February 5, 2019

The Telegraph: How small firms can find success in the US

Breaking America isn’t just for the Beatles, with numerous small British companies having found success in the United States.

Grace Gould, the founder of Soda Says, launched her tech product retail business Stateside last year. “You can’t copy and paste a UK market strategy; what works here won’t necessarily work there,” she says.

The press, for example, is not as strong a sales channel, with so few media brands covering the whole country. “You don’t have the same saturation of audience,” she says, suggesting that businesses take it state-by-state.

However, it’s important to be familiar with local legislation first. “Some states required us to jump through lots of complex regulatory hoops,” says Dan Quille, founder of Choose a Challenge, an adventure travel firm that launched in Connecticut before expanding to eight other states.

Know the law

Hiring a lawyer is a good plan to get to grips with each state’s idiosyncrasies. “There’s a huge amount of red tape to negotiate,” says Quille, who rejects the “ultimate free market” view that many hold of the US. “You get through one set of federal-level paperwork only to find a whole lot more at the state and city levels,” he adds.

Legal firms can help on the staffing front and Gould says moving a team to the US is “easier” than people think. “The E2 Treaty Visa is for British businesses who want to set up a sales office there,” she adds. “You need to show a certain amount of investment and present a thorough plan as to why your company is in the US.”

The second option is to hire local, she says. “There’s phenomenal talent there and notice periods are much shorter, so you can make hiring decisions quickly.”

For operations with teams on both sides of the Atlantic, Jonathan Morris, the co-founder of TritonExec, an executive recruitment firm, advises against thinking of them as separate entities. “It’s about forming one team, so offer work exchanges and stick to regular meetings despite the time difference,” he says. “Giving each US employee a UK buddy can also help to build cohesion.”

Costs and culture

Add at least 30pc to your UK costs, suggests Ms Gould. “The US is generally more expensive – shipping costs will be three times more expensive than here due to the country’s vast size.”  Services are also costlier. “Ad agencies and PR consultants can charge in a day what you would expect to pay here for a week.”

American founders can also have a confidence and swagger their British counterparts lack, she says, which means that investors often “detract half” of what people present as exaggeration. “Brits need to leave their self-deprecating, humble persona at the door,” she says.

View the original article from the Telegraph here.