Choosing Managers for Your Overseas Operations

Help For Hire

For her second hire, Bonham resolved to obtain a U.K.-born businessperson. Unsure where to look, she hired an executive recruiter with worldwide offices to find her London manager.

Executive recruiters are valuable sources for bicultural managers for several reasons. They may have offices both in your home city and in the overseas location. As a basic business practice, these headhunters maintain files of bicultural managers who are willing to move. Some even specialize in recruiting the culturally ambidextrous.

Hiring a headhunter relieves you of the time-consuming distraction of sifting through candidates, often at a considerable distance, while other work goes begging. It also gives you a contact who knows the local market. As Bonham puts it, "How am I going to know who to pick from in a foreign country?"

Headhunters are not without problems, however; cost is the main one. Some work on a retainer basis, charging a fixed fee in advance for filling the position; others are paid a contingency fee when a successful hire is made. Depending on the location, type of manager and time required, a successful search may cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000, says Koblentz.

Another problem: If you're used to working with headhunters in the United States, you may be disappointed with the results of an international search. It's important to hook up with a headhunter who has good connections in the foreign country, stresses Slywotzky: "Most of [the headhunting industry] is still focused on the traditional U.S. market."

Bonham's headhunter eventually found her an English businessman who had the U.K. experience she was looking for and was willing to consider taking a job with her company because, among other reasons, it meant a shorter drive to work. That manager is working out fine, she reports.

All things considered, Bonham says next time she needs to hire biculturally, she'll go back to a headhunter. "It was expensive," she says, "but worth it."

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This article was originally published in the October 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: From A Distance.

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