Are you thinking about expanding your business abroad? As the Vice President of Aspire US, here is what I’ve learned from opening our New York office.
In late 2018 I went to my CEO and told him that I wanted to move abroad, and I wanted to do it with Aspire. Aspire’s vision was to have a presence on every continent and an international network of contacts, customers, candidates, and colleagues. At the time, we had offices in Europe and Singapore, and I wanted to take us into North America.
Research, research, research -
After identifying New York as the area we wanted to open our first US office, we had several trips out to meet with clients and candidates to hear about their experiences with recruiters. We wanted to ensure that there was a genuine need for our services to give us the best chance of success.
Utilize your networks -
I started recruiting remotely from the UK in early 2019, intending to generate a revenue stream that would allow me to relocate to the US and ultimately grow a business here. In the UK, I’d recruited for the Media and Digital space though our research had shown us that the quickest route to success and growth would be to focus on the Events and Exhibitions industry, utilizing existing relationships and networks that we had across Asia and Europe as well as generating new clients.
Aspire originally started recruiting into Events over 30 years ago, enabling me to quickly build relationships with brands like Clarion, Closer Still Media, Euromoney, Haymarket, and Terrapinn, who all had a US presence too as well as onboarding new clients.
Setting up a US entity -
Hire a registered service agent who will be able to advise you on whether you should set up as an LLC or a C Corp, there are pros and cons for both, and the registered agent will be able to help you decide which is best for your business.
Then file for Incorporation. We were recommended to file for Incorporation in Delaware as the state offers tax benefits to your business.
Obtain a physical mailing address. Shared workspaces like WeWork and Regus offer this service, but if you know of someone in the US already, who is happy for you to register your business at their address, initially, there is no cost to them or you.
Get an employer identification number (EIN). As a business owner, you'll need an EIN to open a business bank account, apply for business licenses and file your tax returns. It’s a simple process that you can complete online.
Set up a US Business Bank Account. Setting up a US Business Bank account in the US is simpler than it is in the UK. We used the Bank of America and found them helpful!
VISA process -
Start this as soon as possible! I moved out to the US on an E2 Visa and the process took over nine months to complete. There are three types of Visas that you can apply for when moving from the US to the UK. A good Immigration Lawyer will be available to advise you on the right one for you. I used Fragomen to apply for my Visa. In hindsight I would have shopped around and used another provider, as I feel that I paid for the name rather than the level of service I received.
Where to live -
When traveling to New York to meet clients and network, I recommend staying in different locations so that you get a feel of the areas. New York's public transport system makes it easy to get around Manhattan. I stayed in plenty of Airbnb's to try and get an experience as close to living in the areas as possible. I finally settled on Brooklyn and love living here.
Setting up your business -
It’s not just your market that you need to research. There are a lot of differences between the US and the UK, and employment is a big one! Employers expect to be paid every two weeks, and to be attractive to an employee you need to offer benefits like healthcare and paid time off. On average, businesses in the US offer significantly less annual leave than those in Europe, so offering 20 days or more will often elevate your opportunity. Signing up with payroll platforms like Trinet, ADP, or Workday, which will not only manage your payroll, but will also enroll your employees onto health plans, is an absolute must.
Personal finances -
Setting up a bank account and getting a Social Security Number (SSN) are both easy, just like setting up your business bank account. I opened an account with Chase as they had a great new customer incentive though other banks, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, are just as easy to set up.
To get an SSN you just need to book an appointment with a Social Security office. Appointments normally take about 30 minutes and you’ll receive your SSN in the post in a week.
Be prepared to pivot -
Even after all that research you need to be prepared to pivot and adapt. My VISA was approved at the end of November 2019 and I moved out to the US straight away with a lease on a shared office space already agreed upon and big plans for expansion in 2020. But just four months later, New York became America's epicenter for Covid-19. The city went into lockdown and the events industry completely shut down. So I pivoted my focus to different markets including technology and market research, both industries less affected by the pandemic.
Hire American talent -
Everyone else in my team comes from North or South America, this has been a huge benefit for me as they’ve all helped me quickly learn the nuances in business and communication between the US, and there are lots of subtle differences!
The biggest tip I can share is to ask as many questions as you can and to ask others for help. So many people were happy to offer their advice and share their experiences after having been through similar processes themselves. If you’re planning to open an office in the US or thinking about where to expand next, Aspire can help.
To date, we have opened offices across the US, APAC, MENA, and Europe, and we have people in all those regions who have relocated their lives. We would be happy to meet for a coffee and share our experiences, learnings, and networks to help you and your business, as we know how daunting it can seem at first.
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