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On the Move with Brynne Herbert

Author Matthew Birchall

“Why was it so difficult to move in the modern era? When I went to business school I wanted to change this; I wanted to make it easy and exciting to move around the world rather than administratively burdensome and emotionally draining.”

“The challenge for people in the tech/enterprise zone is building a platform with a single interface, a simple design, elegant UX, and the capacity to integrate into other platforms.”

Brynne Herbert is a committed globalist. The founder and CEO of MOVE Guides, a world leading cloud platform for talent mobility, is at the forefront of the international relocation business. But how exactly did she get there? And what’s her advice for budding entrepreneurs seeking to make a similar global impact? We sat down with Brynne Herbert to answer these questions and learn more about her journey so far. 

Can you tell us about MOVE Guides? 

At MOVE Guides, it’s our mission to make it easy to move around the world, and we do this because we think it makes the world a better place. We believe that it’s important for companies to attract and deploy talent globally. And it’s important for a number of reasons: it helps businesses meet their talent objectives such as employee retention, and it also helps them meet their business objectives by spurring on revenue and growth in different locations. 

What we do is bring together all of a company’s mobile employees, whether that’s interns or people relocating for a specific project, and a supply chain of certified partners who deliver services like shipping and immigration. We bring together all of these people into a single SaaS platform so that the company can manage all of its mobile talent, the employees can plan their end-to-end relocation needs, and the supply chain of certified partners can interact with our clients to deliver their services.

What prompted you to found MOVE Guides? 

I’m American but have worked in Singapore, Hong Kong, India and the UK. Every time I moved I found it to be a cumbersome and frustrating experience. This perplexed me.

“Why was it so difficult to move in the modern era? When I went to business school I wanted to change this; I wanted to make it easy and exciting to move around the world rather than administratively burdensome and emotionally draining.” 

I felt that it should be as easy to move for work as it was to book a holiday. 

What skills helped you get to your position? 

The main thing is tenacity and discipline. It’s phenomenally difficult to build a transformational company, and people certainly don’t talk about this enough. There’s a lot of day-in-day-out grind which requires you to keep moving one foot in front of the other in order to keep building the company. This sense of discipline was something that I picked up at a young age, when I used to compete in elite-level gymnastics, and it’s something that I refined while working as an investment banker. 

“The other skill that I’ve acquired through my journey has been the ability to look at a lot of different inputs and synthesise them into an actionable item.”

As a CEO or entrepreneur you’re constantly faced with an overload of information: you hear from your employees, your external contacts, your customers, your investors – there’s a lot going on. Your main job is to process all of this information and devise a strategy that everyone believes in, so it’s absolutely critical that you can assimilate information quickly and intelligently.  

Who are your heroes in the industry?

Marc Benioff from Salesforce.com is a hero of mine from the tech HR sector. What he’s done in the enterprise space has been fantastic. David Duffield and Aneel Bhusri from Workday have been similarly pioneering. These are people that I really look up to. 

Do you present at any industry events or write a column? 

I do a number of different things. On the writing front, I have a blog called “Across the Ocean,” where I talk about building a global company. At MOVE Guides, we’ve built a global company from day one, so it’s a bit different from how most people approach building a business, i.e., you normally start in one market to define the playbook, and then you expand. 

“By virtue of our business, which centres on moving talent around the world, we’ve had to build a multinational firm from the outset.”

“Across the Ocean” shares my the key learnings from my journey so far, and it also shares my views on the US/UK tech ecosystems. I split my time between the two, so I have a pretty unique perspective to draw from. In addition to this, I also write a monthly column in the FT called “Millennial v Boomer” about the future of work from a millennial perspective. 

In terms of conferences, I speak at number of events across both the global mobility/HR industry and the broader tech community. This year I’m speaking at a Collision Conference  in the US about the future of work and how to build a global company, and I’m also speaking at the upcoming SaaStock Conference in Dublin about building great SaaS companies in Europe. 

What’s been your best learning experience?

The importance of building relationships with the right people has been my biggest learning experience to date. MOVE Guides places a lot of value on employing the right talent, and we’ve been hugely successful in this area: it’s one of our great strengths. We are always on the lookout for dynamic people who are accountable for their actions. The other big learning point for me has been the importance of communication. Once you get the right people, and once you build a dynamic team, you need to communicate with them clearly about what you want to achieve. 

What’s the approach to learning and development at MOVE Guides?

One of our values is “love to learn.” It’s something that we take very seriously as an organisation. We want people to stretch themselves and seek out learning opportunities. This means that we are constantly sending people out to industry conferences such as HR Tech, Worldwide ERC, FEM  and many more. 

What’s your view on vocational training versus a traditional university education? 

It depends on what your goals are. If you know what you want to do, and you need to acquire specific skills in order to do it, then I think vocational training is important. For fields like engineering or design, for example, skills based training is hugely relevant. But if you want to be a leader then it can also be helpful to have a traditional university education, as it equips you with the necessary critical thinking and communication skills. It can also be instrumental in developing your professional network and connections.

“Having said that, there’s definitely a drive towards specialisation, so having domain expertise can also make you stand out. You can be wildly successful through vocational training alone.”

Are there any courses that you would recommend to budding entrepreneurs?

General Assembly has some very good courses. The topics are interesting, and all the feedback I’ve heard has been positive. The way I learnt about entrepreneurship was through attending conferences, talking to people and reading biographies about other entrepreneurs. 

Are there any books, resources or events that you would recommend to readers wanting to find out more? 

Marc Benioff’s book about building Salesforce.com  is excellent. I have recently read two very good books on Google: In the Plex  by Steven Levy and Work Rules!  by Laszlo Bock. I also just read Originals by Adam Grant, which is a very interesting take on how to effectively disrupt markets and come up with innovative products. Business biographies also appeal to me. Sam Walton’s experience of founding Walmart is a fascinating story about how to build a really strong business category, as is Elon Musk’s experience of founding a variety of disruptive companies. Right now I’m reading a Margaret Thatcher biography  – I often read political biographies as I feel there are certain parallels with business. 

Techcrunch is your starting point publication wise. It sounds basic but getting to grips with all the recent industry news is really important. I also read the Financial Times religiously. Again it’s quite general in focus, but I feel as though the same rule applies: I think it’s useful to know what’s happening in the broader business community. 

“Ben Horowitz, the Co-Founder of Andreessen Horowitz, has a great blog, and his book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, is also excellent. It’s probably the best book that I’ve read about being a CEO.”

In a similar vein, Mark Suster’s Both Sides of the Table  explores what it’s like to be a business leader, albeit with a focus on being both a venture capitalist and an entrepreneur. 

What does your role as CEO of MOVE Guides entail on a day-to-day basis? 

It’s different every day but broadly speaking there are four main things that I do. The first is recruiting and team management work. I interview a lot of prospective recruits, and I also speak to my own team to try and uncover how people are feeling. Being aware of the challenges facing my team is really important, so I hold lots of one-on-one sessions and larger company meeting. The second category is dealing with our investors and external contacts. I spend a lot of time with my board meeting investors and bankers, and I meet regularly with partners and potential partners. Managing these external relations is a really important part of my job. 

The third thing that I do is PR and marketing work. We’re currently focusing a lot on awareness building at MOVE Guides. Over the last few years we’ve been purposefully under the radar, but we’re increasingly interested in raising our profile in the tech community. To that end, I am speaking regularly to people in both the HR/Tech and global mobility industries. The last thing that I work on is strategy. A deep knowledge of what’s happening in the market allows you to effectively drive the company forwards and make the right decisions about how to most efficiently allocate resources. 

What trends do you you predict for the tech industry in 2016 and beyond? 

We’re seeing a drive towards platforms. The holy grail used to be building products, but there are now so many small products out there, that the trick is to build a platform that connects them all together. This is very much what we do at MOVE Guides, and it’s also what companies like SAP do. 

“The challenge for people in the tech/enterprise zone is building a platform with a single interface, a simple design, elegant UX, and the capacity to integrate into other platforms.”  

What advice would you give to someone looking to enter your industry as an entrepreneur? 

Be ready to take on the risk that it entails! It’s different to having a nice job at an investment bank, for instance. Be prepared to work really hard, and be absolutely committed to what you’re doing.  

And what’s the key for progression? 

There are three things that I’ve seen which are almost directly related to how successful people are in scaling up their role at MOVE Guides: self-awareness; an interest in learning; and a proactive mindset. People who have an incorrect view of their own strengths and weaknesses are generally not self-aware enough to seek out the professional development that they need in order to grow, so I look for people who are eager to learn and stretch themselves – these are the people who are most often successful in a company like MOVE Guides. 

What attributes do you look for in candidates? 

One of our greatest competitive advantages at MOVE Guides is our culture. We have a team that is fully aligned with our mission and value system: it’s a team that has a strong global outlook and a desire to be the brand. Recruiting people who we think reflect these values is very important to us. 

“We also look for strong team players who show initiative. At MOVE Guides we say that there’s no glory in doing it alone.”

I’m not really interested in people who can prove that they can do things alone; instead, I’m interested in people who can contribute to our culture, work well with our team, and who are forever seeking out new ways to learn and develop. 

Author Matthew Birchall