Why Too Many Meetings and Complicated Checklists Are An International Expansion Illness
I’ve helped dozens of companies expand internationally. Some of the work has involved complicated, managed service, and advisory engagements spanning multiple continents in less-than-friendly business climates. Other projects have been more straightforward growth solution offerings, although certainly no less important.
But no matter the project size, when I meet with a CEO, CFO, VP of HR, or other executive sponsor, I am asked: “what is one of the most important things we can do right now, before we begin, to prepare for this expansion?”
My answer surprises them: “don’t overplan this internally.”
Some firms in our industry have used a shroud of secrecy to sustain their success. If they can keep clients “scared” of the complications and difficulties lurking in international engagements, they can charge more and increase the scope of the engagement. While fears of compliance, fines, and thorny personnel issues in far-off countries are real, they can be mitigated. But too many companies are left feeling anxious, and instead of trusting their advisory partner they bolster the project’s ranks with all their most senior leaders.
Apprehension or fear surrounding the prospect of international expansion always results in over-planning and meetings. For some it’s a stalling tactic, for others, it’s a protective measure. They believe the more minds, the better. For others, it’s just behavior reinforced by company norms. While gathering a group of top leaders from HR, finance and legal in a room to discuss issues with expansion appears productive and precautionary, in many cases it’s just wasteful. In response to the idea of important corporate decision making, Al Pittampalli, author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting writes, “Do you do plenty of research and due diligence? Of course, that’s what rational, responsible, intelligent people do to avoid of the potential cost of making the wrong decision, right? But how often do we consider the cost of the decision making process itself?”
Here’s an industry newsflash: there are expansion scenarios that simply don’t require a weekly meeting of the company’s top minds.
It’s the appearance of purposefulness, under the guise of due diligence, that is really overkill. Rather than improving the likelihood of expansion success, it can delay decision making and paralyze processes. Having a highly formalized internal approach is not necessarily beneficial depending on the project’s scope. The work is not necessarily easy, but the right service provider knows what to do. Assuming healthy project calibration, target setting and clear decision points, we don’t need an army of the client’s highest paid resources to execute.
“So what’s the better approach?” clients ask.
At Blueback Global, we prioritize providing a one-stop shop service and a central point of leadership and project management for companies. Functionally, this means that companies can avoid the organizational pitfalls of having multiple departments represented in standing, weekly meetings. This also means that internal teams don’t need to build complicated checklists and workflow plans to map expansion steps. We help clients avoid spending more time managing document version control and bringing static Excel checklists up to date than actually delivering work.
The right international service provider leads the organizational charge. They create and complete project milestones and can engage efficiently with a client’s lead point of contact. This individual will be tasked with certain departmental to-dos and, when required, the service provider will organize touchpoints with line of business leadership as needed. Decision making is usually clear enough that a provider can handle the day-to-day tasks independently. They don’t need the C-suite around the table. This keeps expansion moving and avoids project decisions having to compete with calendars, bandwidth and other scarce resources for top leaders internally.
In an HBR article titled (smartly), How To Finally Kill The Useless Recurring Meeting, Ryan Fuller writes that a major cost and productivity waster for most companies are meetings with too many attendees. Bloated attendance means bigger meetings, more time consumed and less efficient interactions.
Companies can optimize their resources and give hours back to the leadership team by acknowledging the true scope of needed meetings for a particular expansion project. Blueback can help this. Upon engaging, we run a diagnostic assessment of what needs to happen internally to support the expansion goal – whether that is to bolster payroll support in a new market, or take the company to dozens of new countries. We leverage our expertise to drive project planning and workflow steps, and recommend the most efficient schedule for internal interaction. Our team effectively has 24/7 coverage due to our international office staffing approach. And because our team stays in sync on every client project, we can work around the clock to move project items to completion. When specific issues need client input or to give a status update, we can sync with the project’s internal point of contact or bring in the subject matter expert for internal discussion.
For many company leaders, it is their organizational instinct, ambition and leadership hustle that has brought them international growth opportunities. These leaders have surrounded themselves with exceptional departmental leadership and the go-getter types that attract success. But sometimes, the best thing for these leaders is to set a vision for growth, find a capable partner and unleash them.