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US Expansion: 4 Options for Hiring Your First US Executive


US expansion has now become a strategic imperative for your company. If you’re serious about succeeding in the US market, you’ll need to have an executive on the ground leading your US expansion efforts.


Hiring your first US executive will be a strategically important hire but mis-hiring for this role can set your company’s US ambitions back several months or even years and burn through a lot of investor cash.


Below are a four options to consider for hiring your first US executive. Keep in mind these options are not singular and can often be combined to produce the optimal results of limiting the risks and enhancing your chances of success with US expansion.


Option 1: Move A Current Executive to the US

The seemingly easiest approach to consider is moving an executive from your existing team to the US to lead your company’s expansion efforts.


Pros:

This executive will know and fully understand your company’s products, strategy, team, and culture. These insights will give them the advantage of clearly communicating this knowledge to potential new hires, customers, partners, and investors in the US. They will also be able to quickly support US employees when questions arise vs. employees having to wait for answers from several time zones away.


Cons:

This executive won’t have experience starting a US company and will have little knowledge of the myriad of tax, legal, insurance, banking, accounting, or human resources compliance related issues they will immediately face. Also, they most likely will not have a strong industry and talent network in the US to recruit new hires, customers, and partners. Finally, financially supporting expats for visas, travel, housing, autos, etc. can be very expensive.


Option 2: Hire a US Executive

The most common approach companies take is hiring a US executive to lead its US expansion efforts. The prevailing wisdom is hiring someone with a great resume from a leading tech brand like Stripe, Twilio, Figma, or even Microsoft will produce great results for your company too. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.


Pros:

This executive should have a strong industry network to recruit new hires, customers, and partners. They should have a solid understanding of the most successful go-to-market strategies in the US for your industry and which industry events in the US are worth attending (and which ones aren’t). Hiring an executive with a great resume can also generate greater visibility and increased attention for your company’s brand in the US market.


Cons:

This executive is an expensive and risky hire. Making this person your first hire in the US is even more risky. Chances are they have never started a new corporation before and have always had significant support resources surrounding them. Even if they have had a great career in a specific discipline (sales for example) they will most likely have little knowledge of the combined tax, legal, insurance, banking, accounting, or human resources compliance related issues they will immediately face.


Option 3: Hire a Fractional US Executive

A newer approach is to hire a fractional Chief Operating Officer to lead your company’s initial US expansion efforts. The right fractional COO should have a solid understanding of startup go-to-market strategies and deep experience with tax, legal, insurance, banking, accounting, or human resources compliance related issues. The fractional COO can serve as the leader of your US operations until a full-time executive is needed.


Pros:

This executive may be ideal for companies who want to expand to the US by first hiring a couple of people in sales or customer success to test the US market and support US customers. Hiring a fractional COO with experience launching venture backed tech companies can help your company quickly expand in the US with less risk and lower costs. They should have a solid network of potential new hires, customers, partners, and investors.


Cons:

This executive may not have deep expertise or contacts in your company’s specific tech sector (blockchain or AR/VR for example). They may have one than more client and not be able to dedicate 100% of their time towards your company.


Option 4: Incremental Executive Hires

An ideal approach to consider is hiring a fractional COO to launch your US corporation then hiring a full-time US executive when the business results dictate. The fractional COO can launch the US corporation and coordinate with executives at the parent company on the first employee hires. This approach will allow you to test your product-market fit assumptions and go-to-market strategies in the US then hire a full-time US executive when the business is proven ready for growth.


Pros:

Hiring a fractional COO to launch your US corporation then hiring a full-time US executive to accelerate growth can reduce the overall risks and costs of US expansion. The incremental hiring approach can also provide additional time to conduct a thorough search and hire the ideal leader to grow your US business. Additionally, a fractional COO can scale their time to support your US leader, team, and operations on an ongoing basis and as needed.


Cons:

The incremental executive hiring approach may not have the appearances of your company going “all in” on US expansion and aggressively pursuing the market. The risks of these appearances will need to be measured against the risks of mis-hiring your first US executive and potentially setting back your US expansion plans for months or years.


If you have questions about US expansion or fractional COO options, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to answer your questions.

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