Case Application 2
The Power of Presence
How do you successfully manage a growing international company? CEO Christian Chabot of Seattle-based Tableau now believes being there physically is an important piece in the often complex puzzle of international management.108 International growth is nothing new for Tableau, which was founded in 2004. As a leading provider of analytics and business intelligence software solutions, the company has more than 35,000 clients in over a dozen countries.
Tableau provides software tools and interactive dashboards that allow users to generate useful business insights through the analysis and visualization of data. The company is on the cutting edge of data-imaging solutions for end-users, creating products such as Elastic, which allows users to create graphics from spreadsheets. Despite tough competition in the market for business intelligence from software giants such as Microsoft, Tableau has continued to maintain its share of the marketplace, and the company’s value continues to grow with a 64 percent increase in revenue over last year. Much of the company’s growth is attributed to the company’s expansion into international markets, with an 86 percent increase in revenue last year from international markets, which now account for a quarter of the company’s total revenues.
With plans to hire about 1,000 more employees in the next year, the company’s projected continued success is evident. While more than half of their current 2,800 employees work in the company’s Seattle headquarters, Tableau has 14 locations around the world in places such as Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, and London. About 400 of the new employees will be hired outside of the Seattle headquarters, and Tableau’s expansion will include opening new international offices.
International growth creates many challenges for companies, particularly as they open and staff branch locations in different countries. Cultural differences, time differences, and simply the geographic distance can make it difficult to sustain the same management practices at home and abroad. How has Chabot managed the quick growth of this international company? One strategy was to spend almost a year abroad working in the company’s London office. His focused time at that location helped grow regional sales, but also provided the CEO with valuable insights to support further international expansion.
Chabot reported that the time he spent in London highlighted the importance of managing culture and people. Prior to the trip he did not have a true understanding of the challenges of international employees working for a U.S.-based company. He found that many working in international branch offices did not feel like they were taken seriously by those at the home office. Geographically remote workers can feel disconnected from a global company, particularly when they report to management they have never met in person at headquarters.
Chabot’s time working in London was valuable for employees in all locations of the company, as his actions sent the message that he feels employees outside of headquarters are important. While he spent time only in London, the fact that he spent a year away from the home office emphasized his belief that locations beyond Seattle are important for the company’s success. Chabot’s experience is having such a profound impact on the company’s success, Tableau is now encouraging other executives to spend time at international offices.
4-18. Tableau staffs its international offices primarily with host country nationals. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this staffing strategy?
4-19. Do you agree with Chabot that the company will benefit if more executives spend time in international offices? Why or why not?
4-20. As Tableau executives get ready to spend time in the company’s international offices, how can they prepare for the cultural differences they will encounter?
4-21. What are some of the challenges Tableau will face as it hires 1,000 new employees in one year?