How your businesses can navigate the expansion process to the US

Melissa Burke, Vice President of US Operations at Grayce, discusses how businesses can navigate the expansion process to the US
Melissa Burke
Statue of Liberty

Being in a position where we can expand to the US presents a world of opportunities, but it’s not been a straightforward journey. With its vast market size, diverse consumer base, innovative ecosystem, access to capital, and, perhaps most importantly, shared language, the US can offer the ideal environment for growth and global expansion.

The opportunity in the US

Whatever sector you’re in, the chances are, the US will offer something the UK, or even Europe, can’t – it’s sheer size. With a population of over 330 million people and a GDP exceeding $20 trillion, the US offers a vast consumer base hungry for both innovative products and services alike.

Within that vast ecosystem, there is still space to specialise, too. Being home to centres such as Silicon Valley, the financial hotspot of New York City, and other dynamic locations like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston, a potentially overwhelming landscape suddenly looks more digestible. These hubs are teeming with entrepreneurial talent and provide fertile ground for collaboration, innovation, and growth.

As well as size and scope, the land of the free and home of the brave gives you opportunities to leverage networks, contacts, and resources in order to form strategic partnerships. Getting on the ground is one thing, but building something special will really rely on creating a strong network of support.

Expanding to the US market presents fantastic opportunities for growth and innovation. However, success in the market isn’t all straightforward. It requires careful planning, a sound growth strategy, and a deep understanding of the market dynamics and regulatory environment. Over the last few years though, Grayce has been in a position to do exactly that. We’ve managed to expand from a small organisation based out of the north-west of England, into a global organisation with presence in two continents.

The story of how we, as an organisation, got to this position involves hundreds of others contributing, but it is one I am personally very close to. Having joined Grayce nearly a decade ago, I’ve seen us grow from our first Macclesfield office into our HQ in the centre of Manchester, and now, leading our expansion to America. As you’d expect, it’s not been a simple journey either, but there are a few tips that we can share about how to successfully expand. Chief amongst which is – do your research!

Why now

It’s been said that England and the US are two countries separated only by the same language. That was part of the message we were hearing at Grayce, anyway. Our clients were consistently telling us there was a demand across the Atlantic.

Pre-dating even the pandemic, the need for change and transformation within the world’s largest economy was obvious. We know, for example, that 75% of US financial sector employers report difficulty finding skilled talent, while fewer than 25% of those working in insurance are under 35 years of age. Workforces are changing, and they need help to get it right.

But there’s opportunity too. We are fortunate to work with some of the largest, most creative and innovative companies in the world, many of whom are based in the US and are desperate to tackle resourcing challenges in a cost-effective, trusted way. In short, the message we heard was that there is a need for your proven delivery model here. That’s lesson number one. While the US can be hugely attractive for its size, scale, and promised riches, you have to get the why right, first.

If client demand sparked our interest, a bit of due diligence really brought the opportunity to light. Typical of a country of its size, the transformation economy state-side is booming. Research shows that its value is over $208 billion (yes, billion!) and, but for a pandemic-induced dip, has been on an upward trajectory for nearly 30 years. Not only was there a demand for our services, but there was a healthy economic supply, too.

The final ‘why’ is a deeply pragmatic one, and one that we saw as a gap in the market. The alternative employment market is rapidly changing, nearly two in three executives, for example, think the very traditional model of employment will radically change within the next five years, but the costs in the US remain incredibly high. For good quality change and transformation projects, talented people can demand up to $1,500 per day. Not only does this force organisations into a short-term, ineffective fix, but it does so at a huge cost. In the simplest terms, we could offer a more impactful, less costly model.

How we did it

Developing a presence in the US wasn’t a decision we made overnight, it has been a carefully curated expansion plan focused on building relationships and demand across our impressive existing client base and as a result of deeply understanding whether there was a ‘real’ demand for our business model. I said at the very top of this that the absolute number one tip is to do your research!

The unique offering of Grayce’s business model was a real determining factor to ‘strike whilst the iron is hot’, as a new incumbent in the US market, Grayce’s business model and niche position in the market is a highly unique and innovative model to the US, offering a real solution to building change and transformation talent businesses and solving a real talent challenge for our clients. It has been imperative to clearly articulate or model and value proposition and how we are a tangible solution for our clients.

Once you’ve done some preliminary research; becoming deeply familiar with what you can uniquely offer as a business, navigating the regulatory landscape in the US market is a next step, but it’s one that can be very complex, especially for foreign businesses. From tax laws and employment regulations to industry-specific compliance requirements, understanding and adhering to relevant regulations in each state is essential. Engaging with legal experts, consultants, and industry associations early on can help you navigate any regulatory hurdles, ensure compliance, and mitigate risks.

Cultural nuances also play a pivotal role in success in the US market – it’s sometimes not just about what you say but how you say it. You must ensure you understand consumer behaviours, preferences, and cultural norms so you can effectively position your products and services, craft effective marketing messages, and build strong consumer, client, and supplier relationships.

Face-to-face meetings are much more formal and to the point in the US which can be a shock at first! Informal networking can help you to get ahead of the game, adjust to the culture as well as build relationships and gain crucial insights into the market while exploring outside of the boardroom.

Getting invited to the latest MLB game is exciting. But the main thing has to remain the main thing, otherwise, any expansion stops are stopped in their tracks. In other words, don’t lose sight of what got you this far in the first place for. It’s vital to ensure your brand identity and key messages are consistent in your domestic – and therefore likely strongest – market. Your business must know exactly what it can offer and how it is unique so it can stand out amongst all the noise and competition in the US.

Grayce, for example, was founded on expertise in change and transformation, and with over a decade of experience developing and deploying talent in this area, we have a proven delivery model that we know works.

In short, the expansion process to the US is not an easy journey. To rewind, we were consistently hearing three things. Our clients were asking for a service in the States, there was a booming change and transformation market there, and the existing offer was prohibitively expensive to allow organisations to realistically achieve their goals. Over the course of time, we matched the why with the how, starting with reflection and thorough research, then coupling that with simultaneous effort to know our new audience abroad whilst firming up our brand at home.

We’re still at the start of our journey as we accelerate our US expansion plans, with an established US operation, US employees and growing demand from our clients, there are exciting times ahead. We encourage you to watch this space!

Written by
Melissa Burke
Written by
April 18, 2024