Opening offices abroad can be turning point for your business, particularly if you are a startup trying to expand and conquer a new market. If Italy happens to be your chosen destination then, congratulations! You are in for a great time and – in the words of a brilliant Australian entrepreneur living in Rome
“natural beauty (in the places and the people), food, wine, and sun”. However, you should not let the excitement of this new adventure overwhelm you, at the risk of overlooking aspects that you should consider before taking the leap. You should take particular care when scouting talent for your team: a mix of local knowledge and company culture is essential and there are a few elements you should be aware of.
The perks of going global (in Italy)
Starting up in a new market and setting up offices in a different country is not unlike having to start from scratch. It can be challenging, but it is also immensely rewarding. Among the perks of choosing Italy for your international expansion, you should take into account Italy’s policies, that have been growing increasingly favourable for foreign investors. There are agencies whose sole purpose is to facilitate international entrepreneurs wishing to invest in the Country.
Picking the right team by asking the right questions
Let’s assume, for the purposes of this post, that you already have the financing in place and the paperwork sorted out. What’s next? You will be looking for talent and build up your new team. Should you bring over your own people and face the new market playing to your strengths as a company? Should you hire locally and integrate as quickly and seamlessly as possible in your new environment? The answer, predictably enough, is “it depends”. There are several consideration you should factor into your decision: how much do you know about Italian culture? Do you or any members in your pre-existing team speak Italian fluently enough to conduct a meeting or a sales pitch? Are you willing to start with a large team or will the first phase only involve a couple of trusted collaborators?
What you should know before building your team in Italy
If you want to be successful on the Italian market, you should try to achieve a delicate balance between committing to the national culture and preserving your own company culture. Italy is a country of old habits and older traditions and while its costumes and business practices do change, they do so at a pace you might not be used to. If you are determined to succeed in this market, you should adapt to it. Also, you should not assume that you will always be able to manage your meetings and the majority of your interactions in English: be sure to have at least one fluent Italian speaker in your team. When it comes to promotion and communicating with the public in general, English is not an option, but this particular aspects requires something more than an advanced knowledge of the language. If you hire one Italian member for your team, let it be in the marketing department: you will need someone with a high degree of local expertise and in-depth knowledge of the actual market you are trying to conquer. However, you should not go entirely local: your history, your national identity, your language and your company culture are part of what makes you unique and you should value and treasure them.
Managing an international team
When hiring locally in your brand new office, you will be tempted to look for someone who aligns perfectly with your values and company culture and that has acquired, through personal and professional experiences, a deep knowledge of your language, your culture and your home market, but you should probably resist it. Someone with those characteristics, would not bring anything to your company that your team does not already have. What you need is someone who is experienced in dealing with the Italian market and that may be quick to spot what aspects of your communication or your process might be obscure or create friction with the Italian customers you are hoping to attract. Don’t shirk away from differences or even culture shock: if you learn to treat diversity as an asset, and to keep your identity while respecting and committing to local cultures, you will make your brand a potential global success.