Five Learnings, Five Years After Setting Up In The USA

Karen Crookes is vice president in San Francisco for Across the Pond. Here she tells us how she traveled to the United States with only a laptop and a bag full of optimism. She tells us the five things she learned while setting up the agency’s new outpost in the United States.

I had dreamed of living in San Francisco since my first visit as a teenager while hiking across the United States. Five years ago, I realized this when I established the San Francisco office of Across the Pond. Starting a new business was both a personal and professional challenge, but the lessons I’ve learned over the past half-decade have been invaluable.

Our business revenue and our team have grown tenfold, we have won awards and our work has grown as we have taken on multinational integrated cases. Personally, I learned resilience, networking and the power of authenticity. As Across the Pond celebrates its fifth year in San Francisco, I thought about what really helps when you start over in a new place.

#1 Be authentic

When I moved to San Francisco, I tried to adopt a human way of working. Being a salesman is not in my nature (there are few Britons who can succeed and frankly I am not one of them).

Instead, I wanted to approach new opportunities with real authenticity. It worked well. Being authentic helped me stand out, be memorable (the British accent certainly helped there too) and ultimately form much closer relationships and friendships. I even found myself invited to client milestone birthday parties or weekend getaways in California.

#2 Build your network

Take every opportunity to meet other people in the industry, even “competitors”. Customers, suppliers and talent can come from anywhere, so be open to meeting people in any environment. I’ve bonded at communal tables in restaurants, at industry events, when meeting up with friends, and even on Tinder.

This less formal way of networking rarely happens in London (you’re allowed to talk to strangers in the US without being considered crazy), so it was a mindset adjustment. As soon as I started to realize that everyone here is equally invested in building a community, it became easier, professionally and personally.

#3 Be vulnerable

There is something liberating about building a life from scratch. I agreed to be new and ask people for help. Don’t be afraid to tell your story to your customers and engage them in your journey and what you’re trying to accomplish. They can just help you get there.

#4 Feed your resilience

Being away from “home” can be difficult. Some days you will feel homesick. Maybe you’re missing your friend’s wedding, or maybe you have a problem at work and everyone you know who could help you solve it is sleeping in a different time zone.

During these times, I often turn to writing gratitude lists – you are living the life you dreamed of and achieved, but sometimes it takes a moment to remind yourself. Or I try to get up from my desk and explore the city while I work. I always make it a point to work in another café, another neighborhood or a sunny park at least once a week. It’s great for creativity and a great way to discover the city – or find hidden gems, which you can then share with others.

#5 Build a strong team

Build a strong team around you. Hiring people who are positive, proactive and like to be there, especially when you’re small, is super important. You need to be around people who buy into what you do and where you want to go – and work with people who you can be authentic, vulnerable, and ultimately enjoy the roller coaster.

There’s something so liberating about making a fresh start. No one knows your story, so you have the chance to write a whole new chapter, no matter how old you are. Embrace it, and I hope you enjoy rewriting the book as much as I do.

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