Beware of the global startup
Primarily, the companies that would be ideal clients were one's that were entrepreneur-led, like me, and who had a dream to significantly grow their businesses and mostly be industry game-changers - although the latter wasn't exactly necessary.
In the early days, we had hurdles. The first was our own mind-set of being use to working with funded startups or medium to large corporations and shifting the way we interacted, engaged and nurtured our clients to success to cater for burgeoning SMB market.
It took time. More time than I ever imagined.
Then, somehow it became easier, and I had more time up my sleeve to get back to doing the things I should have done in the start and that is "working on the business, not in the business".
This is where my life became very exciting and every single time I achieved one more piece of my business plan, I had a real sense of accomplishment. Suddenly everything became easier and there was enough money in the coffers to do what we needed to do. No more watching cashflow to the level that we needed to do in the early stages, and more investment placed in areas of the business where it needed it most.
We had a lot of changes that we needed to do in the business. I had made a lot of mistakes particularly in the recruitment stakes and had senior management who were not well-suited to marketing, let alone a senior management position, that were steering the ship.
Hard decisions needed to be made and I was making them - with confidence.
Now it's a different story. I can safely say we are well on our way to realising our business goals and achieving everything that I set out to achieve in that very first business plan.
We are smarter, faster and better than any of our competitors, and on top of that, we do everything in-house with no outsourcing and have our own proprietary technology to back it up. Then of course, we have a company magazine which is really taking shape, and I love the fact that we are able to give our clients a voice.
Expanding to the US market has been very hard both personally and professionally. I have lost the last few years on planes, living in hotels and putting myself out there in very uncomfortable situations.
One of the big changes for Marketing Eye right now is to forget that we are a small business, and to act global. If you want to be global, you have to behave like a global company. That means business structures, management structures, planning sessions, meetings, reporting and so on.
The knowledge that you need to have to expand globally is exhausting. I still cannot get my head around all the different tax laws and government regulations of the US, preferring to hire it in rather than invest the time in expanding my knowledge in this area. Somehow I took for granted the fact that in Australia I seem to know more about tax and business structures than some of the outsourced companies I employ. Likewise, with law, it feels like I am telling the lawyers what to put in contracts and they are just taking orders. Both of which may mean that there needs to be a change, but nevertheless, this is how I feel.
Finding the right partners in overseas markets is imperative, but remember, the partner you have today may not be the same as the one that takes you to where you want to go. Make sure you learn as much as possible and give them every opportunity to be successful in what they do, powering your company to the next level.
Get across foreign exchange because currency can make or break you - and you just have to ask Billabong about that one.
Marketing in the US is different to Australia. It is far more aggressive, technology savvy and immediate, whereas in Australia, it is more relaxed.
This journey continues to be exciting, but it is important that if you are a global startup, beware that you don't act like one. Fake it until you make it and treat your company like an entrepreneurial corporation that is fast tracking global expansion.