‘Figuring out the complexities of doing business in each country is difficult’

11 Aug 2020

Nicole Sahin. Image: Globalization Partners

Globalization Partners’ Nicole Sahin talks about the business of international expansion, supporting other female leaders, and keeping Fridays free from Zoom meetings.

Nicole Sahin is the founder and CEO of Globalization Partners, a platform that enables companies to hire talent anywhere in the world, without having to set up local offices or subsidiaries. The business is based in Boston, but recently announced plans to establish a new European tech base in Galway.

Prior to launching Globalization Partners in 2012, Sahin was a senior director at High Street Partners, a firm that provided international HR, tax, legal and compliance services to fast-growing tech companies. She has experience advising companies from Tesla to HID Global on their international expansions.

‘It would be hard to not notice we don’t have a 50/50 gender split among the CEO community’

Describe your role and what you do.

I am the CEO and founder of Globalization Partners. I launched the company in 2012 because I had an idea for a global legal, HR, and finance platform that would enable companies to leapfrog over the traditional complexities of hiring and managing global teams.

Companies find the talent and we put their candidate on our fully compliant, in-country payroll. This enables businesses to expand into almost any country around the globe, quickly and easily.

My role today is to focus on the strategic direction of the company and set the vision, goals and culture of Globalization Partners. It’s also my role to build and manage the executive team that executes on those goals. 

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I separate tasks into urgent and important. And I delegate everything except what I consider most important, but I also have a system in place to know that everything I delegated was done and done well, by a deadline.

I only hire A players – this is the most important thing. You can’t grow a business if you’re doing everything. That’s the only way the above system works.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Awareness – most companies don’t know our solution exists. We are changing that through very active marketing efforts to get the word out.

Growing globally independently is very challenging, because figuring out all the complexities of doing business in each country is inherently difficult. It’s not productive for companies to figure out how to set up entities around the world if they don’t have to.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

We focus on companies based in North America, APAC and EMEA that want to hire sales and operations teams in foreign countries. Key industries include biotech, medical devices, consumer packaged goods, technology and online services.

In today’s global economy, companies of all sizes are establishing operations in foreign markets. This type of expansion can provide several advantages, including greater opportunities for market growth and diversification.

A 2016 survey by Wells Fargo found that 87pc of US firms believe that international expansion is necessary for long-term growth, citing these 5 motivators: new markets, diversification​, access to talent​, competitive advantage​, and foreign investment opportunities.​

Modern globalisation requires a modern perspective. We take care of hiring, onboarding, paying, insuring and remaining compliant for companies in any market, and any industry, anywhere in the world. ​

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I love meeting new people from all over the world, and I thought I might want to do international development or NGO work. But one day it hit me that I didn’t want to do that. I’m an entrepreneur at heart and believe that business is often the fastest and easiest way to fix whatever problems we see in the world.

It was a life changing moment when I decided to get an MBA and move to California, where I started working with a high-growth consulting start-up. I was there for six years and I loved the work of helping companies go global, but I couldn’t help but feel I could do more to break down barriers for global business.

I upped and left that job that I loved and took a year off to explore whether the idea I had for this company would work. I visited 24 different countries, speaking with lawyers and tax advisers across the globe. I launched the business one year and one day after my last day at my prior company. Today we employ over 250 people and we’re just getting started!

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

My biggest mistake was hesitating and not starting Globalization Partners sooner. It was hard to quit my job and leap into the unknown, and yet I felt so compelled to do so that I ultimately did. Now I am surrounded by extraordinary people who take my vision further than I could have ever originally imagined possible.

What I’ve learned is to trust myself and the original guiding principles on which I founded the company – that if we built a high-quality company that the customers loved, and that treated employees well, shareholder success would follow.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I’m incredibly fortunate to have one of the best teams out there, sourced from all over the globe, with a rigorous standard applied to new hires but open arms to those that make it in. As we bring new people onto the team, we really focus on communications, set clear expectations and emphasise our culture first.

I’d say that we have a habit of showing gratitude to each other. I think genuine appreciation and showing your gratitude goes a long way. We celebrate success and take every opportunity to show employees how fundamental to the company they are.

With a global team, however, it’s important to be mindful of cultural differences. This is something we regularly help our clients with, helping to navigate the terrain around hiring, rewards and managing teams around the world. But we also lead by example.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

It would be hard not to notice that we don’t have a 50/50 gender split among the CEO community. As a woman in business, I am aware that I am leading by example and support other like-minded women.

We have an incredibly diverse team and a 50/50 gender split on our exec team. Our company keeps diversity of all kinds at the forefront of our minds and places this in continual focus. I do think all industries are changing quickly and, with continued effort, hope the differences in the statistics will continue to evolve.

At Globalization Partners, we inherently help our clients to diversify their teams and get to know people from all walks of life.

What are your thoughts on mentorship?

I believe that organisational growth starts with individual growth. I tell every new hire in a country that I expect everyone in my company to lead by inspiring and mentoring.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – it’s a poignant coming-of-age novel. What I love about the book is the clash of cultures and ideas.

I would also recommend The Everything Store by Brad Stone, which is a book about how Jeff Bezos led Amazon from its early days. The company is absolutely brilliant and Bezos is an extraordinary CEO.  It’s always good to soak up as much as you can from someone like that.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

I go jogging about two hours a day and take any non-video conference calls during that time. It was a tough adjustment to stop travelling and working at a normal pace and sit at a desk all day, and this is how I’ve managed to cope.

I keep Fridays free of Zoom meetings! It’s like heaven to have that time to think and get things done.

Besides that, like every entrepreneur, I have a relentless coffee addiction.

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