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Navigating Global Expansion | Larry Harding


Enlightening Companies on Global Expansion

An interview with Larry Harding about the challenges and solutions for global expansion.

In this episode, we sit down with Larry Harding, the Founder & CEO of HSP Group, Inc., a renowned provider of solutions for companies venturing into the global expansion market. Larry sheds light on the complexities and surprises that often accompany international expansion efforts.

Larry explains that many clients underestimate the challenges of global expansion, emphasizing the mantra “you don’t know what you don’t know.” HSP Group assists companies in managing various aspects of their global footprint, from finance and accounting to legal compliance and human resources. Despite clients’ initial interest in expanding overseas, they often come to realize the intricacies involved and the need for expert guidance.

Drawing from his own experiences, Larry discusses the genesis of HSP Group. Frustrated by the inefficiencies and challenges faced during his tenure as a finance professional overseeing international expansion, Larry recognized the necessity for a dedicated company to address these issues comprehensively.

Targeting fast-growing companies lacking infrastructure or experience, HSP Group aims to be a trusted resource for CFOs and venture capitalists navigating global expansion. Larry emphasizes the importance of thought leadership and establishing credibility within the industry. Through strategic partnerships with legal and financial professionals and by utilizing their own services internally, HSP Group builds trust and demonstrates its expertise in managing global operations.

Join us as we delve into the complexities of global expansion and the crucial role of education and expertise in ensuring success.

Three Takeaways

💡 Learn from Larry’s experiences and discover how HSP Group emerged to address the inefficiencies he faced as a finance professional overseeing international expansion.

💡 Dive deep into the complexities of global expansion and the importance of expertise. Join the conversation and gain valuable insights to ensure success in your ventures.

💡 Delighted to share insights from my conversation with Larry Harding, Founder & CEO of HSP Group, Inc., leading the charge in global expansion solutions. Larry’s wisdom illuminates the hurdles and surprises inherent in international ventures.

If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.



Bill Sherman Here’s the challenge in thought leadership. It’s not enough for you to spot an opportunity yourself. You often need to help people see the world in a different way, and that’s a combination of thought leadership, entrepreneurship, and persuasive communication. Today, I speak with Larry Hart. He’s the founder and CEO of HSP Group. In today’s episode, I want to explore the concept of category creation via thought leadership. How do you stand up a new category of solution and get others to notice and sign up? We’ll explore helping prospects learn what they don’t know and shaping how people think by making the invisible visible to them. I’m Bill Sherman, and you’re listening to Leveraging Thought Leadership. Ready? Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Larry.

Larry Harding Thank you. Happy to be here.

Bill Sherman So I want to dive in with a challenge and a question. Often when you’re creating a new category, which is the world and the excitement of entrepreneurship, there’s a piece of education that needs to happen. And in our previous conversation, you and I talked about the customer doesn’t know what they don’t know. So set the table for me in terms of what HSP does. And then the challenge that you’ve had in terms of customer education.

Larry Harding Sure. HSP Group basically helps companies, expand overseas and manage their global footprint. So specifically, we tend to provide solutions for the office of the CFO finance, accounting, tax, human resources, payroll, and Chief Legal Officer compliance officer. Typically back office folks, none of the reasons companies go overseas are to process a great payroll every month. They’re either opening up new markets or they’re finding talent or they’re, you know, realizing some cost effectiveness. But once they do go overseas, there is an inevitable list of different things that they need to be on top of. One of the challenges is, unless you’ve done this before, you know, it’s risky. You know, it’s hard. You know, you’re going to be pulling your hair out, but you don’t actually know what you don’t know. So there’s an element, really, of having to learn and understand what the different challenges are, what the different solution approaches might be. So we work with clients who’ve done it before, and it’s much easier to sort of entice them because they know, oh yeah, we totally need what you’re doing. And with other more challenging prospects, there’s a little bit of an education.

Bill Sherman And typically we talk to me about that education process in terms of how do you take someone’s interest in expansion to a really prepared state, right, where they realize there’s a gap that they don’t even see?

Larry Harding Yeah. Well, it’s interesting, oftentimes when the folks that we’re talking to are talking to us, it’s because the organization has already decided to go overseas. So now they’re along for the ride, whether they like it or not. Their job is to make sure all the different pieces are in place for that to be successful from their different perspectives, and they talk to us really to understand, okay, what am I getting myself into? What do I need to be on top of? And fortunately or unfortunately, typically this education conversation is, you know, this is going to be a lot more challenging than you probably understand it’s going to be. And we talk about, you know, different tax compliance and HR employment regulations, which for a US company are much more complicated outside of the US. You know, money and funds transfer challenges, different compliance requirements, you know, differences from country to country and region to region. So a lot of times it’s a bit of a culture shock or a rude awakening for the folks that we’re talking to. But equally, they’re incredibly appreciative and gratified and relieved to know that they’re talking to people who’ve done this before. You know, we do bring the expertise to the table to help them be successful and minimize their risks. It’s a little bit of a bad news, good news scenario oftentimes when we’re speaking with these folks, but they quickly realize whether it’s HSP Group or some other alternative they’re going to want, and they’re going to need the help in order to expand overseas successfully.

Bill Sherman And that makes sense. And you pointed out that in many cases, the decision has already been made. This ship is sailing. So that’s creating an urgency, if you will, of I’ve got to figure this out. And I have a limited amount of time and I can’t go educate myself.

Larry Harding Yeah. 100%. And that’s a nice dynamic for the market that we’re in. But it’s also a nice feature set that we’re able to bring to the table because we’re you know, I’ve been in these shoes before. I was our customer back in the day. So it’s very gratifying for myself and others on my team to be able to know that we’re providing such tangible help and peace of mind to the to the folks that we’re working with. So, you know, we get as much energy out of having these conversations as, you know, I think some of our prospective customers do.

Bill Sherman So you made the comment that you were the customer. Talk to me in terms of the journey that you went through, from being on the customer side of the table to be on the solution provider side of the table. What was that journey like? How did you realize that you could cross the table if you would?

Larry Harding Like many decisions, I realized when I was halfway through. So I’d been sort of a classic finance accounting person, you know, out of college. I took my finance accounting degree. I worked for one of the, you know, at the time, big eight accounting firms did audit, did M&A consulting. And then I became a finance person at different venture capital backed high tech companies up in Boston, where I was from, all of the ones I was sitting at headquarters at, you know, trying to deal with the global expansion. It was a very frustrating, you know, I had to reinvent the wheel every single time, spend a third of my time on 5% of my workforce. So it was just very inefficient. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and it was really, a mess. I was then, CFO for a company I had acquired by a company called Sienna, which was a large global telecommunications equipment manufacturer. Became their VP of International Finance. So for four years, my job was to support them in 30 different countries. So I basically had to learn all of this on the fly. I had to find local partners, learn what the different rules and regulations were in 30 different countries. And after doing that, you know, pulling my hair out individually for four years, I realized that there really should be a company that helps folks like me take care of these challenges. So in 2003, I started my first company in this market, High Street Partners. Really peer back of the envelope. Looking back, I didn’t know what I was getting into. You know, one man and a dog basically, you know, starting off. But we realized that the market was much bigger than I at first thought it was. And the team began to slowly add so bit by bit. And it was a great time to be in a global expansion industry. We built up a really successful company, you know, reached 40 million in revenues, raise venture capital money ourselves, develop some helpful technologies, you know, built but built up an amazing team of really talented people all over the world, many of whom are now working at HSBC Group here with me and just figure it out, and in many ways, kind of created an industry that didn’t really exist in the way it exists now. It’s just very stealth, very disparate, you know, people doing one thing, others doing another. We were one of the first to sort of provide the full A to Z of global expansion solutions. And now it’s, you know, a very interesting, well defined market that we’ve been able to be on the journey of really figuring out.

Bill Sherman Well. And from the way you describe it, it sounds like when you entered into this point, especially if you were, maybe it was different if you were a fortune 500 and a multinational. Right. But if you were a VC backed firm or you were a high growth startup looking to expand internationally, you were hoping for someone who could say, I’ve got a guy, or I’ve got a gal who can help you solve that problem in country X, Y, or Z, and you were trying to solve it piecemeal, right?

Larry Harding Yeah, that’s how we started out. That’s how the industry was before. But that doesn’t scale easily, especially at night. Right. High growth.

Bill Sherman That’s a nightmare for growth especially.

Larry Harding Yeah. Different people in all the different countries. So we saw that dynamic and we said, listen, if we can be that sort of one company, one throat to choke is as a term we started using was and we’re going to own and take care of, you know, all the different issues you need in all the different countries and all the different regions. That’s a better answer for you than just, you know, finding the one offs. I know somebody and that that really is sort of the market dynamic that we tried to improve. And I think that’s where we were successful, that that was really how it was done before. And nowadays it isn’t really done much like that anymore.

Bill Sherman So you’ve mentioned working with VCs on several different levels, right? You’ve also talked about working with the portfolio companies CFO. Who’s your target audience for the message these days, and has it evolved over the course of time?

Larry Harding You know, the markets evolve. The people we’re speaking to and what we’re talking about hasn’t changed a ton. So, you know, we call it our ideal customer profile or ICP. It really does tend to be that, you know, BCD round venture capital backed technology company, of which there are hundreds. And, you know, every quarter, there’s five, ten, 20, 25 billion of funding landing in US domestic companies, a meaningful percentage going to be deployed to global expansion. So it’s a very self regenerating market. It’s a it’s a really good wave to sort of keep surfing. And we have a very strong message to that cohort. You know, typically they’re growing quicker than they can handle. that’s the dynamic of a VC backed company. They don’t have a lot of infrastructure. They oftentimes don’t have a lot of experience. So they especially need the help to fill in the gaps that they have to sort of make sure all the different pieces are on top of. So it’s a great it’s a great ICP for us to focus on. We have such a strong solution set and so much experience helping those types of companies that it’s one that we enjoy as much as hopefully the, the customers we work with get the benefit of.

Bill Sherman Well and from a customer acquisition as well as thought leadership perspective. One of the things that strikes me is any firm that is closing a funding round, whether on the VC side or the operating company side, is going to want to announce that they’ve gotten funds. So you have a pool of people that are raising your hand that are saying, hey, I’m your ideal customer profile every month, every quarter.

Larry Harding That’s another attractive go to market feature. You know, these companies are definitely relatively loud and proud that they’ve raised money quite often. They say in their funding announcement they, you know, say that one of the things that’s going to be deployed for is global expansion. So yeah, you know, 100% of those types of customers prospects, are folks that we, we want to reach out to and who could benefit from knowing about us.

Bill Sherman Well, and whether it was explicitly in dedicated use of funds in the raising prospect. It’s like, okay, you talk about global expansion. How are you going to get that done? How are you going to create return not only for your initial investors, but these new investors as well?

Larry Harding Right. Completely. And you know, the natural thought process is okay. This is a huge market going into the European Union. If we can save this much cost, put in folks over in the Philippines or India. And that’s the driver of the decision. But nobody ever that I know of sort of incorporates their decision. And we’re going to run the payroll with these guys and it’s going to be fantastic. We are an afterthought, but we’re an inevitable piece of that plan, that strategy. So we just sort of make sure that as early on as possible and early on is better for everybody involved. You know, we become a part of that project plan so that we can, you know, advise them before they make different decisions where you might want to think of this region versus this region. Have you, you know, do you have the budget required to sort of pay these different taxes that you’re going to have to deal with? So, you know, the employee fringe benefits, you know, the burden rate is something that even in low-cost places, can become really meaningful so that you, you know, the delta may not be everything you think it’s going to be between a US salary and an overseas salary because of that, differential.

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Bill Sherman So I want to go into the thought leadership side a little bit with you, and I’ll give you two customer profiles. Pick whichever one you want to start with and we’ll go from there. One being the CFO of the high growth company. And maybe they’re about to start a funding round, the other being the VC partner who’s responsible for the investment thesis and saying, hey, if we invest X, we’re going to see return Y. Education here is a key component. And the further left of the deal points you can reach them the better I would think so that they know you before they need you. What are you doing to create those education opportunities, to get them to think along the ways that you want them to think.

Larry Harding Great question. So I’ll focus on the operating folks first or exclusively the. We want to do everything we can to make sure that we become sort of a known resource in their decision tree. So, you know, we try and get to know the different lawyers and bankers and accounting, the folks who sort of support companies like this in that ecosystem. You know, we want to make sure they all know who we are, because quite often we’ll get a call from the law firm that says, hey, this client’s raising their series B round. I know you guys have helped a whole bunch of our other clients. They’re going to need you. But do you mind if I make introductions? Like. No, we don’t mind if you make that introduction. So getting what we do in front of the different others and, advisors in that ecosystem is a big part of sort of making our awareness out there. We do a lot of webinars and content marketing so that we’re talking about different issues. Data privacy over the last 3 or 4 years has been a big one. So making sure that we’re announcing to the market all of the different challenges of expanding into Europe and dealing with data privacy and how you go about doing that. That’s one of the big areas that we try and from our thought leadership, make sure that we’re sort of known to bring these solutions and this guidance to the market. And then, you know, again, when, you know, there is a connection between a prospect and one of our subject matter experts making sure that we’re walking through them. You know, for us, it’s a conversation that we have multiple times every week, but it never gets old. But to the prospect who’s hearing for the first time, you know, the solutions and the risks and the education that we’re able to bring to them this kind of goal, because that’s what they need to know in order to properly support the rest of their organization. So, you know, it’s a pretty sophisticated methodology, you know, focused on all of those things and others just to make sure that our expertise is really known as early on in that sort of needed point as possible.

Bill Sherman And so if I was to recap, I hear referrals. I hear organizations such as ACG would be deeply relevant to build that referral network in chapters and associations. Also, then some of the one on one calls doing some speaking, doing the content marketing, getting your ideas out and saying you don’t have to do this alone. And in fact, it’s more expensive to try and painful to try and do this alone. You don’t want to go to talk to the board or your VC owners to say, hey, here’s the problem we dug ourselves into.

Larry Harding Yeah, or even your CEO or your, you know, you had. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Bill Sherman Exactly. Even, say to head of sales. Yeah. I know you’re trying to close this. We can’t keep up. Right.

Larry Harding You know, here, here are the risks in order to optimize the sales, you know, how do I get product into the country? You know what? How are we gonna account for the back taxes? So if we do our job well, then we’ve equipped the folks who are direct our direct customers to really do an incredibly effective job supporting their organization, working with their colleagues so that sales can be successful so that the, you know, head of R&D can hire these offshore developers and be successful. So that’s really our mission. You know, because we are our ICP, our selves. I mean, we manage a global footprint. We have a head of sales, we have a head of development. And so we know what we need to properly equip our colleagues so that they can carry out their mission successfully from a, you know, global compliance and efficiency perspective. So if we do, you know, are ahead of HR. So we do a good job, you know, with what we do internally, we know that we’re providing the right solutions for our ICP and really any other customers.

Bill Sherman And what I’m hearing there too is you’re creating an internally embedded champion for that somewhat. Who can be the advocate to talk to the other business functions and say, hey, let’s look at this from the sales point of view. Let’s look at this from HR point of.

Larry Harding View.

Bill Sherman And make sure that everybody who needs to be a stakeholder is at the table, and that this solutions integrated rather than just silent.

Larry Harding Yeah. I mean, you know, as one example, we’ve developed our HR technology solutions that we provide to our customers. We have first made sure that Lisa, our own head of HR, who manages people in 17 different countries, has a piece of software that helps her do her job effectively so we know if right satisfied Lisa and her team and given her a great product, helping her be successful, inevitably, invariably, we have a great solution for all of the other heads of HR with the customers that we’re gonna be working with.

Bill Sherman So you also talked about sort of building an opportunity through the employer of record graduates. Can you talk to me a little bit about that process and sort of cultivating an audience and developing and educating?

Larry Harding Sure. So employer of record or EOA has been in the global expansion space over the last four years. Five years. One of the more explosive parts. And it is a fantastic step. One. It’s a basically outsourced third party employee leasing approach so that you can expand that to Germany or Australia or just about anywhere, you know, turning on a light switch. So right from the get go, you can have a third party entity be the legal employer of your person in Australia, but they carry out your orders and it’s really just like an employee. You pay a premium for that. And with, you know, the first employee or the first handful of employees, especially when you’re not sure how permanent the global expansion step is going to be. It’s a spectacular solution, but it doesn’t necessarily scale. The more successful you are, which is really the goal, is to try and be as successful as possible. And the, you know, the higher the number of employees you get into Australia or any other country in certain locations, it’s a temporary solution. It’s not ever going to be a permanent solution. In certain countries, it becomes a little clunky. You know, you can’t quite, you know, have the benefits, flexibility, for example, as you might. So in a meaningful percentage of those, your customers, as great as they are at some point they’re going to want to and need to graduate. And so when they have to move on from an era approach that moves into the whole solution set that HSP group provides. So we’re doing, you know, that’s probably the biggest part of our pipeline these days is companies who are transitioning or graduating from that approach. We also work with a bunch of different EMR providers so that, you know, they recognize they don’t they want their retention. They don’t want their churn. So they recognize that. Working with us can sort of help keep, you know, at least pieces of the customer relationship. So they’re their advocates versus adversaries, in this whole thing, which is nice. At the end of the day. I mean, you know, you want to keep as many customers happy with as many different things as possible, but that you are graduate dynamic. And because of the huge growth in the, you know, heads under your management over the last four years, you know, the Covid pandemic, the work from anywhere explosion that that sort of happened. There’s this huge, you know, bulge of ELR customers and clients now. And so those graduate percentages are really, you know, increasing exponentially. So it’s a good dynamic for us as a business. It’s a great, you know, great dynamic for the global expansion market. And you know, we’re big fans of over, you know, even if we sort of, you know, pick up a lot of business when they move on from you are.

Bill Sherman Well, and I think it would be also useful for you to be able to paint a picture in a thought leadership perspective early on and say, here’s your likely journey, here’s what makes sense. And here’s sort of the evolution gateway’s where the solution from today isn’t going to meet your needs tomorrow, right?

Larry Harding Yes, absolutely. So we work really hard to be one of the thought leaders. So again, basically supporting your we love your right. But inevitably some of you are going to need to do something different. And you know here’s plan for it. Now could be a year or two, three years out. But know that these are the next steps and where so folks can help take care of that for you. You know, we work with our, you know, our partners to sort of combine those elements. So yeah, it’s education and just, you know, awareness of the different, different transition steps is a really important part of the dynamic.

Bill Sherman So I want to ask you a couple specific questions. You said, hey, we’re involved in thought leadership here. How much of your time now is spent in a thought leadership role, rather than sort of the founder and leader of the organization these days? So when you look at the many things that you have to do, how much of your time is allocated? And then we’ll look at the rest of the team.

Larry Harding Yeah. I mean, you know, it’s a very meaningful percentage and I think it should be. You know, I think the main benefit or value I bring with the organization is sort of, you know, not making sure that my amazing team is doing what they’re doing because they’re going to do what they’re do. Yeah. So my, my main benefit is sort of forging partner and competitor relationships in the market, understanding where the industry is going. And for sure, you know, different thought leadership. So making sure I have my fingers on the pulse of directionally what’s changing, what’s hot, where are the problems arising. Because in this, you know, our world, it constantly shifts. There’s the whole geopolitical challenges arising these days. You know, currencies have been up and down interest rates. So yeah, there are a lot of different things from a thought leadership and a direction of travel that my time is best spent really understanding what’s happening and how it could mean for what we want to do and how we can be a best help to the market. Although, you know, in the in the actual provision of the thought leadership, the news that I’m happy to report is I think we have the best team in the world of sort of subject matter experts and people who’ve been doing this at a very high level for a really long time. We have experts who can talk about global H.R or global payroll or global compliance who are vastly, you know, stronger on the subject than I am. We try and plug the, you know, the people who have the most significant horsepower into providing the thought leadership. Yeah, depending on the area of expertise.

Bill Sherman Well, and from a maturity cycle, you know, there’s only so much a founder or CEO can do on their own to get thought leadership out there. Now, they may be able to open more doors than a sales team on their own by getting invited to speak places or place an article or have a conversation with the leader. But you’ve got to make sure that whether it’s coming from the top of the House or from a country expert or a policy expert, that gets to the sales team, to the account lead, so that you’re speaking with one voice, and there’s a consistency of message on that. How do you close that gap, especially given the fact that you, as you said, you’ve got a global footprint both on the team side as well as then your clients wanting to go many places.

Larry Harding You know, that’s a that’s a really interesting question. And I have to say, I, I don’t have a great answer for it. You know, I can tell you I can report that my sense is our team is incredibly cohesive and unified. I mean, we sing from the same hymnal, probably because we’ve been working together for so many years. I mean, you know, this is a team of colleagues who have years, if not decades working together, you know, not necessarily the HSP group, because we’re only three and a half years old, but at other different places in the global expansion market over the years. So it’s a very well-versed team at its core. And then it seems like the people that we add who maybe we haven’t worked with before, pretty instantly sort of get what our messaging is and where we at, what we emphasize and where our expertise is, what where it isn’t. So we haven’t run into challenges not being aligned. I think one of the strengths we’ve been fortunate to have, and I wish I had a better answer for you, is if you talk to A or B or C in our company, you’re going to hear the same message. It just, you know, it works that way.

Bill Sherman Well. And that’s the desirable piece obviously. Right. But like you said, when you’re onboarding someone, how do you close that gap so that they know and they collaborate?

Larry Harding Yeah. We our approach is very collaborative. We really tend to focus on, you know, inviting people to join different calls, so forth.

Bill Sherman So. As we begin to wrap up, I have a question for you. You’ve been going through this journey on the outsourcing side for tax and for legal and HR. My question to you is from a thought leadership perspective, knowing what you know now, what would you advise your younger self on that maybe your younger self from three years ago? Or you might want to go back to 2004 or so when you started all of this. But there are many people who are on this journey who are looking ahead and saying, how do I teach the world what my new category is? So my question to you is, what do you wish you knew then?

Larry Harding Well, I think I think like anybody else, there are a million things I’d love, I’d love to do over again and hopefully, you know, not make the same mistakes or do things I did. Well, even better. You know, I think you can never have enough talented people in your orbit, you know, whether they’re colleagues, whether they’re partners. Surround yourself with, you know, the best talent and the best subject matter expertise in the world. You know, work collaboratively, empower people to sort of, run with, with, with opportunities themselves. You know, I think there’s a natural tendency a lot of entrepreneurs might sort of be control freaks, you know, to make control more, they need to where the natural impulse would be sort of actually step back, you know, let some amazing talent carry you forward, and then you’re not pushing things constantly yourself. That’s just something that experience, you know, has gotten me more attuned to and effective with. But, you know, I’d love to sort of 20 years ago have that knowledge that I have now and be able to apply it even more effectively.

Bill Sherman That’s a great answer, I think. Listening to the in-house expertise and sometimes shining the spotlight on them or helping them amplify their voices in the market is an amazing way to grow and also then build a level of employee engagement that’s through the roof, because all of a sudden it’s like you’re shine the spotlight on me. You want the world to know what I think?

Larry Harding It’s. Yeah, it’s. It’s empowering. It allows you to grow, you know, it allows you to scale so much more effectively than one person or two people. And people, way more often than not, when you give, people an opportunity to step up, they’re going to step up even further than you would have imagined they would.

Bill Sherman Well, and you talk about a team that’s been together a decade or more, right? That’s a compounding effect right there. The longer that you shine the spotlight on them, the more they grow and surpass your expectations. Surpass client expectations. It’s such a virtuous cycle. So yeah, I really like that advice.

Larry Harding Yeah. No, it’s been, nice to learn it and live it myself.

Bill Sherman Fantastic. So, Larry, I want to thank you for joining us to talk about thought leadership as well as HSP Group today.

Larry Harding Thank you. Bill.

Bill Sherman If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website Org and choose ‘join our newsletter’. I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.

Bill Sherman works with thought leaders to launch big ideas within well-known brands. He is the COO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Bill on Twitter

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