Today HubSpot has more than a thousand employees in offices in the United States, Ireland, Australia, Singapore, and Japan. Three of these offices were added in the last year alone. But the only reason we were able to responsibly move quickly in the last year is that we took our time with the first international office, our European headquarters in Dublin.
My biggest piece of advice for scale-up CEOs who are looking to expand internationally: Don’t go too early. We came close to making that mistake. We had plans laid out. We spotted locations (not in Ireland, actually). We told the staff. We thought we were ready. We realized, thankfully just in time, that we were not.
By taking our time to get the first office right, we were able to learn and replicate those lessons rapidly and responsibly for future offices. For example, when it is time to expand, the person you choose to lead the charge is crucial. She needs to be a higher performer, and she really needs to get your company’s culture. More specifically, the person you send will need to accomplish three distinct missions.
Mission 1: Create a great office culture that reflects your company’s culture code and the city that’s adopting you
Mission 2: Build a new business machine that scales.
Mission 3: Find a local replacement to take over.
All three of these need to happen, and the last one is crucial. You don’t want to have folks from your home office running all of your international offices forever. We chose one person to build the model of a happy, high-performing international office for us in Dublin. Once he and the team felt steady and confident about that, he hired his replacement and took what he learned to open the second international office personally. And then the third. And then the fourth.