From left: Dan Glazer of Fried Frank leads discussion with Brett Putter of Forsyth Group, Digital Shadows CTO James Chappell, Rentmineonline Founder Ed Spiegel and Voyage Control CEO James Swanston
America is a tough nut to crack for the UK tech startup looking to grow their company in the USA.
In the latest Breakfast of Champions a panel of experts with in depth experience growing companies in the US explained the intricacies of hiring and culture in the USA, and how a UK company can overcome the hurdles put before it.
4 Key Pieces of Advice:
1) Hire American..Sales and Marketing
Bad news for British salesman. Our panel was unanimous in their admiration for American salesmen and recommendation that UK startups should employ them.
“They’ve got a different sales culture’ said James Swanston, pointing to ingrained facets of American culture which their British sales counterparts are unable to emulate, and the home advantage of a salesman who knows the ins and outs of American Football.
Ed Spiegel agreed, saying “It’s primarily in the sales and marketing role that it’s important to get locals”, pointing to an educational infrastructure in the USA which leads to a polished sales culture, with a plefora of MBA holders eager to set to work for your startup.
2) Merge and maintain culture
“Focus on cultural DNA first and foremost” said Brett Putter of the Forsyth Group, pointing to “massive cultural differences” between the UK and the US.
Brett recommends identifying your company’s core values, and then finding employees in the US who have values that overlap with yours. ‘Values are your gel, they’re the things that make people work an 18 hour day’.
James Chappell concurred, saying that merging US and UK values was hugely important to his company, to the extent that ‘we hired Americans in the UK, as well as in the US – this way we Americanised our company and brought the US to the UK, and we have a synced meeting with both offices every week’.
3) Adjust your salaries and equity schemes to the American Market
“Americans are expensive” – words that were uttered by almost all of our experts at one point or another during the talk. Ed Spiegel summarised it as ‘one of the big shockers that will hit you’.
Though are experts didn’t feel hiring American developers (famously expensive) was key, sales and marketing people are, and their expectations are greater both in wage and in equity.
“In my experience Americans are getting roughly 25% more equity than their British counterparts” said Brett Putter, so be prepared to spend and give more than you would in the UK to get the talent you want.
4) The accent thing is true….but being a British company has downsides
It’s no urban myth that the British accent is adored over in the USA. James Chappell had noticed that ‘whilst American sales people are better, if you want to explain a technical point you should get a Brit on the phone – the accent appears to work’.
Agreeing that the British accent sounds surprisingly sophisticated to the American ear, Brett Putter pointed out ‘you all sound really clever to us’, a sentiment well received by our audience.
But it’s not all fun and games. Your accent may be a plus point but you should update your vocabulary to sell effectively – James Swanston pointed out that ‘you’ve got to use US terms – convention centres not exhibition centres, dump trucks not skip lorries – in the US doing enterprise sales they want to buy from CEO’s and you’ve got to use their language to sell’.
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