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Forbes: Broaden your leadership horizons by working in another country

By Heikki Väänänen, CEO & Founder | HappyOrNot

In 2016 I booked a one-way ticket to Florida, leaving my hometown of Tampere, Finland, behind. Rather than being the beginning of a sunny vacation (the weather in Florida is, as you may be aware, significantly better than in Finland), I spent 15 months building our US team. As I write about in my most recent Forbes article, this remains one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my whole career, allowing me to learn from a completely different corporate culture, and in turn developing my leadership and personal skills.

We’ve always seen HappyOrNot as being an international company. As we continued to grow we made the decision to open an office in the United States because having a physical presence in such a huge market would enable us to scale and work more closely with our growing American customer base.

The benefits to the company were obvious to us all, with it signaling genuine growth and validation of what we had spent years working so hard to create. I traveled over knowing that this step was going to take us to the next level, but I hadn’t actually considered the impact it would have on myself.

In addition to developing the new team, I spent as much time as possible absorbing from the way that business works in the United States. I met with other entrepreneurs, startup incubators, investors, and of course customers, and learned from every single encounter. Everyone knows that things work differently in America when compared to Europe, but there are countless nuances, from the way meetings are conducted to how deals get done, that you won’t find out from reading a business book. There’s no substitute for experiencing them first-hand.

I learned to be resourceful as I adapted to new and unfamiliar situations, and I engaged with the many different ways of working, thinking, and doing. It was a brave step, but I came out of it a far more rounded individual, and HappyOrNot flourished too.

You may be doubting the logistics of such a move, and of course you have to wait until the time is right, and you must have confidence in the team that is holding the fort at your headquarters. With the vast array of communication tools available these days, such as Slack, Skype, and good old fashioned email and phone, you’ll always be connected though.

Remove yourself from your comfort zone, book that flight ticket, expand your network, and become an international leader. Your future self, and your business, will thank you for it. Read the full  Forbes article here.

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