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Starting a Business Abroad: Getting a Team Together

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Globe, by Nick WheelerRight, if you’ve made it this far in the series, you’ll have not only completed your preliminary enquiries into going about setting up a business abroad, but will also have visited the country of your choice to carry out more detailed investigations. By now, you should have a local lawyer and accountant on board, but what about the other employees you might need?

Recruiting staff is a time-consuming and complex exercise at the best of times, but it gets even more complicated when you are in another country and are trying employ people for a new business that doesn’t exist yet. It’s tempting to think of recruiting at least your senior employees in your home country and taking them over with you, but some countries have strict immigration rules on what kind of employees can be brought in, and may even have rules about the number of foreign employees a business can have. If this is the case, it’s time to get back on the ‘net and start hunting.

Once again, it’s back to the expat boards, which I mentioned in the post on gathering information. This time, you’re not asking for personal recommendations, but for the names of any recruitment agencies or employment brokers in the country. Alternatively, you want to know which are the biggest local websites and forums for those who are job-hunting, and also which newspapers carry the most job advertisements. It’s up to you whether you go with an agency for all your staffing or whether you’ll be conducting the search entirely by yourself, but regardless, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind.

Language issues
If you don’t speak the language in the country where you’ll be operating, it is essential that senior employees can communicate with you. Anything else is a recipe for disaster. In addition to the skills and experience needed to carry out their role, emphasise that language skills are essential. For employees in more junior roles, whether they also need to speak a second language will be dictated by the business you’ll be operating, what kind of customers you’ll be serving and where you’ll be operating. Language skills will always be an advantage in the tourism sector, but if you’ll be running a business services firm catering to the local population, it becomes less of a consideration.

The optimism of distance
It’s easy to promise anything in an email, or over the telephone. Both recruitment agencies and any potential employees you contact directly could look absolutely superb on paper, but try to read between the lines and watch out for any signs that they may have embellished their resumes. As you are not in the country, it is vital that you double-check all details and references given. Familiarise yourself with the education system too, so that you’ll be able to judge grades and diplomas. It shouldn’t be necessary to ask for scans of all of these when you initially start looking for employees, but when you do finally start interviewing staff, they should be able to provide proof of all of their qualifications. That means originals, not photocopies.

You are dealing with people
I know that setting up a business abroad is your personal project, but you need to bear in mind the implications of your actions on other people. Be honest with everyone about the time-frame involved in getting the business set up, how much pay you are offering, and what will be expected. While it can be easy to think about putting off your launch for a couple of months when you’re far away, if you have already promised jobs to people that means there are families out there depending on you for their livelihood, and you getting a case of cold feet or hitting a last-minute snag will directly impact on them. By agreeing to wait and work for you when you set up your business, that means they may turn down other opportunities or be leaving other jobs. Be absolutely sure that you have all your ducks in a row before you start handing out job offers.

After assembling a list of possible candidates, you will of course want to interview them. It would be great if you could manage all of this via Skype and know that everyone would be in place and ready for when you get started. Sadly, however, these things still are still best done face-to-face, so you should schedule another trip that will involve conducting interviews and tying up other loose ends before you begin business operations.

Finding the right people to work for your business is difficult enough at the best of times, and being hamstrung by having to begin recruitment at a distance can make it seem an even more daunthing prospect. But if you are very specific about what you want, and take extra care when checking references and credentials, you will avoid the worst of the chancers and should be able to whittle down a pool of candidates to just a few who you want to investigate further with follow-up interviews.

In the next post, I’ll be describing in more detail the type of planning that you need to be doing before setting up a business in a foreign country.

[Image by Nick Wheeler]



  1. Jonas says:

    If dealing with a country where computer literacy is not the highest a very good idea is to make initial interviews using a chat program like Messenger, Jabber or Skype (no video or sound, just keyboard) to verify typing speed and general computer knowledge.

  2. Stephanie Migot says:

    That is an excellent idea! It’s far too easy for someone to say that they are familiar with the technology they will be expected to use, only to be disappointingly under-qualified when eventually given a task to complete.

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