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How to manage your startup’s global team

September 07, 2018

Media article published by Startup Daily on 24 Aug 2018.

Australian startups are increasingly choosing to create international businesses from day one of operation. At Cohort Go, our team is based in 11 countries across the Asia-Pacific, North and South America. If your customer base is international like ours, the decision to go global is an easy one to make. The hard part is establishing offices and hiring the right team members located in multiple locations.

Here are my four key pieces of advice I’d give to other startups wanting to calibrate their teams across multiple countries.

Have the right people behind you

There’s no substitute for having the right people in your team when beginning a startup and having the right people on-side becomes even more crucial when setting up teams in more than one country. Establishing connections in the locations where you’re wanting to expand before you grow your operations there will save you lots of heartache in the long run.

Team members located “in country” can help you navigate regulations and rules that are specific to that region, create relationships with suppliers on the ground and speed up the decision-making process by having face to face interactions with those who can speak the language without having to worry about time differences and other issues that can crop up when operating in multiple locations.

Use technology to streamline communication

Communication is vital to any team, but becomes even more important when the people you work with are scattered around the world. By using fairly inexpensive – or free – communication tools like Skype for video meetings, and Slack for messaging across multiple projects, teams can stay in touch easily and ensure they function like a well-oiled machine.

Having these kinds of tools also allows management to combat the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ issues that have a tendency to plague some organisations – especially when team members are located in different time zones and locations compared to their team leaders.

Another tip I’d give to startup founders is that you don’t have to have multiple team members within each of your markets. Starting off with one or two of the right team members is enough to get the ball rolling on your global presence.

Schedule regular meetings

Frequent meetings, even if these are a quick five-minute phone calls to discuss points on a project, can help to create a cohesive global workforce. At Cohort Go, one strategy we have found that works, is having whole-of-company virtual meetings on a regular basis. We hold it on a Friday and call it TGIF (Thank God Its Friday!).

At these meetings, our executive team reports on company performance, and our global team join via video conferencing service Zoom. These meetings provide transparency and an opportunity for our offshore team members to feel part of the global business. There is an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback to foster a collaborative and supportive culture of innovation.

With that being said, team leaders still need to schedule regular individual check ins to see how their team members are tracking. This provides a wider understanding of what the entire team is working on and how their team is performing.

Create a unique global team

One of the great benefits of having a global team is that it affords you the opportunity to create a unique team culture that embraces the best elements of the various countries you’re operating in. This not only generates diverse and innovative ideas, but provides strong inside knowledge of local markets to develop the best insights into how to reach new customers.

Going global may feel overwhelming when you’re first starting out, but there are many opportunities for Australian businesses to make their mark on the global stage. Those organisations who learn how to calibrate their teams globally will reap the rewards when it comes to growing a global business.

Mark Fletcher is CEO and cofounder of Cohort Go, a leading edtech company that connects the international education community. Recognised for growth and innovation, Cohort Go’s online platform offers a tailored experience for students, agents and educators by reducing costs, increasing choice and improving productivity. The Cohort Go global network includes over 2,000 education providers and agents and more than 50,000 students from over 180 countries.

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Mark Fletcher
Mark is a qualified Lawyer, with over 15 years of banking and finance experience. He has worked for international investment and Australian regional banks, managing foreign exchange trading activities and financial risks. CEO of Cohort since 2011, Mark is responsible for global partnerships and driving the strategic direction of the company.
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Mark Fletcher