How can I hire people in Europe to do software support for my U.S. firm?
November 19, 2015 6:19 PM   Subscribe

I manage a small team of software support people based in the West Coast United States. Now I'd like to hire one or more people based in Europe (I'm thinking maybe Berlin, Germany or Stockholm, Sweden) who would do the same thing (and whose hours would line up better with our European clientele). I've begun to do some research into the logistics of employing a German in Germany (just for starters) but I feel like I'm not getting far. Have you done this? What works best?

It seems that I'd want maybe one of the following options:

1. A contractor who would be independently incorporated and who would bill my company. But then I think I'd need a relationship with a tax firm or accountant-type-person to pay them legally? How do I find this firm? Maybe the contractor would already have one? And then how do I find the contractor? Are there specialized job boards?

2. An employment agency who would take my criteria, find me candidates to choose from, and then be the entity actually employing that person and then we'd pay the agency. I assume there are specialized firms who do this but I can't find them on the web. Do you know of a good one?

3. To set up a branch of my company in the country of my choice, hire a local branch manager, the whole nine yards. This seems like the most expensive and difficult of the options, but maybe it isn't?

As you can clearly tell, I'm essentially entirely ignorant. There may well be things I'm not considering. And there may be some countries in which this idea can be much more easily realized than in others. How do I get started here?

Thanks everyone!
posted by Mr. Professional to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For option (1) you just need to hire a contractor. This contractor may or may not be setup as a company, but it shouldn't make a difference to you. You would pay them monthly via EFT from your bank on receipt of their invoice. You write off the costs on you taxes in conjunction with the CPA the same way you do other expenses. They deal with their local taxes in their own country. It's very straigh forward and uncumbersome.

I'm unclear why you're focused on specific places like Berlin or Stockholm. Is there a reason the job cannot be filled by anyone in Europe meeting the job specification? I would start with a post in Jobs. Obviously also use LinkedIn. I can't speak about other countries but in Ireland, I would start with
posted by DarlingBri at 6:43 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I work for a web hosting company in the US. We have Romanians in Romania, Costa Ricans in Costa Rica, Guatemalans in Guatemala, and Mexicans in Mexico doing support for us. All of these people work for our company, they are not contractors or employees of a third party.

As best as I understand this setup, we deposit money in their bank accounts just like doing direct deposit. There may have been some setup at the beginning to get the electronic transfers going, but now it's a routine thing. They pay taxes locally.

Thanks to the miracle of VOIP, everyone works from home, even the US employees. We have a PBX from a VOIP company (maybe Fonality?) that acts as our phone system, and everyone has a softphone installed that connects to that. This eliminates your need for an office. Everyone collaborates using Confluence, JIRA, and HipChat (we're deep into the Atlassian ecosystem, but in the past we used regular AIM and then private Jabber).

The way we found our Romanians was pretty much by accident. The first one we hired was actually a customer of ours who we knew to be very tech savvy. We let him know we were looking for people in his general time zone, and hired him fairly quickly after that. We've piggybacked on that by having him place ads in the relevant Romanian job boards. With the crew in Latin America, we had another customer who did some consulting work for us who was from Chile, so he put out ads in job boards that covered that part of the world. We also use and Facebook to post job openings. Maybe you have customers in the area of the world you're looking at that might be useful in terms of finding qualified applicants.
posted by ralan at 6:57 PM on November 19, 2015

the company i work with has done (1) and (3). the first when there's just one person in a random place (like me, in chile), and the second when there's a team (who i think used to work for a competitor) near a major customer (i guess the advantage here was largely to be local to that customer in a more formal way).

as far as (1) goes, which i know more about, the same (part time) accountant who handles the rest of the company finances pays me via a (dollar) international bank transfer. on your side the most important thing is to treat the employee as a contractor and not a waged employee. that includes (but is not limited to) not specifying work hours, but rather dealing with "tasks" in some sense (in practice, with a degree of trust and goodwill on both sides, there is little difference). you do not pay (as far as i know) tax or insurance - that is all the responsibility of the contractor (so i pay chilean income tax on the amount i receive, converted to pesos).
posted by andrewcooke at 4:13 AM on November 20, 2015

I currently have one staff abroad who is being paid through an employment agency. All I do is pay their monthly bill and they handle the local tax and mandatory contributions.

Also, unless the geography matters, I think with much lower wages and excellent language skills in most of Eastern Europe, I’d look there first.

Have you tried Manpower or Adecco?
posted by Kwadeng at 10:13 AM on November 20, 2015

Hi everyone, thanks for the replies!

I'm unclear why you're focused on specific places like Berlin or Stockholm.

The long-term idea is that we would eventually open a satellite office in our target city even if we start with just a contractor or two, and since we're a software development company, we'd want the office to be in a European tech hub so we'd have a decent talent pool going forward. Really any of these areas would be fine--but once we settle on one, we'd be recruiting from that area as opposed to from the whole of Europe.
posted by Mr. Professional at 10:15 AM on November 20, 2015

Really any of these areas would be fine--but once we settle on one, we'd be recruiting from that area as opposed to from the whole of Europe.

For your future reference, that list is accurate but lazy. The cost basis in all of those places is very high because they're hot, hot, hot. But there are tech hubs all over; Ireland, Sweden and Germany have extremely well-educated work forces. English-speaking customer support for practically everything (Amazon, Apple, Trustev, RedHat, Motorolla, Nokia, VMware, EMC, etc.) is in Cork. Shopify is in Galway with Cisco, EA, SAP, Dell, Oracle, IBM and a bunch of other tech neighbours. Limerick would be another city with a plenty big tech pool.

My point really is that any EU city not on that Gigaom list would have much lower cost-of-living than any city on that list, which means lower salary requirements and, should you decide to head-quarter there, vastly lower rent and services costs. I'd actually avoid that list like a portent of future plague :)
posted by DarlingBri at 11:21 AM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

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