Challenges Faced To Start Up A Business In a First World Country

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In response to the article “Why Should a Danish Employer Hire You?” many foreigners who like myself have moved to Denmark, are asking for my advice as to how can they get jobs in Denmark too.

Just so you know, I decided not to aim at “regular jobs.” In fact, I tried to apply for a few “normal” jobs, but this only lasted for three months because I felt this was not going anywhere. Realizing this, I decided to change my tactic and concluded that perhaps I could design my own job. Thus, I decided to start up my own firm.

I believe that it does not matter if you are a foreigner or a local, if you want to get a job in Denmark you need to know what your skills and strengths are because essentially you are trying to convince someone to hire you based on a service that you can provide them. What is it that you excel at? Perhaps you are awesome at doing analysis, or maybe you love to do research… Whatever it is, find out what you are good at because this is where your strength lies.

Another thing you might want to consider is to offer free services for some time. After all, you need to convince employers of your expertise. Hence, it would be better to show them that you are interested in a business friendship rather than this month’s paycheck. Let’s say you come from Russia, and as a Russian you probably have a bit of personal experience with the Russian market. Thus, you may also know some Russian companies who would probably be interested in buying Danish food or beverage and also you probably know what sells well in Russia.

Perhaps you could offer your services to a Danish employer and give them the opportunity to develop his firm in Russia for free but just for a period of three months or so. If you have success, you could negotiate some sort of pay, commission, or even work as an employee depending on how important the Russian market is to this Danish employer. What I mean here is, get your ass-moving! You need to offer something and in return the reward will come.

With that said, I am not sure I am the right person to advise you as to how to get a job in Denmark. However, I hope I can inspire you to do something different than the average and find meaning in what you do 🙂

I’d like to share with you today, what my challenges were of starting up a business in Denmark. I do not think there is anything that comes easy in our lives and problems are part of it. I prefer to call “problems” challenges because it is a matter of perspective. Sure we all struggle but we must give our best otherwise how can we ever expect to overcome our challenges?

#1. Finding the right concept and angle for the Business.

One of the largest challenges that I believe every entrepreneur struggles with when building a venture is finding the right concept for his company. Finding a concept that even a 5-year-old child could understand simply was something very hard for me to come up with. I must say this was really challenging, as I didn’t really know from which point to begin.

Just as a quick note in case you haven’t read the last post I started my firm in Denmark in November/December of 2013.

A Sneak Peek on how things evolved

When I returned from Brazil in December of 2013, I was pretty sad and confused. This was the first time I had been away from my home country for so long. As soon as I stepped in Denmark I was struck by this weird feeling, I felt I wasn’t home. To summarize the whole feeling I just simply felt misplaced.

After a week or so of being back in Denmark, I started considering and weighing out what the options were and what the terms might be for me to start up my own firm. It was still December so not much business activities were going on in either DK or Brazil.

I was confident that I had the skills to support Danish businesses. As I wrote in earlier articles, I have worked for the Danish Consulate in São Paulo and so I had past experience supporting Danish firms who wanted to tap into the Brazilian market.

So I made the following list:

– But what else could I do?

– How could get started?

– What would be my role when presenting myself to Danish firms?

– What services could I offer to a Danish firm?

– What role could www.denmarkbrazil.com play in all this? (A blog I created before coming to Denmark)

– How could I best support a Danish firm?

– Which sectors would I like to attend?

– What would be the nature of my business? Would I be a – developer, broker, representative?

– How many sectors should I attend?

– Business planning?? How should I get started?

Wow! In addition to the questions above, there were also many other things in my head at that time… You see, as an aspiring “businessman” I was stuck. However, what truly kept me back from taking action was one thing: MY THOUGHTS!

I had so many ideas …some about denmarkbrazil.com and what to do with it, and also how to help Danish firms export, and what my role as an intermediator might be. In a few words: I was confused!

As soon as I returned to DK in December 13 I got in touch with a Danish firm that had dropped me a line on LinkedIn right before my trip to Brazil, asking for an initial meeting.

We spoke a couple of times but it wasn’t until February 14 that we managed to make a deal that was good for everyone and I finally had my first “official” customer. Working alongside these guys has given me a tremendous opportunity to learn, but above all, the opportunity to shape my own firm.

#2.Shaping Biassa

“We are a Business Development firm and we strive to generate Results, not Reports, for Nordic firms in the technology and FMCG sectors”

During the process of creation of Biassa there were many moments of inspiration but also, loads of doubts would appear. While I was creating my firm, I was also attending several meetings with a wide range of prospects from very different sectors and with different interests in Brazil.

If you don’t have focus or if you don’t know what problems you can solve, nor what is your angle is, your customer/prospect won’t know either. It is of the upmost importance that you discover what your mission is and how can you solve your customer’s pains. It is up to you to figure this stuff out.

What I want to stress here is the importance of knowing what you do best and knowing yourself well. This seems simple, but it takes time.

Da Vinci once said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

The bottom line is: It takes time to achieve a clear and coherent concept. At least it took a good deal of time for me.

This first business case gave me the opportunity to understand what it takes for a firm to get started in Brazil from scratch. Furthermore, I got to see firsthand all the bureaucracy and processes necessary for any firm who wants to get started in Brazil. It was an exceptional way to learn this process as a whole and to expand even more my network in Brazil.

Lastly, I figured out what were the tasks that I would not take liability for or that I felt I was not competent enough to execute, and this has encouraged me to go after specialized knowledge.

My advice is:

– Do more,

– Think less, and…

– Adjust eventual mistakes/doubts during the process…

You can always learn something from your previous experiences. These experiences will contribute a lot to your maturity as a human and a professional.

# 3. Free Mentorship in Denmark.

In Denmark, you can find free advisory if you want to start your own firm.

As soon as I made up my mind to start my firm I was in a hurry to get started with everything ASAP. This is one of the things I have to improve upon within my own personality. I like to solve things quickly, and as I said above, some things take time… So I found a consultant from an organization called Udvikling Fyn on LinkedIn and I sent him a message and scheduled a meeting for the next day.

When I got there and made it to his room, he was finishing up a meeting, so I had time to look at some of the flyers that Udvikling Fyn offers for its customers. Strangely, I found out that at Udvikling Fyn they have a consultant just for “ethnic” affairs. Coming from Brazil (an extremely multicultural country) I thought that this was quite odd…

Well the meeting started and I must say it was not good at all. We kicked off our conversation by trying to understand what options I would have to work as an entrepreneur in Denmark and what my possibilities were of being a consultant to Danish firms. At that time, I had several ideas, but there was one in particular that I was employing a lot of energy into.

So I finally told this consultant I wanted to find ways to monetize my website and enhance it so that we could transform what was a blog into a knowledge platform aimed at Danish decision makers who were looking for Brazil as a destination.

What I heard was:

“Look Mr.Monteiro, your website today looks like crap.”

(This is not a joke!! I couldn’t stop laughing when I heard this).

“This sort of online businesses is made up in “loose sand”. (What the hell I thought…) If you want to talk to me about “real business” and have my advisory so you can become a consultant, then I can help you… Monetizing a website doesn’t make sense at all!”

“If you want to have a website, you should have one like this one (and then he showed me his website from the 1900’s).”

“Brazilians have some funny ideas. Recently I attended to a girl who wanted to bring coffee to Denmark. Imagine yourself someone bringing coffee to DK?? All Denmark doesn’t need is more coffee as we already import huge stacks from several countries…”

…As I had already had one customer that had found me because of my website and social media, I did not take this gentleman seriously.

I left that meeting quite disappointed though, because I was expecting to have support from someone experienced who could eventually challenge me by asking the tough questions, and who could help me build up a business model and hopefully shed some light on the dark spots that I couldn’t see.

I don’t mean to be a whiner here. I have reported this fact to the director of this institution, and I have given my feedback to that particular consultant.

The lesson I learned from this experience is:

Believe in yourself. Believe in your ideas. Of Course, be open and willing to change, but make sure that you are not talking to a deaf person. Some people cannot follow what you are saying so you need to look for people who are going to be honest with you and can make the dialogue more interesting by giving you good feedback and ultimately who is going to ask you some great and tough questions.

If I had followed his advice, I would be building a new website as he suggested (with no financial resources by the way) and I’d probably be deeply frustrated.

Using LinkedIn and maximizing your network

When I got home that day, the first thing I did, was to call to a Danish friend who worked with me at the Danish Consulate and is at the moment in the very same process of creating a venture. I asked her where could I find groups of entrepreneurs in my region, Fyn, that I could talk to and exchange ideas with.

This friend was of great help. She helped me to find the right groups on Linkedin and other networks. I wrote to a few groups a message presenting my situation, and loads of people were willing to support and start a conversation with me. A nice guy from SDU ( Syddansk Universitet), who has now has become a good friend, has introduced me to some people and he has helped me out throughout this process.

#4.Finding an accountant in Denmark.

My wife has been a crucial piece to this puzzle throughout this whole process as she’s been supporting me with invoicing, all of the letters I’ve gotten, plus opening business accounts, and has helped with translating all the documentation I have received that was in Danish.

Things are much better now as I can understand the bureaucratic processes necessary to keep the business functioning.

Getting to learn the language and making use of a good dictionary has become an active and necessary habit.

Finding an accountant was actually the most minor of the challenges. Though the process is complicated and tough to go through especially if you are alone, I was/am lucky to have the supportive of my Danish wife and I am thankful for her willingness to contribute to the firm and help with all the odds and ends.

PS: HUSK! YOU SHALL AND NEED TO KEEP ALL YOUR RECEIPTS. If you throw your receipts away, there will be no tax deduction!! 🙂

#5.Dealing with Mistakes and Anxiety that often kicks in.

The most recent and possibly the most embarrassing mistake I have made was when I sent out an e-mail to all the people in my contact list regarding an interview I performed with the CEO of Pandora in Brazil but I did not put people in Bcc, so the result was that everyone could see each other emails.

If you are in my list you have probably seen it already. Yes, I’ve been cursed by a lot of people, and I felt really bad about it. Again, I would like to apologize :).

Anyways… This was the beginning of a whole new set of interviews I had started with my team on denmarkbrazil.com. During May of 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil to do some business there. In the meantime, I managed to find time with my team so that we could arrange interviews with business personalities who I wanted dearly. One of these personalities was the CEO of Pandora in Brazil.

This interview was the cornerstone of a new era for denmarkbrazil.com.

Now that we managed to get an investment from an angel investor in Brazil, this would be the first time that I would have the chance to present an interview in HD quality for my audience. Furthermore, I would also be appearing in the video. So you can imagine this made me a bit anxious and nervous.

Before releasing the interview, I had a “brilliant” idea of sharing it with my entire email list. I wrote an email telling everyone that I had done an interview with the CEO of Pandora in Brazil.

Now imagine the result… People literally cursing me for nearly a week. Some people instead of being quiet, they were making the situation even worse by responding to everyone else in copy, asking to have their names removed from the list.

I had to learn to pay attention the hard way. Worst of all. With my best video I had ever done.

Where are we now? Where do we want to go?

I believe that creating a blog was simply the best thing I could have done, especially before coming to Denmark. In fact, creating this blog has helped me shape myself into a more rounded person. It made me much neater and professional, and it has opened several doors for Biassa and me here in Denmark.

I believe the future for Biassa and Denmarkbrazil.com is promising, and it certainly seems to be so. We have just made a partnership with a major company in Denmark, and DenmarkBrazil will become that expected FREE knowledge hub for any Nordic firm who wants to know more about the Brazilian Market and how to export to Brazil. This is all I can say about Denmarkbrazil.com at the moment.

In relation to Biassa, since my last trip to Brazil our team has now had three new projects in the pipeline. Furthermore, we have now a new official business address, which is located at Forskkeparkken in Odense, just by Syddansk Universitet. This is a victory for us because now we can be much closer to all Danish startups and help them to get to Brazil, and of course it’s great to have an official business address.

Usually, if you can maintain your confidence and can keep your head above water, and keep your worries at bay, you will probably accomplish your goals and reach your destination you wish to reach but you must get creative and offer your best. Remember, there are always opportunities but you need to look for them. You need to take charge of your own future.

So far I have learned a lot from this whole process. I try to talk about and share my ideas as much as I can, even though some people might say they are “made in loose sand” 🙂

Hope you have enjoyed this article.

My name is Carlos Monteiro. I’m a Brazilian entrepreneur and I’m the founder of denmarkbrazil.com and Biassa.
I live in Odense Denmark, I love what I do. Connecting Decision makers, developing ventures and sharing knowledge.
You are always welcome to send me an email or a message via LinkedIn

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Carlos Monteiro is a Brazilian citizen, graduated in Business Administration by the Catholic University of São Paulo. He lives in Odense, Denmark with his Danish Wife, Cathrine, and their half Danish /Brazilian daughter Ines Marie. You are very welcome to be in contact him at any time.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Bom dia Carlos, eu sou a Fona do Pastel Brasil o primeiro restaurante brasileiro Em Fyn. Gostaria muito de ter mais informacoes da sua firma. Quem sabe possamos nos encontrar. Pastel Basil e localizado no Bazar Fyn.

    Gleicijane Zoppi
    Pastel Brasil
    Thriges Plads 3-7
    5000 Odense C

    • Gleicijane,
      Muito obrigado pelo contato!
      Por algujm motivo sua mensagem havia caído no Spam.
      Esta semana nao consigo, mas na semana que vem podemos falar.
      Me de alguns time slots para podermos encontrar na semana que vem

      Um abraço 🙂

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