“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Chinese Proverb
Everyone has excuses for why they can’t or shouldn’t get stuff done to build their business and these excused keep you from creating the business that you want. If you’re sick of letting these excuses cause your business to remain stagnant, check out this week’s video where I give you my tricks for squashing the top 3 excuses I hear entrepreneurs make: I don’t have time, I don’t know how, and I don’t have money.
What are your top excuses that threaten to keep you from moving forward with your business and what are the tricks you use to squash them?
“Vision without action is daydreaming and action without vision is a nightmare.” – Chinese Proverb
Stefy Cohen is a communication coach and the founder and CEO of Epicentro150.com, a web portal designed to connect and promote entrepreneurs and their businesses in Latin America. She’s based in Panama City and sat down with me to discuss Panama’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and how it compares to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in New York.
Take a look at the video below to hear what she has to say and then let me know what you think in the comments section!
Entrepreneurs understand that they need to keep their business’ finances in order if they’d like to obtain a business loan in the future. However, many are not aware that it’s imperative to keep their personal finances in tip-top shape as well.
There seems to be a major misunderstanding among small business and startup owners about the requirements for obtaining a business loan from a bank. I have seen many entrepreneurs not realize that even if the business is formed as a corporation, they will likely still need to provide a personal guarantee in order to get a loan. That means that their personal credit will affect whether the business gets approved.
Confused about why that’s the case? Watch this week’s video to learn more about why it’s so important that business owners maintain good personal credit in addition to keeping their company’s finances in top shape.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Agatha Christie
Gregory Clark is Managing Partner of Co.Vida a corporate social responsibility consulting and cause marketing firm in Panama. Greg began his journey to entrepreneurship through working in international development but when Panama’s official status was changed to middle income country and many of the international development organizations from abroad began to pull out of the country, Greg saw a gap that needed to be filled and became an entrepreneur.
“I saw this kind of niche, this hole in the market, this gap in the market,” he told me, “and I said, ‘how I can I fill that?'”
So he teamed up with two Panamanian business partners and created his online platform for cause-based projects and project financing.
Interestingly enough, since he tries to connect the dots for cause-based project financing, his biggest challenge as an entrepreneur in Panama so far has been trying to attract outside investment. According to Greg, small financing is tough to find. You have to be working on a project that needs $500k plus or you have to bring the money yourself. He says,
“[In Panama], you can easily launch something as long as you’re bringing all of the money with you,”
but if you need outside investment for your idea it’s very tough to find. “There are a lot of new organizations within Panama for startups and entrepreneurs…and it’s all about trying to create this entrepreneurial environment here in Panama but, at the same time, they don’t offer any real services to help push it forward.”
At the end of the day, Greg says, Panamanian business runs on who you know. As Greg sees it,
“Everybody knows everybody and networking is really the only thing that gets anything done in this country. The Panamanian networks are very strong and it’s all based on nepotism. At the end of the day if you’re not somebody’s cousin or have somebody’s cousin on your team, you’re not going to get the deal.”
This is especially true, he says, if your innovation is going to cause problems for an already established business whose owners are connected. “If you’re going to be a threat to an already existing company and you’re not tied into a strong network system, they will shut you down before you even open,” he says.
Another challenge that he’s discovered and that he’s heard other entrepreneurs complain about is collections. “Nobody pays their bills on time here,” he says, which can destroy a startup’s cash flow and put it in a precarious situation.
So, given all of these hurdles why does Greg think entrepreneurs are attracted to Panama? He has a few reasons. For one thing, Panama operates on a solid, pegged currency (they use USD) so expats from the United States don’t need to worry about currency fluctuations affecting their investments. He also sees the laws as pretty favorable to aspiring entrepreneurs.
“To start your own company here is literally just the swipe of a pen,” he says. “It takes next to nothing.”
Perhaps more importantly though, Greg thinks that many people see Panama as a land of opportunity. “Especially for expats coming down as entrepreneurs,” he says, “they see what there isn’t. They’re looking at all of the holes and instead of being more pessimistic…they’re coming down and seeing the opportunity. They’re saying, ‘Wow, they don’t have this. I can do that…This sucks, oh I can improve it.” Additionally, “the infrastructure’s already so much in place where it seems like a little America, a little Miami and Panama City is the safest capital city in all of Latin America.” Given that,
“[Panama] seems really enticing because…the sense of you personally can make a difference is really strong. So many people consider it this developing country still and you want to be on the verge, you want to be in the boom. You want to be able to say, ‘I was in the boom, I was in before the rest of the world was.'”
Starting a business is nerve-wracking and the toughest part can be getting yourself motivated to move forward and make progress towards building a company. I usually don’t like to discuss “the fluffy stuff,” but since this barrier holds a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs back I thought I’d go ahead and share my (dirty little) secret for getting motivated: the motivation mix. This post isn’t like my typical ones, but I hope that you find it helpful.
Check out the video below to learn what’s in the motivation mix and how to use it to get going towards your goals.
I hope you found the concept of the motivation mix helpful and are feeling a bit more comfortable jumping into building your dream business. If you’re ready to go but need a little guidance about where to start, set up an appointment with me by clicking the “Work with Cate” tab in the navigation bar for a full consultation or the “Contact” box in the lower right to chat for 15 minutes and get a better idea of how I can help.
Also, don’t forget to share how you get motivated in the comments section below! Everyone has some useful tricks that others may want to try!
“Leaders don’t force people to follow, they take them on a journey.”
-Charles S. Lauer
I had a fabulous time in Costa Rica but I have to keep moving along on my journey through Latin America’s startup hubs so next I am headed to Panama City, Panama.
Panama is very unique within Latin America in that it is the home to the Panama Canal – key to international maritime trade because it connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the isthmus of Panama saving ships the hassle, time, and expense of traveling all the way around South America. The Canal was operated by the United States for nearly 100 years, so Panama uses the U.S. dollar – a distinct difference between it and the rest of Latin America. Additionally, the city’s feel and culture have a visible U.S. influence and the country is well-accustomed to international business people and investors. It’s also a central travel hub throughout the rest of Latin America and into the United States.
While it seems like the atmosphere is ripe for a startup hub, I honestly didn’t find all that much going on (if you feel otherwise, please respond and let me know why). Searching for meetups and activities I could only find 1 startup group and it didn’t appear to be all that active. Speaking with entrepreneurs in the space I was told that the climate is more competitive than collaborative and that nepotism is a force to be reckoned with.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (which has only kept stats on Panama since 2009), entrepreneurship was starting to tick up a bit from 2009-2011, but it’s since started declining again. Take a look at the graphs below to get a feel for what’s going on in Panama versus the United States:
Next week we’ll jump into the interviews with entrepreneurs to hear their takes on what the entrepreneurial ecosystem is like in Panama City.