How to run an international startup network? Learn to trust.

Story highlights

  • Make your international connections run like clockwork
  • Establish your own culture, but not at the expense of local culture
  • Think ahead and plan successions
  • No commodity is more precious than trust

(Mashable)When creating a fashion company that spans multiple countries, we knew there would be challenges. Many of these would be geographic.

Not only would we need to be in many places at once, but they would be in some of the most expensive cities in the world. You can't expect to court clients in London, Paris and Milan if you don't have offices there. You're competing with the big guys in big ponds, and there's no time for training-wheels.
Here are some of the ways that I help make sure my employees all over the world are on the same page.
    1. Make everyone feel as supported as they would at HQ
    Any CEO will tell you that the most important part of any office is the people in it. Even the most self-directed and introspective of employees gets a sense of community, continuity and purpose from showing up in the office each day. If a lot of your top staff works in another city, you will need to find ways to ensure they're getting that same kind of support and facetime. A big part of is responding to those late-night emails that come in as a result of the time change. We also log everything we do -- every touch-point and every forward movement -- to ensure no one ever loses sight of the big picture.
    2. Balance your company culture with the local culture
    Our New York office is very corporate, while our Los Angeles office is much more relaxed -- almost Bohemian. As you go overseas to places like Paris or Sydney, these distinctions become even more pronounced. That's why you have to strike a balance between making sure everyone buys into your company values, while still affording them the luxury of having a local, personalized culture. Day-to-day, I generally trust my directors to do things the right way. Just because we have a Monday meeting in HQ doesn't mean every one of our offices does. But when it comes to perks and company activities, we try to keep things consistent: If New York has a Happy Hour, Sydney has a Happy Hour.
    3. Always have a good succession plan
    Once in a blue moon, you'll have an employee who's interested in relocating permanently. But generally, a good rule of thumb is that everyone likes to come home. Even the City of Lights has been known to lose its luster when homesickness and fatigue kick in -- and when that happens, you need to have a good succession plan in place. You know the person who you sent to open up your new office, but you won't necessarily know the person who will replace them. How will they be trained? What kind of spokespeople do you want? How will they balance the corporate culture with the local culture? These questions should be answered before a second office is even on the radar.
    4. When you trust someone, trust them all the way
    I trust my hiring managers to do all their own hiring, even on a local level. That's because you need to stay comfortable delegating -- perhaps even more so when you're dealing with employees in different countries. All of our senior staff work in our New York headquarters usually work for a couple of years before we send them out on their own, and that's because I tend to take a long time to start trusting someone. I need to get a feel for their consistency, how quickly they respond to emails, their management style and how forthright they are when they've made a mistake. That said once I do trust them, I trust them completely. You can't micromanage -- there just aren't enough hours in the day.
      As Thomas Friedman likes to remind us, the world is once again flat. The computer I type this article on was designed in California with semiconductors from Taiwan and metals mined in Russia. All businesses are, in a sense, international. But for small businesses in particular to capitalize on this new flatness is no small feat. To be in more places than one requires vigilant CEOs, a cohesive culture and staff and enough communication to hold it all together.
      Mona Bijoor is the founder and CEO of JOOR, the leading global wholesale marketplace connecting brands and retailers. As a veteran fashion buyer and corporate strategist, Mona created JOOR to offer the search features and social networking functionality to the wholesale sector to streamline communication, discovery, and buying. Brands can feature their collections, prospect for new boutiques and manage all of their orders online.