How do you go from a first office to operating in 50 countries worldwide, in just ten years? The international strategy of LittleBig Connection

In this article, we are to explain how LittleBig Connection achieved this impressive feat with one single strategy. But first, let me set the scene with a brief presentation of our company.

Founded in 2013, LittleBig Connection is now the global leader in innovative technological solutions dedicated to the new world of work. In practical terms, we enable large groups to find and manage all their external service providers in one place, whether they are freelancers or independent consultants. Our mission is to create a direct and transparent link between large companies and all their external partners, regardless of their size, so that they can team up more easily than ever before.

From day one, we conceived our organization to be international. We are indeed convinced of the wealth that diversity brings, especially when it comes to shaping a tech product.

That’s why we are proud to share today that our teams include more than 25 nationalities spread across 400 people based around the world. Our presence spans five continents, with business operations in 50 countries and offices concentrated in 18 of them.*

LittleBig Connection’s global presence

To achieve this international presence, one of our strengths has been and remains our ability to quickly set up teams dedicated to our clients in new countries. Indeed, we can support our clients in less than a week, even in countries where we have not yet established a physical presence.

The advancement of our activities varies by region and is divided into three categories: launching countries, where our activities have been open for less than a year; accelerating countries, where we have already achieved commercial success and are striving to further develop; and finally, mature countries, where we have been present for some time and are experiencing real success.

In this article, I propose to share all the keys to our international strategy, unveiling the logic that structures it.

1. Adaptability, at the heart of our approach

1.1 The Unlock Program, one internationalization strategy for a multitude of markets

We have developed a unique approach to entering new markets through our international incubation program called Unlock. This program, structured in several stages, provides consistent and personalized support to the Country Openers, the employees in charge of opening a new market for LittleBig Connection.

The first phase of incubation lasts 3 months and takes place in the office of a mature country, either Montreal or Bangalore. This initial training is designed to help Country Openers assimilate all the knowledge necessary to launch their activities and acquire their first clients. Daily, then weekly, and finally monthly objectives are set to support them throughout this learning process. The operation of this progressive approach is therefore similar to that of a video game: each level presents new objectives to achieve in order to unlock the following ones. Unlock is therefore aptly named!

The different phases of our program

This is followed by a second phase of 2 to 4 years, in the targeted country, where they open the market. This stage of the program is characterized by the development of a local mesh of skills as the business gains importance. These growing support roles report to the Head of the respective support functions and to the Country Opener who themselves bridge with the closest developed hub. For instance, in Asia, we are currently recruiting new talents, who will come to strengthen our local teams, to deepen our market inception.

Throughout this period, the entire company provides substantial support until LittleBig Connection is permanently established. Starting with the members of the top management, all are fully conscious of the importance of internationalization in the company’s global strategy. They are always ready to respond to the queries and doubts of these LittleBig Connection “missionaries.” The Country Openers also have the aid of reference persons to respond to their questions, especially on legal and fiscal matters. Finally, this support comes from local talents, who have developed a great understanding of the market and, therefore, are capable of bringing relevant skills.

What makes the Unlock program unique is the great freedom it offers to those who are part of it. While our method is based on key performance indicators (KPIs) that must be met, the Country Openers remain the sole decision-makers on how to achieve these goals. Added to this is the flexibility of our approach. Unlock constitutes a framework open enough to adapt to the great diversity of economic models and markets. Very concretely, this means that the Country Openers are encouraged to develop new strategies to respond effectively to the local specificities.

Therefore, the Unlock program is a true international treasure map for our Country Openers. From their arrival, they receive the keys to successfully open their market and then have the freedom to initiate actions that make sense when they make sense. Each stage of the program is thus an opportunity to be seized.

1.2 The Country Openers, a strategic role open to all

All Country Openers play an essential role in the opening and development of LittleBig Connection on new markets. That is why we are committed to selecting the best profiles. To this end, we choose them in two ways: by selecting internal talent already familiar with the company and demonstrating high potential, or by recruiting and training local talent.

When breaking into a market and leading new teams, we look above all for a personality rather than a resume. This is evidenced by the professional backgrounds of our Country Openers, ranging from finance and purchasing to entrepreneurship, in various fields, such as consulting or the pharmaceutical industry. Carefully selected, these talents are often promised a bright future within LittleBig Connection. I am an example, having originally started as a Country Opener in North America nearly ten years ago.

While Country Openers have different backgrounds, they share strong willpower, courage, perseverance, resilience, and a spirit of adventure. Indeed, they must be capable of developing and managing an entity from scratch while considering the specificities of their area. Furthermore, they take on the role of “owner” of a market and, as such, are accountable for their actions and must ensure that they have implemented everything necessary to achieve their objectives. Therefore, it is a position with significant responsibilities that corresponds to personalities unafraid of commitment.

1.3 The Iterative Approach of “Test and Learn”

For its internationalization process, LittleBig Connection has chosen an iterative approach, favoring adaptation, agility, and initiative. This “test and learn” philosophy goes hand in hand with the right to make mistakes. Indeed, we encourage our Country Openers to take risks and develop their resilience to progress strategically. That’s why we invite them to analyze their failures and propose alternative solutions when the initial choice was not the right one.

To allow Country Openers to try, even at the risk of making mistakes, we test the market with a low initial investment. In other words, this means that we progressively release resources according to needs, rather than on the first day as other companies might do. Only as activities progress in the new area are allocated resources increased, enabling Country Openers to develop the market with more agility and responsiveness.

If we have chosen this limited investment strategy, it is because LittleBig Connection, being independent and self-financed, could not afford to internationalize with substantial investments. However, what might have been perceived as a constraint ultimately proved to be a strength. Indeed, if a company enters a new country with enormous resources and fails, it may be reluctant to repeat the experience for fear of another failure. With this test and learn approach, however, the company can easily readjust its goals or even start over if necessary. This method also offers the possibility of quickly reaching the break-even point if the initial development strategy proves to be correct.

Our Iterative Strategy

Our Unlock program is designed to adapt to any situation, with timelines, objectives, and approaches reinvented with each market opening. We emphasize local adaptation, recognizing that what works in one country may not be applicable in another. Our experience has shown us that addressing the Colombian, Spanish, or Vietnamese market cannot be done in the same way.

2. Key Success Factors

2.1 Adaptation, at the Heart of Our Internationalization Strategy

As we have seen, adaptation plays a significant role in our international success. Here are the different aspects it takes in our approach:

  • Platform Adaptation
    We tailor our platform to the needs of each country, which is reflected in the features it offers. The client receives a solution tailored to their language, time zone, currency, Value Added Tax (VAT) applicable in their country, and other specific tax regulations in their market. They can also modify access rights as they please. For LittleBig Connection, this adaptation is more complex than it seems, as it requires attention to multiple details such as banking fields that vary from one country to another. For example, in India, there is an AFSI code and an account number, while in Australia, there are two bank codes and an account number.
  • Adaptation of the Sales Approach
    It goes without saying: having an in-depth knowledge of a country is crucial to defining a relevant sales approach. This is one of our criteria in selecting our Country Openers, all of whom must demonstrate solid previous experience in the market to be opened. It is through them, in particular, that we familiarize ourselves with cultural specificities to better adapt. This learning of local customs leads us, for example, to take an interest in the communication preferences of each area. LinkedIn is preferred in some countries, such as in Europe, while other regions of the world will prioritize WhatsApp, like Colombia.

Our plateform in several countries

  • Management of Cross-Border Flows
    Opening a market requires understanding not only the specific regulations of a country but also the prescriptions that govern flows between that country and the rest of the world. We are thus able to manage cross-border financial flows, which is essential in an international environment like that of the professional networking market. In this specific field, flows concern various aspects such as fiscal matters with the management of taxes and VAT, legal matters with local and cross-border legislation regarding intellectual service provisions, social matters with local statutory obligations, and finally, Human Resources aspects to align with local standards to ensure a healthy and lasting relationship with talents. Understanding that each country has its own rules and requirements is therefore the first essential phase of a good international strategy. But this first step only makes sense if we strive to design our strategy and solution accordingly, always in a logic of continuous adaptation.

2.2 The Hubs, Our Relays Worldwide

The role of hubs is essential in setting up support structures for Country Openers. They are designed as international incubators where skills and resources are shared among different teams.

Before opening a new hub, we analyze the potential concentration of activities on-site. We also ensure that these places are shared with existing hubs of Mantu, the group to which LittleBig Connection belongs. On this subject, I invite you to read another article from Tribes, 7 steps to open an office internationally (by Partoo).

To give a concrete example of their use, let’s look at the launch of our activities in Portugal. Instead of recruiting a complete team in this new market, LittleBig Connection first relied on existing offices in a nearby country, Spain. This way, we avoided unnecessary duplication and maximized the use of existing resources.

Very concretely, the Country Opener for Portugal was able to capitalize on LittleBig Connection’s presence in Madrid during his prospecting efforts. Many companies there indeed have their Iberian branch, aiming to cover all their activities in Spain and Portugal. So, by meeting clients in the Spanish capital and highlighting that the company has a headquarters in the same city, he was able to sign new contracts for his area. Leveraging this Spanish-Portuguese synergy thus brought him his biggest client, based in Madrid.

Furthermore, the Portuguese Country Opener and his Spanish counterpart sometimes collaborate on Iberian account prospecting campaigns in one of the two capitals. The vision of the two scopes available to LittleBig Connection allowed them to sign contracts for both zones at once. The first Iberian account obtained, a large company in the employee benefits sector, thus paved the way for 30 projects.

During his visit to Barcelona, another city where LittleBig Connection has its offices, the Country Opener also had the opportunity to discuss with Account Managers and the Growth Manager of the hub. This allowed him to discover new interesting opportunities or to develop prospecting campaigns entirely adapted to his needs.

Using existing hubs thus allows for more efficient entry into new markets by capitalizing on already acquired knowledge and experience (financial, legal, HR, etc.). They also offer the possibility to reduce startup costs and accelerate the implementation of activities in new countries. With our network strength, we plan to open our activities in Chile in 2024, relying on our Colombian hub. This initial anchoring will spare us from recruiting HR, financial, and legal managers locally as soon as we start our activities.

2.3 LittleBig Connection’s International and Connected Culture

Since its inception, LittleBig Connection has integrated remote work and digital into its culture. We have global and real-time access to all the features and tools we need to manage our projects. This allows us to work seamlessly from our 18 offices in the 50 countries where we operate.

However, remote work can sometimes lead to a loss of a sense of belonging among employees. To address this issue, we have implemented rituals early on that allow us to come together regularly. For example, every Monday, we gather for “Shared Time,” a 30-minute meeting bringing together our 400 employees with the aim of sharing key information and celebrating our successes. During this exchange, which is as interactive as possible, each department is invited to speak to present its progress. This allows everyone to have visibility into what is happening in other departments.

In addition to this, there are “Cross Regional Meetings,” meetings aimed at facilitating collaboration between countries. These interregional exchange moments, organized by function, are a privileged time for sharing knowledge and experiences. Cross Regional Meetings are, for example, regularly organized between the Indian and Colombian markets. This is also the case for Spanish and Portuguese Country Openers who meet every two weeks to discuss the fortnight’s accounts they wish to open together.

Screen of a Cross Regional Meeting presentation

Finally, we prepare two “Virtual Summits” each year, one in winter and one in summer, each lasting a week. These events have two parts: the first part is broadcast online in our 20 countries; the second part takes place in person in the main hubs. They are an opportunity to share the vision for LittleBig Connection’s future and to review the past months. They also represent an excellent opportunity to celebrate our successes in person: we gather in locations accessible by train – out of environmental concern – to organize informal times strengthening team cohesion. Last summer, the Barcelona hub thus brought together all our employees based in Spain for a catamaran cruise on the Mediterranean.

Photo of our Barcelona teams during their Summer Break 2022

3. Our Experience Feedback

3.1 Support as a Success Factor

After several market opening experiences, I note two points that may be useful to anyone wishing to embark on this adventure.

Firstly, if your company enters a new country through a Country Opener, support and maintaining continuous contact between this profile and the rest of the teams are crucial. Opening a new market represents more than just a quest for new clients; it is an adventure on unknown terrain requiring perseverance, courage, and resilience. Furthermore, the biggest challenge for Country Openers is not promoting a new service or acquiring new clients in a foreign country but rather facing this adventure alone. Ensuring that this “missionary” of the company feels sufficiently supported is therefore essential for them to succeed in their mission.

The management also has every interest in ensuring close follow-up since they must integrate the specificities of the country and ensure that this new market is taken into consideration in the company’s strategic vision.

3.2 The Country Opener: Primary Responsible for Their Area

Secondly, if you find yourself in a position similar to that of a Country Opener, take ownership of your area as soon as possible. Once established in your new market, make this office yours because you are the primary responsible for this area. You must therefore feel fully capable of assuming this role with everyone in the market you are developing.

Furthermore, to succeed, pay all the attention your task deserves and stay alert: you are the eyes and ears of your company in this new territory.

In the era of rapid globalization and resource mobility, navigating the international market is no longer an option but an absolute necessity to exist in the professional networking sector. I am convinced that we will achieve this ambition through innovation, ever-increasing agility, and strong commitment to supporting, empowering, and empowering our teams. Based on this experience within LittleBig Connection, I can affirm that the combination of these points is the key to success.

*If we do not have offices in all the countries where we operate, it is because as a software publisher, we do not need physical anchoring to support our clients effectively. Our decision to open a new hub is made only when we wish to provide local and enhanced support to our clients.