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Learnings from opening a US office in Austin

Having grown by 40 per cent over the last year, webexpenses CEO Adam Reynolds decided opening a US office was the logical next step for the company. He told Real Business about the process.
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From its headquarters in the South East of England, expenses management software provider webexpenses has established a presence in two other continents – with the latest being on the other side of the Atlantic.

Adam Reynolds, who took on the role of CEO in 2015, has some unique insights on opening a US office which he shared with us.

(1) Why did you decide opening a US office was right at this stage in time?

Part of our core strategy is to expand the business on an international basis, we already have a number of US based clients, after a period of research and liaising with these clients we’re confident that our system and approach are well suited to the US.

(2) With so many locations possible, how did you and the team settle on Austin?

Austin is a thriving Tech hub, we wanted a central location as opposed to starting on either coast –and Austin was a name that kept coming up. It is accessible from both the UK and Australia and allows us to provide 24-hour client support.

(3) You also have an offices in Sydney and Brisbane, how did this launch differ?

The Sydney office especially was a step into the unknown, there are a lot of pieces that we’d planned but some that are unforeseen. We were a lot more confident moving to Austin, with a strong team, infrastructure and marketing plan in place. We collated together all of the lessons learned from the previous launch and applied them to our planning.

(4) What are the unique characteristics of the US market British business owners should be aware of before opening there?

I think there are a lot of synergies between the markets, the purchasing process and the expectations. The main difference for us was understanding the logistics of how to sell to a country of that size – travel and planning takes more time. There are circa 3.5m mid-market businesses in the US, so there is a greater market to target but also a wider range of expectations.

A key focus of our approach is ensuring that our collateral and communication has been configured so that we are perceived as a specialist American arm of a British-headquartered business, we believe that’s very important.

(5) What one piece of advice would have been useful for you to have at the start of the launch that you’d like to share?

Most things take longer than you’d hope. I will also be sharing our experience at the Global Expansion Summit in June.

(6) What have you learnt from opening a US office that will help with future openings?

The main areas we didn’t know before this launch were the country and state specific business rules, understanding setup, tax, payroll and HR rules has all been a new experience, our advice would be to use an expert, it’s better to get it right and learn for the future.

(7) Will you be recruiting locally or taking some of your US team out there, and why?

The main bulk of our recruitment will be locally, there is a great talent pool to choose from in Austin, our general manager of APAC is moving across to lead the launch, he knows the business and has experience of launching new offices. We’ve learnt that the leadership role of a new office is crucial, you need someone who understands the business, the goals, the objectives, someone who is committed to the cause and someone who is flexible.

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About Author

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven is the editor of Real Business. He is also the editor of Business Advice, a title focused solely on a section of the business community currently underserved – micro companies. Alongside this, he is part of the team that hosts the Growing Business Awards, First Women Awards and Future 50 initiative.

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