Becoming an entrepreneur can change your life. Rather than working for someone else, being your own boss, choosing your own hours, working the way you want to work and making a living from your own hard work is rewarding – but it requires a lot of hard work.
Today, we chat to Craig Dempsey, the co-founder of the Biz Latin Hub, about his entrepreneurial journey, the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, and his tips for making it big in business.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started my career serving in the armed forces of Australia. I was a commissioned officer, and was responsible for a number of combat tours across the Middle East and in Central Asia, and those experiences no doubt shaped who I am as a person today. Indeed, I learned that working as part of a team is critical to success, sleep and health are important, confidence is king, and that quick thinking can help you get ahead of the competition and achieve a successful result.
As well as spending time in the armed forces, I graduated from the Royal Military College and the Australian Defence Force Academy, and I became a qualified Mechanical Engineer after my study at the University of New South Wales. The truth is that I love to be challenged and enjoy pushing myself as an individual and a businessperson, and that I value each and every one of my experiences, as they have enabled me to become the entrepreneur that I am right now.
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
As co-founder of the Biz Latin Hub, I have worked with companies around the world enter Latin American markets, and time and time again, the biggest challenge I have faced is encouraging companies to change. Indeed, you have an award-winning product and a way of doing things in your native country, but when you want to expand your business into a new territory, it’s essential that you enter the opportunity with a set of fresh eyes, and be prepared to change the way you do things if you want to find success. In short, a cut and paste approach to overseas expansion just won’t work; you must find ways to integrate in order to generate sales.
Offering commercial representation and back-end services, I know first-hand that businesses are often reluctant to change – and that makes sense. They’re often at the top of their game and know everything there is to know about their niche, but they don’t understand the differences in cultures, languages and attitudes – and unless they do, their expansions can quickly turn sour.
So, my biggest challenge is persuading people to change. The good news, though, is that as a world, we wouldn’t continue to grow and evolve if we didn’t change, and the vast majority of our clients are prepared to make the necessary changes to help their businesses thrive. If there’s one thing that I have learned in my career, it’s that we must not be afraid of taking risks and looking at ourselves – and our businesses – in different lights. Without doing so, we’ll never grow.
Speaking of growth, how do you find ways to continually grow businesses?
From launching Biz Latin Hub in 2014 with my co-founder David Wright from a small office in Bogota, we have now expanded into Latin American countries such as Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Panamá, Belize, Ecuador, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Uruguay and Brazil – and we’re working hard to expand into other territories, too. Indeed, we’re now in the early stages of planning and expanding into Australia, with an office in Sydney, and the United Kingdom, with a flagship London office to help businesses across the UK find their Latin American market share.
As an entrepreneur, I know that growth is critical to success, and realised early on in my career that the best way to grow was to expand into new territories. You can spend all of the money in the world on marketing your products and services to your audience, but some will always be loyal to your competitor, whether that’s because they prefer their products or don’t like change.
As soon as you think that you have ‘cracked’ a market and have a significant market share, the next logical step is to take the best parts of your business and bring it to a new territory, where you can start all over again. It’s exciting to take a brand and adapt it for a new audience, as it gives you lots of opportunities to add spin-off products and services that further increase your bottom line and help you generate more revenue.
From experience, I know that a lot of our clients have learned a lot about their own businesses through international expansion, giving them insight into their business and helping them to increase efficiency, add new product lines or improve customer service thanks to feedback they received from overseas customers. Therefore, listening and adapting is key to your growth.
How do you cope with managing a team of people?
As I discovered from my time in the Australian armed forces, I know that working on your own has limitations. Being able to find a team that you trust to grow your business is important; but if you don’t know how to manage them, you won’t be able to boost your brand to the next level.
I think there are a few ‘golden rules’ to management, including being consistent in everything you do, encouraging employees to work as part of a team, rewarding people who work hard, being open and transparent, encouraging people to have their own ideas, and listening to your employees and take their feedback on board. The more time you invest in your team, the more they’ll give back, so never overlook the importance of meetings and team building activities.
You can find out more about Craig Dempsey on LinkedIn.