Building a truly regional team adds immense cultural and economic value in the bigger picture – as I have seen with the evolution of my own businesses.
Both Manning & Co and Gemstar have transitioned over time to become truly regional businesses, with our ever-expanding team now based in Sydney, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia. Luckily for us, new technology platforms have enabled ongoing communication, collaboration and a sense of connectedness between our remote teams.
Having the right people on the journey has also helped us transition from an Australian company to a regional one. The team has shown patience, willingness to adapt and an appetite to be part of something that is bigger and extends across borders. And so, despite being in different countries, our team culture is stronger than ever.
Here are my top 4 tips for building a strong company culture across different geographies.
1. Regional growth starts at the top.
All employees want to feel connected to a sense of purpose – and it all starts with leaders inspiring this sense of purpose from the top down. As you begin to grow your business across different countries, it’s fundamental that you spend time with your people wherever possible, and in whatever form possible.
Clear and consistent communication both in person and via technology will ensure that team members geographically removed from you have a strong sense of your leadership, guidance and direction for the business. It’s important to demonstrate your commitment to the role remote employees play in the business and to make sure you are present and available to everyone.
2. Ensure you have the right technology and systems in place.
As part of your regional growth strategy, ensure that you have the right technology and systems in place to maintain good communication, transparency, teamwork and a sense of community among your people.
For example, when I relocated to Singapore recently, our team made the transition from a local network server to Microsoft’s cloud solution called SharePoint, where our documents are now accessible anytime, anywhere. This has made it much easier for the team to work from anywhere, as well as to collaborative in real-time on client work.
The shift to one central repository was key to the smooth running of both Manning & Co and Gemstar across borders – and the same applies to any business looking to grow regionally. While not all businesses are making the transition to cloud, other technology platforms such as Skype, WhatsApp and of course email offer the enhanced capability to communication and work together across different geographies.
3. Communication is everything.
It may seem like common sense, but communication is absolutely vital to growing a strong company culture across borders. There are many adjustments required to cater for a growing regional team – cultural nuances to respect, time zones, different management styles and so on – and good communication is at the heart of getting the balance right.
It’s important to check in with your team as much as possible, showing responsiveness and interest even when you are not physically there. Bring your team together for regular team meetings at a time that suits everyone. Team members should also freely use technology to communicate with each other so that they feel they are part of a team environment.
4. Check in with your people.
One of the most important aspects of leading remote teams is to touch base with individuals to let them know that they are valued, that you are thinking of them, and that you are experiencing the journey together.
After all, a strong company culture is not only about working as a team, but about celebrating wins and successes together. For example, when we gained a new client recently at Manning & Co, our Sydney team sent a fun video to the Singapore team to let us know they were thinking of us, reinforcing a collaborative mindset and culture.
Becoming a regional business has been a very exciting journey for my team and myself. We have all progressed in our roles as a result, gaining new skills and expertise, as well as insights into the power of communication and collaboration in driving high performance, even when based in different countries. Best of all, our bond and company culture are stronger than ever.
This article was first published in The CEO Magazine.