with numerous significant clients on adapting the company’s technology.
- Remember, on-the-ground disciples offer something different than the visiting sales executive. When any company expands into a new market, there’s always a push to get a toehold and secure those initial sales, a process that often requires a senior executive to fly in and close the deal. But Vision Critical’s disciples, says Miller, serve a different role, because they are on longer-term assignments (typically lasting a year to eighteen months), and can share with clients and potential customers their knowledge of how other users have deployed the technology.
- Position the disciples in the middle of the local office hierarchy. Miller says that when Vision Critical dispatches disciples to a field office, they find themselves embedded in the middle of company’s local staff. These people come equipped with plenty of knowledge about how Vision Critical’s technology is deployed with other customers, but they aren’t in charge of the local operation. Nor, Miller adds, do they receive special incentives, beyond some cost-of-living top-ups associated with relocating. The disciples are there to serve the office staff and Vision Critical’s international partners, not run the show.
- Don’t confuse training with customer experience. When Vision Critical dispatches one of its younger staff members to a field office, the company doesn’t tend to add a lot of extra training to prepare the person for the international assignment, says Miller. “They’ve been typically successful in the home market.” The training, in other words, was gleaned through successfully collaborating with clients.
Originally published by PROFITguide.com. Advice and tactics from Canada’s fastest-growing exporters and the editors of PROFIT Magazine.