Colombia is one of the best places in Latin America to form a startup and do business. As the region’s fourth largest economy, Colombia has ample opportunity and support for entrepreneurs and established companies. Increasing annual GDP figures, multiple free trade and trade bloc agreements, and increasing levels of foreign direct investment in the country continue to add to the foundation of a stronger Colombia and successful businesses tomorrow.
Many experienced, successful, and foreign-born C-suite executives have built what came to be their empire in Colombia. Of these prosperous executives, Craig Dempsey, founder and CEO of The StartupVC, has realized great prosperity and growth. Here, Craig shares his best tips and advice for doing business in Colombia.
How Craig started doing business in Colombia
Craig’s time in Colombia began when he started working in the mining industry. For his role, he traveled to Peru, Canada, Australia, and Colombia. Ultimately, he saw great opportunity in Colombia and knew he could use his expertise and experience in Latin American business endeavors to create a successful company. Soon after his time in the mining sector, Craig founded his first startup company, Biz Latin Hub. With grandiose plans to setup operations all throughout Latin America, Dempsey knew that Colombia would be the best place to build the backbone of his business and operations.
Continued and unrivaled success in the B2B services industry in Colombia did not come easy for Craig though. Taking into account systematic hurdles, barriers to entry, and first-time startup struggles, he learned many valuable lessons. Now, pursuing other professional ventures and meeting and writing for those that are just starting out, Craig aims to pass on his experienced, insider tips.
First things first: Commit to the idea of doing business Colombia
Whether you’re expanding your business or forming a startup, first you must commit to the idea of business in Colombia. Expanding a company versus starting one from scratch in Colombia are two different processes. However, both require a high level of commitment, dedication, and time. The process will not be easy, but it will be lucrative. The good news for anyone doing business in Colombia is that they have already taken a step which differentiates their business and sets them up for success. Nowadays, seizing international opportunities is what companies need to survive the markets and take their business to the next level. Hesitation in committing to the idea will hinder your opportunities and leave your operations or startup to plateau.
Committing to the idea of doing business internationally is made easier when you are looking at business in Colombia. Thanks to government support and private funding, innovation and invention is thriving through the cities. The best and brightest ideas are developing and being put to the test in this country. As a result, it is also curating the best and brightest entrepreneurs and/or future employees. Moreover, an increasingly stable economy and political climate makes Colombia one of the most stable markets in Latin America.
Related to committing to the idea of doing business in Colombia, you must take action and produce results. Committing to the idea is exactly that: just committing to the idea. However, if you want to be successful and run an internationally recognized company, you also have to commit to the actions and the results required for turning the idea into a reality. If you aren’t taking action, your competitors definitely are. At first, it will seem like there are more hurdles and challenges that lie ahead than opportunity. The best way to remove them as possibilities is to take action that will propel your company past those challenges.
Many countries in Latin America tend to be rather bureaucratic, both in politics and business. This tends to be true for Colombia, as well. Despite its bureaucratic inclinations, Colombia has great resources to help businesses and entrepreneurs move their operations forward and continue doing business. Government-funded accelerators, educational programs, and tax incentives help foreign businesses speed up their operations, learn more about national markets, hire the best team members, and save them money, should they be involved in particular markets.
It’s bigger than business
Doing business in Colombia indefinitely means you will have professional encounters, and even business deals and negotiations, with native-born Colombians. To make a good impression, have a productive relationship, and fully take advantage of the opportunities presented to you, you must understand the business culture in Colombia. While there are many aspects of Colombia’s business culture to understand, one of the most important is that it’s bigger than business. Your Colombian counterparts look to establish a personal connection before doing business. This entails them knowing more personal details about your life than you would normally give in. It may seem odd and uncomfortable at first, but understand that this is part of the process and the culture. After all, if you are doing business in Colombia, you will be expected to comply with the customs of the country.
To navigate these now intertwined lives, the professional and personal, you must be patient and willing to open up. Personal relationships are essential to doing business in Colombia. If you don’t play by these rules, you won’t get very far in any industry you enter.
Find a local partner in Colombia
Finally, one of the most effective pieces of advice gained from years of doing business in Colombia is to find and team up with local partner. While Colombian law doesn’t require foreign entrepreneurs or business owners to have a Colombian stakeholder, bringing one onto your team is highly advantageous. If you prefer not to bring them onto your company’s team, you can hire a local company to help you with legal and financial matters. Outsourcing this work will not only save you time, but it will also ensure that you are complying with all the necessary rules. Furthermore, they can help you streamline processes and provide you authentic representation in any legal setting. Finally, they can serve as someone to help you navigate more than just legal and financial issues. Any questions you may have on Colombian culture, customs, business, markets, can be answered by your local partner.
Get more tips and advice for your business in Colombia
The business world is incredibly international and intricate. Nowadays, the only constant in the business world in change. Colombia especially, with its emerging trade deals and alliances, is producing new opportunities every day for businesses. To keep your business in the know, follow The StartupVC on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.