Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia I was interviewed recently by my friend Graham Brown at Founder FM. Graham has been advising tech entrepreneurs in the mobile telecoms and brand marketing industries since the late 1990s. His business has taken him to over 40 different countries so — between travel, investments, offshore banking, Georgia and our entrepreneurial endeavors — we had a lot to talk about. You can listen to the whole interview here. There is one specific thing from that interview, however, that I want to share with you here about what it takes to succeed in business nowadays, especially on an international scale. In all, there are three rules we discussed throughout the interview that will contribute to your success offshore as an entrepreneur and global investor.
1. Qualify yourself as a doer
First and foremost, you have to be a doer. In all my travels, the people I have associated with, dated, done business with, etc., are people who have moved from one place to another. These are people who have made a change. They are the ones who have jumped off the cliff and said, “I’m going to go out there into the world without a safety net and do something different.” They’re doers. The people who are willing to make a change — whether they’re an immigrant to the US, or an immigrant from the US (or any other country) — are people who have one of the key elements for success. This is one reason why doing business overseas is so fulfilling because the people you encounter are the people who have already chosen to act. As Graham pointed out, there’s a real energy among those “who have proven that they can step outside of their comfort zone and move places. . . you’re a bit vulnerable, but then everybody else is, so things sort of happen at a real speed.” One of my favorite sayings is, “Go as far as you can see, and then see further.” Once you go beyond your borders, you get exposed to the right kind of questions and are able to see things more clearly. Those who choose to take action see further than those who constantly talk about the possibilities that are out there, but are too afraid to act. There is power in doing. Qualify yourself as a doer.
2. Leave behind the system and your safety net
If you are determined to go as far as you can see and beyond, I have to warn you that there are things you will have to leave behind. For one, you can’t listen to the system. If you’re going to live a lifestyle in which you demand more, go where you’re treated best, pay lower taxes, get higher returns, enjoy more personal freedom, and pursue more of what you want and less of what you don’t, you can’t listen to the system. You’ll also have to leave behind your safety net. People often come to me and say, “Andrew, you’ve got this great lifestyle. I want to live this lifestyle.” And you can. But you have to understand that, to a certain extent, you’ll be out there without a safety net. Now, I make it my business to provide my clients with the best safety net possible, but it is inherent in this kind of lifestyle that it’s never going to be a perfect safety net. However, if you are willing to go out there and make that jump without the net, you will be able to do so much more and be far more rewarded than you ever thought possible. And there are still ways to make the jump without taking the hardest falls. I’ve been putting this stuff in place in my own life for almost a decade now and I’ve learned a thing or two from the falls I’ve taken. When I first started in business, I would call three different lawyers to ask for advice on a legal issue. I would get a free consultation from the ones that offered and then would patch their advice together to get a semi-complete solution, just to avoid paying someone three hundred bucks. Eventually, I came to the realization that by running around trying to get free advice, what I was really doing was devaluing the time I could have dedicated to my business. Refusing to spend money meant spending time. I could have been earning hundreds of dollars an hour doing what I do best and paying someone else a few crumbs out of that money for their expertise. You can always earn more money, but time is finite. The same applies on an international scale. The lesson I’ve learned in being offshore is that having a scarcity mindset like that is one of the worst strategies you could have — maybe even worse than seeking out blogs to get an idea of what to do. When you’re calling every lawyer in one country or another, you’re not going to get the full picture. Nowadays, my strategy is to go in and find a good lawyer, pay them, find other people in the community, pay them, and then go and do my business having a quality support system. But just as I did in the past, the biggest challenge I see people face now is their own determination to do everything on the cheap. That strategy just doesn’t work outside of your own country. You simply don’t know how everything works and the reality is that you will need help. You may leave behind the system and your former safety net, but that doesn’t keep you from creating your own system and safety measures that will ensure your success.
3. Act like an entrepreneur, think like an investor
Finally, once you qualify yourself as a doer and master rule #2, the world will soon open its doors to you with opportunities to invest and do business on a whole new level. From my experience, one of the best ways you can ensure your success is to act like an entrepreneur, but think like an investor. People have asked me before what exactly it is that I am, and I have finally come up with a word for it: I’m an “entreprevestor.” In other words, I am an investment-minded entrepreneur. I’ve never been starry-eyed and said that my ideas and entrepreneurial ventures are going to change the world. For me, “change the world” is such a strong statement. What I do is help people make decisions and take action that impacts their lives in a great way. Is that changing the world? I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s worthwhile. If truth be told, no one actually sets out to change the world, it’s just something that happens along the way… if you let it. If your goal is to do one thing and you are set on doing it only one way, you’re going to miss the twenty other opportunities that could have worked in your favor. From an investment perspective, when you talk to deal makers and look at investments for yourself, you’re not going to look at just one house or one piece of property and say, “This is the one, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get it.” Sometimes the seller is a pain in the neck and he’s got to blow out of the deal. Sometimes your negotiating tactics basically blow you out of a deal and you have to accept that. In the end, however, you’re going to figure out what works. Focus on your end goal, but don’t limit yourself to just one way of getting there. As Graham pointed out in the interview:
“Years ago, it made sense to have one project and that to be your thing, because … the kind of sums of money involved in starting a business were quite substantial. You had to borrow a lot of money, you had to hire teams, you had an office, so you could only ever do that. But these days, especially in the kind of businesses we do (which may not be tied to any specific location), it makes sense to have a number of projects on the go. You’ve got to be planting seeds and growing businesses.… You can’t just be completely set on one thing.”
In reality, that’s part of what planting flags is all about: diversification. Flag theory allows you to diversify where you bank, where you live, where you’re taxed, and where you do business. And as an investor it’s essential to diversify your investments. As an entrepreneur, realize that diversification can serve your purposes as well.