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6 key lessons for scaling your business globally (and quickly)

How to scale globally and quickly
How Pipedrive grew from an Estonian garage into a truly global team
How do you scale up a business: 6 lessons from Pipedrive’s founders
1Consider globalization from the outset
2Understand that different investors have different success markers
3Price your product or services wisely
4Support remote employees directly
5Travel to places with other experienced entrepreneurs
6Adopt a people-first mindset
Final thoughts

Behind the scenes of the “unicorn” success stories of the next Ubers, Amazons and Googles are the brave founders and small business owners enduring an emotional bungee jump of unexpected euphoric highs and soul-crushing lows.

There’s no simple formula, business plan or structured blueprint for sustainable business growth, let alone scaling up globally. However, you can (and should) learn from the mistakes, wins, successes and failures of those who have made it happen.

In this article, we’re going behind the scenes to tell our story. Read on to learn how to scale a business with six lessons that helped Pipedrive grow from a garage in Estonia to a global phenomenon.

How Pipedrive grew from an Estonian garage into a truly global team

Timo Rein, one of five co-founders of Pipedrive, helped scale a little SaaS startup in Estonia to an 850+ employee firm with offices in New York, Lisbon and London.

Pipedrive founders

The founders didn’t necessarily aim to scale a business globally from the outset. However, Pipedrive’s small market required a broader base of potential customers, so scaling was a natural byproduct.

Pipedrive has achieved a lot since 2010. The following six metrics are markers of the company’s rapid growth and scalability:

  • Over 175 countries covered

  • Over 100,000 customers

  • 850+ employees

  • 10 offices in 8 countries

  • Around 100 million deals created by Pipedrive users annually

  • 400+ Pipedrive Marketplace integrations

Going from a small startup to becoming a worldwide organization doesn’t just happen overnight. However, there are processes you can put in place to ensure you prime your business model and sales team for scaling globally from the outset.

Note: Timo shared his startup founder story on the SaaStr podcast if you want to listen to the lessons he shares.

How do you scale up a business: 6 lessons from Pipedrive’s founders

You may be right at the start wondering, “What does it mean to scale a business?” At face value, it sounds like a simple thing to do: start selling in a new territory and hire more people.

In reality, it involves careful planning, a lot of learning and some calculated trial and error.

Scaling a business means putting procedures and plans in place to grow steadily and sustainably.

Here are six key lessons to help you succeed that Pipedrive’s founders learned from growing the company.

1. Consider globalization from the outset

Pipedrive’s mission was simple from the very beginning:

To help salespeople sell more – no matter what or where they were selling.

However, thinking globally from the start helped Timo and the other founders focus on making sales easier for anyone selling from anywhere.

A “big picture” mission like this helped ensure they built their cloud-based software to be globally accessible.

While you may have a similar mission and big dreams, how do you ensure you grow sustainably?

Rocket Internet alumni Shaheen Javid says that while rapidly scaling a firm globally is good for PR, there are a few critical considerations you cannot afford to overlook:

Make sure you are doing well and delivering on your selling proposition in the city or country in which you originally launched. While staying local and focusing on a single country strategy lowers a startup’s risk of losing focus, many startups should consider globalization earlier because to stay local and insular creates the risk of losing important market share and growth opportunities.

As the number of markets and economies you target grows, you’ll need to consider positioning for each individual one.

Salespeople know that understanding your customers is the key to closing deals. Without them, there is no business.

To close on a global scale you almost always need to tailor your pitch to each unique audience.

2. Understand that different investors have different success markers

Before the Pipedrive team even thought of marketing their product to consumers, they had to sell their plans to a team of venture capital reps with a very different mindset.

Pipedrive’s European founders weren’t familiar with these alternative perspectives, so they had to learn fast and adapt their message on the run.

If you plan on accessing international funding to fuel your global growth, you need to know what makes each VC market tick.

According to Timo:

The US is more aggressive about the growth mindset, where short-term growth goals make founders look out to 18 months instead of 3 years. There’s also truth in the sayings about the US-based VCs and angels about growth goals. The West Coast looks for user growth, the East Coast looks at P&L and budgets and the UK looks at time to profitability.

Within the US alone, there were regional differences in what investors were looking for.

Despite the disparities, the team overcame this challenge and acquired $30 million then $50 million in VC backing. However, the real challenge came when Pipedrive’s team had to sell products in new global markets.

3. Price your product or services wisely

Pricing your services globally has a big impact on potential growth.

Your business will have unique criteria and influences, so there are a lot of pricing questions to consider:

  • Should you price locally?

  • Should you price regionally?

  • Should you favor a global one-size-fits-all pricing strategy?

Pipedrive considered these questions with an agile mentality – Timo and the other co-founders decided to set a price and gauge globally from there.

Despite making this decision, Timo still felt that sticking to one universal price would mean that some areas were overpriced while others were underpriced.

The team realized they needed to find a different way to cater to the unique demands of other markets.

To successfully adjust your product to best suit the market in question, it’s good practice to consult with global representatives who keep their finger on the pulse.

By offering localized payment methods and support, your product can flourish quickly across many new, unique markets.

4. Support remote employees directly

Localization may be the key to delivering the best value across a wide variety of markets, but how do you handle hundreds of employees across multiple time zones?

According to Timo:

It’s just hard. When you have one place, everyone is there and you know where everything is. You need to manage the separation and manage the communication between the locations.

Timo also emphasizes that you should always appreciate the importance of keeping people in the loop with communications.

If you outsource employees or manage a number of remote teams and multiple offices in different regions, you must make sure they all know they’re part of one passionate global team with a clear and unified mission.

Here’s some of the Pipedrive team:

Pipedrive employees photo

Download your guide to managing teams and scaling sales

The blueprint you need to find a team of superstars and build a strong foundation for lasting sales success

Through the mission of scaling a business globally, separation of teams across offices will be necessary.

The only way growing businesses can make this work is with seamless internal processes and communication so that everybody is always on the same page.

Some teams are easier to split than others – for example, divisions like support and engineering.

However, other teams like sales and marketing could work best from one place to deliver a unified message.

As for leadership, your day-to-day office may need to pivot depending on where you’re needed most.

You will likely need to “hopscotch” around time zones if you plan to scale your business across borders.

5. Travel to places with other experienced entrepreneurs

There’s one key piece of advice that Timo always shares with foreign founders who want to scale and grow big:

Spend some time in the US.

While it may be expensive personally and for the business, the price you pay is an invaluable investment for your business strategy, entrepreneurship and leadership skill set.

Being in the US allows you to be surrounded by the successes and failures of other new businesses, helping you learn the ropes at the most granular level.

When you’re ready to chase funding, by that time, you’ve already had plenty of experience with US businesspeople.

In the early days, Timo knew he needed to knock on the doors of international venture capital firms and capture early-stage funding if he was going to accomplish the global growth Pipedrive needed to survive and scale.

The startup team began by sending a few ambassadors to California. Timo explains why the US was his logical first target:

The US has more VCs and angels. There are more companies and the concentration of them makes it a better learning base.

As well as tapping into deeper pockets, you can surround your startup with the wealth of knowledge of this experienced, global-minded community.

It can also help to get your product in the right hands by joining accelerators like AngelPad – a US accelerator that helps companies get into early adopter circles of innovative SMBs (small and mid-sized businesses) and important industry influencers.

6. Adopt a people-first mindset

Piruze Subunchu, a McKinsey alumnus and Stripe’s Head of Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, says growth occurs when you adopt a user-first mindset:

Listening to users and trying to better understand them, they will be the ones who will help your company expand in your mindset.

Subunchu also says that one of the keys to startup success is to love what you’re doing.

Building new products, acquiring new customers and conversions, hiring new employees and securing partnerships is always easier when you enjoy it, so you need to be mission- and people-driven from the outset.

If you aren’t excited and eager to hit the ground running every day, this type of sustainable growth will be difficult.

Besides your own desire to scale your business and make it a success, the people you surround yourself with need to add fuel to the fire to help you scale.

After all, you can’t scale a business without a deep well of support, from mentors to freelancers and everything in between.

With hundreds passionate Pipedrive employees responsible for driving the growth of our business, Timo knows there needs to be a strong and compelling “value fit” for all team members.

For example, Pipedrive’s human resources department has a lengthier hiring process and more people involved than most companies do. The process also starts with an interview to gauge character fit instead of just professional fit.

You may want to look for new hires who are driven, have exceptionally high standards and don’t make excuses. Your ideal hire should want to work in a team and positively impact other colleagues.

Achieving this means developing a recruitment process that reflects the culture your business needs to grow.

You must learn how best to find your ideal employee and how to spot the core values you want to encourage in your team.

Your people are your growth engine and you need each of those critically important drivers to work smoothly together.

Final thoughts

While creating a global scaling strategy can seem intimidating, it’s certainly possible with the right processes in place.

Despite the challenges, you can turn globalization into a reality.

For further insights on how to scale a global business successfully or more about Pipedrive’s story, listen to Timo’s full SaaStr podcast here.

Wondering what Pipedrive is all about?

Test the product that allowed Timo and the Pipedrive team to grow to help over 100,000 sales teams all across the globe.

You can use Pipedrive’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform and integrations to speed up your workflows and overall growth journey.

Sign up for our free 14-day trial and take Pipedrive for a spin.

Download your guide to managing teams and scaling sales

The blueprint you need to find a team of superstars and build a strong foundation for lasting sales success

Driving business growth