After 15 years in business, what makes me proud, what makes me laugh and cry, what makes my day and what lessons have I learned?
On 1st July, Exportia turned 15 years! What a journey, it almost feels like it was yesterday. At the same time so much has changed since I started my business freshly landed in Adelaide !
Now we are a team of 10. The business has a European team. Our clients are amazing and we consistently create success for them in Europe. We have served hundreds Australian small and medium sized companies in highly innovative sectors in the last 15 years. I have personally delivered close to a hundred workshops and presentations promoting export, educating on the European market. Exportia has been generating millions of Euros in sales for our customers.
Reflecting back on these 15 years feels great. I would love to share with you what has made and still makes me proud, what makes me laugh and cry, what always makes my day and what I learnt.
First there are there are three things that I am particularly proud of and grateful for:
- I am particularly proud of the success of the companies we have worked with or are still working with. This year one of our highlights was to have one of our long-standing clients getting listed on the stock exchange, CleanSpace Technology. We have been working with them for the last 8 years. Another amazing business I am particularly proud of having worked with is Redarc electronics. Both companies have achieved great success, I am personally very proud of.
- The other thing I am particularly proud of is my team! To see our project delivery team thrive and roll out our methodology creating success for our customers, gives me an immense sense of pride. Seeing them enjoying creating success and making a difference for our customers makes me proud.
- The third point is that I am really proud of the calibre of our customers. They are real innovators. They are strategic about their development in Europe. They create jobs for Australia and they are on their way to become market leaders in their industries. I am so grateful for us to have the opportunity to contribute to their journey in Europe
Here are three things that make me laugh :
- I laugh at myself remembering my first steps as a brand-new business owner, freshly arrived from France in Adelaide in 2006. I was looking for my first customers and was networking. I came across this gentleman who was very enthusiastic about my services. I was so thrilled … until I found out he wanted me to export pig feet for decoration purposes to Spain. Still makes me laugh!
- In recent months, I laugh when salespeople try to explain to me that they 100% have to visit a customer to close a sale. We now all know that we don’t have to do face to face customer visits to close a deal. And this new way of working has unleashed so many new opportunities.
- The other day, I had a good laugh when one of our customers asked us to slow down the web meetings with European customers, as they could not keep up. I thought it was really hilarious. With my team, we had a great time managing this ‘nice to have’ problem with our customer.
There are still three things that make me cry after 15 years in business!
- After being 15 years in business, I have had to really prove our capabilities, first my own and then the capabilities of my team and the power of our methodology. Selling Australian technology in the very sophisticated European markets is not the easiest gig. It takes hard work and determination. Having built this track record, I know what it takes to be successful. I am frustrated at times with companies not aligning the resources needed and not being focused on harnessing this success. I realise fast-growth companies have many battlefronts, but find it unbearable to watch them miss out on business opportunities.
- My team and I are all multilingual. We know the value that it brings to our Australian SME customers when they enter the European market, to give them the capability to address their Italian prospective customers in Italian, their French ones in French and so on. We know that it bridges the gap between Australian and Europe and creates instant trust. Therefore, we get extremely frustrated when companies don’t embrace this capability and don’t develop it themselves. Having a multicultural workforce is a key strength in export. Companies that do not embrace this value in their organisation are missing out and slowing down their international success.
- We are very fortunate at Exportia and can say that our customers are wonderful and respectful. I shall add, we work mostly in male-dominated industries. Over 15 years, there have been several occasions, where inappropriate behaviours from male customers occured. As I am getting older now, I am very solid on my two feet and have developed strategies to manage these situations if they occur. That is the great value of getting old! Nowadays, my main concern is to create a respectful environment in my business and that my team members are equally valued and respected by all stakeholders: colleagues, clients, partners and suppliers of Exportia.
At Exportia, there are many things that make my day. Here are just three things for your enjoyment :
- When we grow our customers’ revenue in Europe, we slowly but surely eat the market share of major competitors. It particularly makes my day when they are major players on the global market!
- I am particularly happy when I see, over the years, the transformation of small and medium sized businesses that work with us. I see how growing internationally has transformed their organisation.They get bigger and expand their production facilities over the years to meet international demand, they expand their team. Their business is more solid and they have diversified their international markets. Solid exports make them healthier businesses.
- It makes my day when I see one of our customers have a breakthrough. Recently, I worked with a customer of ours, a start-up. I helped them clarify their sales process, and broke it down together with them. The CEO was overjoyed by the process of going through what she does and outlining it into a sales process! I also had been bugged with a specific issue for one of my customers, as they were having a slow down in sales in an area. I had the great satisfaction of proposing a new business model to boost sales, which we will implement this year. Breakthroughs, and solving problems are pure joy in my world!
Last, let me outline the three main lessons I learnt working with small businesses in Europe to grow their sales in the last 15 years:
- It will sound very basic, but the most important thing is : HARD WORK. There’s no shortcut. It’s consistent , persistent hard work that pays off in export and in the European market. There is no other way. The European market requires a long-term approach and persistent work to reach a significant level of sales.
- Being laser focused is another key learning. We always succeed when we are laser focused on a specific industry where our customers have a proven track record. Being laser focused in a specific region initially, pays off faster and makes it easier to create traction.
- Being agile and adjusting the strategy as we go is important. Initially we don’t know what we don’t know and have to learn and adapt accordingly. Businesses that stay stuck in their set ways fail! The European market is an interesting market to learn from. More often than not, European learnings have been used by our customers in other markets! Agility is a key attribute for success.
Here are 15 great, surprising, amazing, lovely, annoying, exciting, unforgettable learnings and experiences I wanted to share with you to celebrate the 15 years of Exportia!
As I am now collecting more export stories as part of my third book, let me know if you would like to share your export story with me. Here is the link.
Take care and see you soon!
Christelle Damiens is the Managing Director of Exportia, which provides an outsourced European Sales & Marketing team to Australian B2B manufacturing and technology companies. She is also an award winning author and a business speaker. Her second book “The four steps to generate your first million euros in sales’ won the Australian Business Book Award 2020 in the Communications and Sales category and was a finalist in the Entrepreneurship & Small Business Category, as well as an Amazon best seller. www.exportia.com.au
To learn more, visit : christelledamiens.com