I did a “prepa HEC” before going to Kedge Business School. I then founded my startup. I spent two years on this project, it was a social media based on memories, quite close to Copains D’Avant. We had wonderful traction in the beginning (10k users), but as for most social media, it became quite hard to retain users and we eventually had to give up on this adventure. Despite this failure, this experience taught me a great lot and helped me become Country Manager for AirHelp. It was quite logical to turn to this job, because I was evolving in the startup world and had the entrepreneur set of mind. I’ve been at AirHelp for a year and a half now, a startup helping airplanes passengers get compensation from airline carriers when there’s a delay or any trouble with the flight.
I’m in charge of developing the company’s activity in a country (here, in France). I take care of Marketing (leads acquisition / Facebook ads), Communication & RP, but also of the Business Development (which in my case includes developing partnerships with agencies). One must make the distinction between a country manager in charge of a subsidiary that will work almost autonomously (such as Uber France), and the country manager developing an activity with no entity (which is my case) where everything is centralized to the headquarters (finance, legal, etc). In my opinion, a country manager must have a very broad set of skills, because he/she must start a business from scratch most of the times.
I think the main quality every country-manager must have is an entrepreneurial mindset. The “CM” must often start from the beginning, with a blank page, and being a “swiss army knife” will help in dealing with many projects at the same time. The CM must also have a deep knowledge and understanding of the market he is establishing (often by being born there or living there for a while), for he/she’s the point of contact in the country. It’s also important for the CM to be dynamic, versatile and flexible in order to adapt the strategy locally.
I wouldn’t say there’s a typical background to become country manager, although we notice that most of them are either entrepreneurs or senior sales people.
The country manager can take lead of the subsidiary entity or of a more important structure (sometimes it will lead to a job of regional director). Other jobs open to CM are COO, marketing or commercial director.
The advice I would give to someone who wants to become CM is to watch out for startups raising money in the USA and looking to establish on the French Market (essentially B to C). It’s often a question of opportunities! They’re looking for people with a perfect knowledge of the market, who has a significant experience in a small structure (such as a startup!).