A while back, our Kyle York blogged about five insights from scaling Dyn’s EMEA presence. I considered this a good opportunity to steal his thunder and write a perspective from within this office, having taken the Dyn journey for nearly two years.
When I was hired back in March 2012, I was employee #6. In some ways, having an EMEA presence started as an experiment, but an experiment with genuine commitment and vision. The vision and culture of Dyn captured my imagination early on, and I am also rather partial to experiments.
The commitment was evident from the start, and proved itself through an unshakable willingness to support this region through challenge and change. Whilst direction and opinion of the company and the region serviced has changed a great deal since inception, the overall vision has remained, as has the continued investment and trust in the people that occupy this office.
Since our beginning, we have seen tremendous expansion in terms of headcount and the space to occupy those heads. Equally, we have seen periods of contraction where we didn’t get things right, seeing us return to the drawing board on a number of occasions. It is these challenges that I wanted to blog about, and what we learned from them.
To keep things simple, I have focused on two primary areas that constitute significance in early stages of establishing a regional presence. They may be obvious to many, but surprisingly overlooked in my experience.
Since Dyn had successfully cultivated a decade of visibility and indeed equity in the USA, its relevance and significance were no longer in question. In EMEA, on the other hand, we were very much engaged in an education play. Dyn who? The DynDNS guys? “Well, yes, in part, but that’s not all we do,” our team would reply gleefully. Like a startup, we’re engaged in developing awareness and visibility of our solutions, but equally establishing ourselves as an employer, sponsor, and catalyst for innovation.
Today, we still have the ‘Who is Dyn?’ conversation occasionally, but far less than it was. We have a very keen focus on recruitment and due to our increased visibility, we’re in a stronger hiring position than ever. In the early days, we underestimated the importance of relevant visibility and focused solely on our solutions, the sales side of the business. Additionally, we did a poor job of identifying exactly what sort of candidates we were looking for.
Own Your Postcode
Don’t attend events or networking opportunities that only hold relevance to your products/market/segment and certainly don’t approach them purely to sell your services. You have to think bigger than this! Your catchment, therefore, must be wide and diverse and evidence value back to the event or group you are engaging with. Else, the relationship will be a short one and you will have established little equity.
Less Talk, More Action!
Interface early with academic institutions, innovation hubs, and intern programs; there is a plethora of ideas and people here just waiting to be tapped. Sponsorships and other charitable events are equally important, as they establish you as a socially conscious employer and engage your local community in a tangible way. However it must be authentic. Choose the causes, hubs and institutions that as a business you genuinely care about. Cross pollinate, and spread their seeds with your own.
Hire The Right Talent Early On!
Be very clear about whom you need to hire, not just short-term, but identify the candidate profile that will meet the business needs in two, three and five years’ time. You’ll be there before you know it and if your team is not considered carefully and comprehensively, you’ll be experiencing challenges that are by no means easy to solve further down the road.
In fact, you could do untold damage if you get this piece wrong. The only thing any business really has is the people as that’s all that sets you as a business apart from your competition. Great people can compensate for deficits elsewhere. Great products, however, can not compensate for a lack of talent.
The Journey Is Long And Will Be Challenging
Along the way, we have seen revision and evolution of the grand plan. Some of those have been challenging, but the effort and commitment to change is now bearing fruit in a myriad of different ways. As Kyle wrote, Dyn had to learn what EMEA was, and as a regional outfit, how much would EMEA define its own message, budget and strategy? What needed to be different, and what needed to remain the same?
Embrace Change. Difference is Inevitable, but Important!
Dyn was very brave when they initiated this experiment. As a company, they were prepared to embrace this endeavor without too much rigidity. This was a very democratic and inclusive approach which captured people’s imagination. I remember several occasions when leaders within the business would convey very enthusiastically, “We’re not a cookie-cutter organisation. We want your ideas, perspective and feedback.” Many great initiatives and processes were borne from this attitude and openness. However, challenges were also encountered. After all, we were not building something anew, but merely regionalising it.
Regional Autonomy Is An Option…For Some
One core discovery, as Kyle suggested, is the existence of certain conditions by which Dyn flourishes regionally. A large degree of centralization is indeed necessary and appropriate, and that’s ok. This shouldn’t stunt regional initiative or identity, but support it within the agreed collective framework the business has defined. Complete regional autonomy has no relevance here and is a model that, as a company, Dyn flirted with but has long since dispatched, whilst retaining regional identity, quirks and perspective.
The Journey Is Required
The journey to operational and organization maturity, actualization even, is a required journey, a road the business must travel, and may look different from region to region. It is not something one can be prescriptive about in totality either, only in part. The process is by its very nature experiential. What is learned in this region serves the entire business for the better (in terms of diversity, insight, perspective and initiative) and informs growth in other regions.
However, we will have new uncharted journeys in fledgling regions with brand new challenges, but are equipped with a better blueprint to work from. We’ll continue to make mistakes, but not the same ones.
Cultivate The Elements That Work
Regionally speaking, Dyn EMEA now occupies its third location, an entire floor in the heart of Brighton — a far cry from the shoebox we started in back in Mayfair. We employ close to 30 people across the region and our revenue out of this location isn’t too shabby if I say so myself.
When I look out across the office at the breadth of talent, the culture we have successfully imported and adapted, the challenges we have met and the dedication of the individuals involved, I know we’re on the right path. More importantly, I know what we have created here has intrinsic value.
2014 will see EMEA really hit stride. We’ve made some mistakes and learned great lessons. In so doing, we have built a very solid foundation as a true regional HQ. Across the company the goal is shared: supporting EMEA in further scale, in revenue terms of course, but equally in terms of social engagement, talent acquisition, community involvement and initiative in and around Brighton and across the region.