Let’s say you’re the CEO of a rapidly growing company in New York City that needs to expand overseas.
You have the talent sourced and ready to go at your newly minted hub in Mumbai but, of course, you need a way to pay your suddenly, global team. Unfortunately for you, it’s not quite so simple as wiring money to the new office. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the local labor laws, register the new office as a subsidiary, create a payroll—in short, you’ll need to do a lot of work that will add a time, money and complexity to your expansion efforts.
In 2012, sensing this growing need in the marketplace for a service that could break down the barriers to doing business internationally, Nicole Sahin founded Globalization Partners, a Global PEO that enables companies to grow globally without setting up branch offices or subsidiaries or navigating complex global legal environment. The Boston-based company has helped major companies like Yelp and MeetUp as well as small non-profits and even universities manage and pay their growing overseas teams without all the time, money and complexity that traditionally was required for expanding an international team. Sahin says she was inspired to start her company drawing on her own, personal wanderlust as well as a relentless drive to build a tactical solution for fast-growing and globalizing companies
“I love global commerce. It’s the greatest and fastest pathway for people from different countries to get to know one another,” Sahin tells Ivy Exec. “We’re now at the forefront of globalization and are helping do business in ways it’s never been done before. We’re changing the way a company can operate globally.”
But when your business is removing complexities for other companies, there are bound to be challenges. Sahin acknowledges that Globalization Partners has, as a result, had to be smart about how it grows.
“This is an industry with complex legal issues. We have built our business to meet the standards of the Fortune 500 globally. We maintain the highest standards of international laws and we do not cut corners,” she says. “We also have a significant legal team—all of whom are well-trained and well-organized.”
Even with all of the obstacles to tackle overseas, Sahin says the company’s biggest challenge came right here at home.
“We were growing too quickly—over 16,000% in 3 years, as published by Inc. Magazine. That’s a lot to manage. How do you build to meet that level of growth while maintaining great client service ratings?”
Sahin hunkered down as the team underwent this significant period of growth, creating systems and formalizing processes. The company even stopped taking on new clients for a quarter while Sahin focused on scaling her IT and client services infrastructure. She refers to this effort as Operation Fortress.
“We had to invest in order to grow,” she recalls. “We built so we could withstand the unbelievable market growth ahead of us.”
But with this infrastructure came another, crucial priority that Sahin feels very strongly about. She wanted to make sure that every part of her operation was scalable so that she could offer her employees a sabbatical program. Every five years, she gives her employees six weeks of paid leave and $7,500 to cover travel expenses—this, in addition to their benefits, 401k plans and above-market compensation.
“This is about giving someone the opportunity to have a life-changing moment. People don’t usually get to do this. But this is how I can give back to people who have given five years of their lives to help me build my dream. But you can only have the time off and the money if you’re doing something really cool,” she says jokingly with a laugh. “But this forces us to have a backup plan for every role and to be scalable when we expect people to take significant blocks of time off.”
At the helm of the company, Sahin describes her management style as being one that leads with an eye to the future, always on the lookout for course corrections.
“I set the direction of the team—both executive and management—and ask them to report each week on their goals,” she says. “I lead from the heart but never lose a laser-like focus on accomplishing projects that will take us 10x forward in short periods. We accomplish in weeks quantum leaps forward that would take most companies years to figure out.
But Sahin does not just lead within the walls of her operation. As a female founder and CEO, Sahin is very aware of her place in the industry and her role as an inspiration to others who might want to follow in her footsteps.
“Women can do anything they put their minds to. We’re breaking down boundaries not only for companies expanding into 150+ countries but on behalf of women everywhere. I love it: we’re showing the world we can do it,” she says. “It’s fun to be a shining data point.”
It’s this same mindset of turning a challenge into an opportunity that guides the motto of her office: “The obstacle is the path.”
“Building the scalable legal infrastructure that thousands of companies can use to be compliant in 150 countries is a monumental vision. We’ve put a daunting task in front of ourselves and we’re figuring it out,” she says.