Whenever I look back and try to explain the success of Rydoo to myself — even though I do believe we’re still at the beginning of this adventure! —, there’s one thing I’m certain of: approaching our business with a global mindset from day one had a lot to do with it. And I do believe this mind frame will benefit us even more as we enter this post-covid growth era.
One might assume that launching a business with a global mindset would only create issues, roadblocks and problems along the way. Indeed, a global approach requires dealing with different laws, regulations and different languages. We all know how these can become complex and, thus, create challenges and divert employee’s resources and attention from other valuable activities.
Cost-wise, thinking globally also implies investment in research, development and marketing to understand all the markets they’re targeting. It also potentially means putting money down for logistics and infrastructures to establish operations in these new locations. There’s also the necessity to adapt to new cultures and realities, since what can be valid and true in one country might not really work elsewhere, and adapting to all those cultural norms and practices can be quite a challenge in itself.
I would not argue that all of the points above are very valid. But I also believe that, in many cases, and this is particularly true in the SaaS industry, the pros far outweigh the cons.
So, if there’s one piece of advice I would give to every entrepreneur that’s working on the launch of their new business is to consider a global approach from the very first day. And I’ll tell you why.
1) Greater market opportunities
By building a business with a global mindset, you open up a world of possibilities. Right up front, the company’s activity is built to operate on a global scale, and that fact alone forces you to think of solutions that can be of interest to everyone, everywhere in the globe.
At Rydoo, for instance, we designed an expense management solution which could address the needs of most companies in the world and, from day one, proposed multi-currencies, language support and recognised different characters on receipts (such as mandarin characters). The solution also adjusted settings according to the user’s location. So, for instance, if you were based in France, it would show your mileage in kilometres, but if you were in the US, it changed to miles. And even small details such as the way dates were shown took into consideration different realities (dates in Europe are shown in DD/MM/YY, but in the US they’re in MM/DD/YY). These are just “easy-to-explain” examples. My point being that our solution was, by conception, thought to serve the world.
If you were to follow a traditional approach, you would do the exact opposite. After successfully marketing your product to one market you would think about all the necessary changes you had to make, and then repeat this process to a different market, and so on, and so forth. These adjustments would, most likely, require you to rethink your whole solution and, who knows, even start your coding from scratch.
Thinking globally from the very first day allows you to break down local barriers by default, so you have a much bigger field to play in right from the start.
2) Quicker innovation capabilities
When you’re thinking about operating at a global scale, you need to turn your focus into having a standard model and stir away from the trap that customisation can become. The more you focus on a single market, the more you will work on trying to integrate that culture and its requirements. And, in the end, you might end up missing out on opportunities in other markets.
A global approach makes you focus on developing what makes sense to all markets. It’s obvious that, at the beginning, you might not offer the best solution that’s catering to the needs of some of those countries. At start, for instance, our app was not taking into consideration the size of car engines when calculating mileage, which is a french specificity and therefore not a priority at the time. On the other hand, you will have a better chance at growing your business, which, in the end, will make it possible for your business to develop unique and universal functionalities and, in turn, become the most innovative one available.
Just so you can understand where I’m coming from, let’s round back to the example above from the French market. The lack of locally customised features did not prevent us from getting customers including some big logos like Deloitte. Our solution covered around 90% of the needs these companies had but, in turn, it offered the best user experience on the market. And that, right there, was enough to get them to start using Rydoo.
The more you focus on a single market, the more you will work on trying to integrate that culture and its requirements. And, in the end, you might end up missing out on opportunities in other markets.
3) Access to diverse talent
Thinking globally also helps you attract and retain diverse talent. Just as your product has been made for the world, so is your talent pool, which allows you to seek out the best talent out there to reinforce your team.
At Rydoo, we have a total of 146 employees from 29 nationalities. To me, this is just incredible. Recruiting all over the world increases our talent barre, whilst also providing us with a diverse team with a wide range of perspectives, experiences and even cultural knowledge. This, in turn, allows us to have a better understanding and develop stronger bonds with clients from different markets, making our business even more adaptable to changing market conditions.
4) Increased resilience
Economic and geopolitical shifts are something we’ve all been through in our lives. They seem to happen at lightning speed, these days, and by being a globally present company you need to become resilient to these changes as they come along.
By, as they say, putting all your eggs in one basket and focusing on a single country and it happens to face challenges — an economic slowdown, war, natural disaster or an epidemic, for example —, or if you happen to have a strong and aggressive emergent competitor, your company could be at risk.
By having a more diverse customer base, you can adapt, redistribute your efforts, reduce your exposure and minimise the impact of such challenges. When the war in Ukraine started in February 2022, for example, we had 14 employees from our Product & Development team working from there. It took us two weeks to secure them and, hopefully, they’re all safe today. During these 2 weeks, we successfully managed to shift the activity to Belgium so that it would not stop. Because we don’t have market dependencies, we can adapt, compensate and find balance whenever we need to, because we were already “born” as a global company.
This approach is made even easier today, since we now havea multitude of tools available to connect employees, whatever their location is. At Rydoo, we quickly made the decision to not impose an in-office policy. Employees can work from anywhere, as long as they deliver. Therefore, we have as many locations as employees in the company. Our offices are where our employees are!
By having a more diverse customer base, you can adapt, redistribute your efforts, reduce your exposure and minimise the impact of such challenges.
5) Competitive advantage
Building a business with a global mindset also gives you a competitive advantage, especially over companies that only focus on their local market.
By thinking globally, you will take more advantage of trends, innovations and ideas from around the world, which you’ll use to improve the solutions you’re offering, but also your services and your marketing strategies.
In the end, It can help you stay ahead of the game and differentiate your business from your competitors’.
6) Enhanced brand recognition
Finally, a business that thinks globally has a better chance to enhance its brand reputation and attract customers that value its qualities. Demonstrating a commitment to diversity by appreciating different cultures, being socially responsible by making understanding the issues that affect communities around the world, or even having a sustainable approach by making a commitment such as going net-zero, all come from having a global view on what’s happening around the world. In turn, they can lead to increased customer loyalty, positive word-of-mouth, and ultimately, long-term success and growth.
Obviously, not all businesses were made for the international game. You can be extremely successful by starting and even remaining local. But, in many cases, and especially in SaaS businesses such as Rydoo, having a global approach will, sooner or later (sooner rather than later, in fact!), have a massive positive impact on growing your business.
It can be challenging to think global from day one but, if i may, you should ask yourself the question as early as possible. Because, trust me… the benefits are worth it.