… Transrio

… About Transrio

Whenever possible, it makes sense to grow a new business by beginning at the beginning — small — making little mistakes and enjoying little successes. That way you can learn along the way, building piece by piece. Transrio is starting as just me, working part time. Long-term I see potential for something a lot bigger, quite profitable, and much more interesting. But the starting point is unglamorous and ordinary. At this stage — the first five years perhaps — Transrio will take the form of contracting and completing straightforward projects helpful to businesses in Argentina. As soon as I have a presentable website up in Spanish, I will be approaching specific small and midsize businesses with tailored proposals, and then working mostly from my location here in the United States to complete them. I’ll be paid on either a bid or an hourly basis, but always in Argentine pesos at local scale.

My personal and business motivation for this is better explained in the FAQ. For now suffice to say I believe the ideas behind Transrio do have long-range business potential, and I’m excited to get started with my first project. The ideal project will be…

1. serving a small or midsize Argentine company which…

2. sells a home-grown product or service that…

a. makes money and…

b. deserves to grow, and which…

3. has some need — any need, no matter how mundane — that I can be of SIGNIFICANT help with, working from a distance.

I see myself at first being a friend-for-hire in the United States who’s willing to do almost anything truly helpful for the company, at a fee that’s affordable for them. Eventually I’m looking to have three to five clients I work with regularly, people and companies I’ve known for years. If I can get a foothold at the beginning with some genuinely useful small projects, we can build trust, and learn together as we go. I’ll learn more and more about their specific business, and I’ll get better at noticing ways I can be even more useful — ideally even indispensible — over time.

There are three things I will NOT do:

1) I will not be a consultant. Hopefully the things I’ve learned in business over the years provide me with some common sense, and common sense is always helpful. But I never used consultants myself (they frighten me) and I certainly don’t intend to become one! I’m looking for companies that I can be of real assistance to; shops or offices where I can roll up my sleeves and do real work, alongside smart businesspeople who can teach me as we go.

2) I will not be a rep or agent for a company hoping to connect with customers in the United States. The only companies I’ll approach will be successful locally, selling locally, profitable locally. I’m all for Argentine businesses seeking US markets, but that’s not the focus of Transrio.

3) I won’t get involved with financing. We grew our own company debt-free the whole time, and that really helped us. We made our worst mistakes when we were little, we grew quickly on our own earnings, and by the time we got big we were doing mostly things that truly worked. I’m not religiously opposed to debt — it has its place of course. But I do resist debt, I instinctively mistrust it, in fact I deem it guilty until proven innocent. In any case, finding capital is certainly not something I would be appropriate for.

I’m looking forward to the day, a year or two from now, when I can point to some good client relationships, a budding reputation, and some nicely-done projects. It will be much easier then to say what Transrio does. But just for now, what might a dream project look like? Where will I start?

Assume Transrio has a nice website. I will then work hard to develop a list of, say, 20 companies meeting the criteria: local, profitable, a product I respect, an idea that can grow. I’ll pick one, learn more about them, and think hard about what they do, hoping to see some specific task or project important to their business that an outside English-speaking businessman could really be of help with. If I think my proposition is strong enough I’ll compose a good letter and mail it off. As I follow-up with phone calls, get turned down, approach other clients with other proposals, get hired, perhaps fired, I know I’ll stumble onto something that’s truly worth my hourly rate. As soon as that happens I can get down to doing what I’ve always loved: learn as I go, iterate, change my approach, elaborate on any small success. At that point the relationship will be solidly win-win — for them because they’ll have a very different player on their team, with very different skills and background to bring to a problem; for me because (in addition to my pay) I’ll gain access to a steep learning curve, working alongside people who truly know what it takes to be successful in Argentina.

I see the first projects being like errands or hunts, where I can make use of my fluency in English and a lifetime of being on home turf here in the US. Perhaps a simple shopping project – locating the best software to solve a special problem they have, or researching a piece of equipment manufactured in the US or Europe that would work great for what they’re doing. Chasing things down, in my English-business world, for delivery to the client in Spanish. Or matchmaking perhaps, but always on a B2B basis (business-to-business), not selling or seeking customers. Later on maybe linking up two people who would really get a business kick out of knowing each other, or spotting and facilitating potential deals. Especially I’d enjoy doing anything to help a company franchise, if that makes business sense and is interesting to them. But again, not in a consulting role – the business environment in Argentina is so completely different, I would do more harm than good. I mean simply as a team member, pitching in on discrete tasks in the project. I would also be especially excited to be a part of any project involving business IP — intellectual property – the knowhow behind any successful product or service. Again, IP is a whole different world in Argentina, and so I would seek projects where I could pitch in strongly without getting in the way.

If a franchising or IP project crosses international borders, so much the better, since it’s almost as easy for me to work in Mexico & Argentina at the same time, as in Argentina alone — working remote anyway, it’s an advantage I have. One of my early concepts for Transrio was “B2B, S2S, meaning “business-to-business, south-to-south” — if an idea works great in one Latin American, Asian or African country, how can the innovator/entrepreneur make money by systematizing and replicating the idea to a different but similar country? I love that puzzle — but I don’t pretend to have an answer.

Obviously I’ll do best with companies which already have some distance-collaboration culture in place, meaning that their business must be somewhat geographically dispersed already. It has to be easy to deliver my product by e-mail. It has to be natural to work together online or by phone, and to progress along on projects asynchronously. I do plan to visit clients in person about once a year, but most of my work will have to be done remotely.

I’m already way-too-keenly-aware of my weaknesses — the extreme friction of distance, my weak Spanish, and the learning investment needed on my way to being useful. I’m hoping though that these will be the exact flipsides of my strengths — my closeness to another business world, my strong English, and a humble but intelligent outside perspective. One thing I know for sure, Transrio will be free of competition! In a way it’s a joke — I’m like an overseas virtual assistant, but doing it exactly backwards, paid in pesos while living in dollars. Although I’m able to do this, it’s not a juicy business proposition for anybody else (yet).

I am a true believer, though, in the powerful magic of simply working hard and getting comfortable in a completely different place, someplace other people aren’t. It’s inevitable then that if you keep your eyes open, you’ll see completely different opportunities. That’s exactly what I’m banking on, long run, with Transrio.