Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The Covid-19 pandemic Completely changed how we handle business, particularly where corporate relocations are concerned.
We’ve seen how digitalization has challenged the idea of locality reigning supreme, and we’ve seen how some businesses can operate without physical offices. Does this mean that corporate relocation and physical expansion have fallen by the wayside?
Here are three things businesses must consider in this new world of remote and hybrid work.
1. Relocation and its importance (or lack thereof)
Before, relocation and opening regional offices were something to work toward. Opening another location was a goal to be celebrated, and workers were often pleased to relocate and accept new responsibilities.
After the pandemic, this is not the case anymore. There is still a need for regional branches in large markets, but the overall concept of relocation has somewhat fallen by the wayside.
Now that everyone is used to Zoom calls, Skype conferences, Slack chats and Discord meetings, the thought of uprooting your whole life to relocate seems absurd. Owl Labs found that there are 50% more video meetings now than before the pandemic, and 59% of workers would only want a job with the ability to remote work.
In the same vein, Covid-19 prompted such a level of remote global connectivity that there is far less significance in opening new physical offices. In fact, there’s a whole industry now around being able to rent meeting space or office setup for the rare occurrence of having a face-to-face meeting.
I think businesses should understand that we’ve permanently changed our idea of what must be done in person and what can be done remotely. For example, I spent a considerable amount of time flying out to meet with pre-pandemic clients. If I wanted to negotiate a deal, there was a widespread assumption that this couldn’t happen remotely. Coronavirus forced us to rethink that, and now we know that a business team doesn’t have to be tied to a specific location to be successful.
2. Choosing the right person for the job
The pre-pandemic idea of opening a new office has now morphed into hiring a single person in the area as a representative. This might sound like a challenge, but it’s an excellent opportunity for businesses that can take advantage.
Now, there are no barriers to fast meetings. If there’s a mutual interest, a video meeting can be set up anywhere in the world, and people can complete business much faster. Before, it would have been necessary to allocate massive resources to in-person meetings and opening an entire office. In a post-pandemic environment, we can now build a remote team of just a couple of people to do the same job. This massively improves the outlook on growth, innovation and global expansion.
The one challenge here is overcoming the soft skills gap when hiring remote workers. McKinsey notes that 87% of companies worldwide are already aware of the looming issue of the skills gap. In the US alone, many young workers struggle with basic tasks like task prioritization, professional emailing and handling business calls.
To combat this, I believe it’s worthwhile for businesses to reallocate some of those resources they would have used for relocation into recruiting and training suitable remote candidates. Investing in your team is an excellent growth strategy, and ensuring that your remote workers have a solid foundation of soft skills can pay huge dividends.
In my experience, it’s easy to teach someone about your industry. It isn’t easy to teach them how to be charismatic, understand the target audience and embody the local culture. When remote hiring, find someone with these skills to make the initial contact and drum up interest with potential clients. You can let the rest of the team handle the later meetings and technical details.
3. Balancing changing with the times and maintaining your brand DNA
Covid-19 accelerated globalization and digitization to a place that experts didn’t expect to see for years. There is much less need for product customization and new interfaces in our globalized reality. This new culture has shown us that human behavior and needs are pretty similar worldwide. If you refuse to change your tactics to fit the times, you’re reinventing the wheel and setting your business up for failure.
However, companies need to find a balance between accepting globalization and maintaining the integrity of their unique brand. Understand that people have similar needs overall, but find ways to carry your values and energy through every new market.
For my company, I will often send a person from my initial office as the “seed” for a new location. In the remote work landscape, recruiting the perfect candidate can be challenging, so I find it helpful to send someone already familiar with our values to make the process smoother.
It’s worthwhile to spend extra time and resources if needed to find someone who fits your “corporate DNA” during recruitment. They will be a long-term asset, especially in the “new normal” of remote work where you might only have one or two people local to the new market to help navigate the expansion.
Think of it as an investment in your brand, too. Establishing a unique company culture across the global market is what gives you true brand recognition, which is critical when you expand into new markets and don’t yet have a client base.
Think of new business as planting a tree
To be a successful international company, you have to maintain an open-minded global outlook when choosing your team. Setting a global inclusive example becomes woven into the fabric of your brand and makes moving into new markets easier.
See the process of opening a new business as planting a seed from which a tree can grow. You choose what kind of tree grows by planting the right seed (or person) in the new location. There may not be instant gratification since trees take time to develop and flourish, but it will be an excellent investment in your future.