4 Struggles Australian Startups have in common with Startups in Europe

Have you ever travelled to another continent thinking the situation is different because…’ they have more this…’ or ‘they have better that…’ only to discover that the struggles are the same, and in this case, I am talking about Regional Australian startups and regional Europe startups having the same struggles in common?

Regional Australian Startups and Regional Europe have much more in common than I thought. It’s perceived to be different because they are so far away from each other. But are they?

If I can put it down to four things that regional Australia and regional Europe startup have in comon I would say that it is this simple: Confidence, Communication and global awareness and the Economies of change and good oldservice’ and being of service to others’.

The interesting thing is that it does not matter if you are a startup in regional Australia or a Startup in Regional Europe or anywhere really. With the assumption being, that with more access to more people in Europe, it is easier because… but they suffer from identical struggles. From my observation being in Europe for only 3 months and startup co-founder myself, it seems we have a lot in common.

1. Confidence

“Just be yourself. Let people see the real imperfect, flawed, quirky, weird, beautiful, and magical person that you are “- Many Hale

Confidence is being comfortable with yourself. Australians are getting better at being confident, and we are producing ‘world-class innovation’. It’s just as good, if not better than other parts of the world. We have to be confident and ‘ok’ with building each other up, rather than jumping on the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ bandwagon because that’s what we do ‘ bring you down a notch’ so you don’t get too cocky. No, I believe times are changing and now it’s time to celebrate the winners and bring success to the front line.

Mostly I notice that Europe is quite diverse and it’s difficult to put them in a box and assume the following but it seems to be more confident, they are ‘very matter a fact’ Yes, I am great like Napoleon on a horse waving his flag with confidence and pride but in small towns, it’s yes our country is great but let’s keep it local, forget international, we are unique.

Americans are more confident. In America it’s ‘Fuck yeh I am great, we rock’. And they cheer each other on. As they hold their head up high and blast their voice to make sure you heard it. They are good public speakers and learn this skill from a young age. To be proud to be American. I admire and applaud their confidence.

The Aussies we say nothing, tend to shy away from boasting and get on with the job and forget to celebrate or even come up for air. But we lack holding each other up tall and championing those who do well. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from the European and Americans to own it. We can only get better if we practice it. As Australians are getting better at it, knowing their strengths and weaknesses, we still struggle with confidence. I experience it myself as a co-founder, so I am not speaking without experience. We are as good as other culture and our nation. 

Are We Hungry Enough For Innovation?

Europe is way more confident generally and tends to band together. What I am seeing in France German and Spain is more ecology consciousness and a trend to go more toward co-ops and community-based support. This is what they do really well.

Australia is doing exceptional innovation in the regions, but confidence is low. Confidence in our ability to take our innovation on to the worlds stage is low from my little ole small town of Wagga Wagga.

People in Europe (not France so much) but Central Eastern Europe where there are bigger startup ecosystems and growing. The energy around innovation is certainly hungry for it. With Barcelona Spain alone has 3000 startups. And India with a whopping 17,000 startups and 8 unicorns. And confidence here comes from necessity and action.

Regional Europe, Australia and Americans even India we all suffer from imposter syndrome but I think some are just better at faking it ( meaning there is no other choice but to go for it) because of they are more hungry for it. Lack of confidence comes from simply not backing yourself in the belief that thought that “hey maybe I can.” And yes we are a nation independent from Brittan but we are not sure yet?

Confidence Comes From Great Leadership

But where is the leadership?

Still today we watch as our nations leaders fumble around with lack of leadership, and we forget how loyal and strong we have been in the past. We forget we founded this nation as a nation. We are of fighters and doers. As we did when we were chucked on to the continent by the British, way back when they didn’t want the riff-raff in the UK. So they sent us to colonise a nation with great struggle but incredible resilience of all cultural backgrounds. That’s true Australian resilience and drive. As Australians, ‘we are good enough’ on the world stage because we know how to build through resilience and ‘hard yakka’ as we call it in Australia. We have done it before we can do it again. But leadership comes from everyone on a micro-level to help the overall become stronger.

In my recent visit back to regional Australia for Small Business Week. I noticed there is a reluctance to think global. Yes, there was some interest, but it all comes back to confidence. And only a few people in the town will drive small towns. People may be reluctant to take on new concepts, and prefer to play it safe. And that is ok, but we do have to continue to innovate to survive.

We as adults can learn more from children. Children have no such bashfulness. They tell you straight and without filters and have self-belief until they learn otherwise, it is refreshing to observe.

Something odd occurs when starting something new. We have a lack of confidence we fail, and we run and hide.

Resilience is key

We fail, learn, do it again, learn, get better… repeat. As entrpreneurs, we are continuously doing this pattern. I only hope we gather the learnings as we go. I can be a slow learner myself, but I eventually we are better humans for it.

Let’s do the basics right and go from there.

Having travelled for the past five years intensely helping startups around Australia, America, UK and Europe. I spent a lot of time in tiny, regional towns. Observing firsthand how some regions do it really well and others not even service the basics.

How to Build Confidence:

Building confidence. Who am I to talk about this when it is one of my biggest struggles? But if I recognise it in myself why wouldn’t I talk about it? We are beautiful human beings and we have emotions, comforts and desires. I often observed in myself, that if I am too comfortable, I become less diverse. Less willing to try new things and be curious. And I have observed the same in others.

In Australia, we are very comfortable and maybe too comfortable that we can’t be bothered giving it a go. India and central Eastern Europe are the opposite, they are so hungry for change and innovation they just run hard. It’s not about the confidence for them it is about the necessity.

Give it a go mate!

As an Australian might say, ‘Give it a go mate.’

When did we get so bashful about giving it a go?

Fear of failure is one of the biggest things that will stop you in your tracks. But honestly, nobody cares! Nobody is watching, and we are all scared, so be the one per cent that gives it a go. So what if it fails? You learnt something. It all good.

Six years ago a friend said to me “Why are you taking this big risk to start a business? What if you fail? I replied. ‘I would rather try than forever wonder if it is possible.’ Believe me, I failed time and time again. However, I just keep giving it a go, surrounding myself with the right people and I never look back. It takes effort to consciously choose my words so that I am not creating my demise. I am mindful of the words I use. It takes a conscious effort to turn it around so that I am projecting the right thoughts. And to notice when fear comes up.

Stay True To Yourself

If someone says something negative about something you are doing that is different or takes courage to do; they are talking about their own fears and concerns and experiences. That person is not talking about your fear, they are talking about how it might affect them. They are only coming from their own experience. So listen, but notice that they are talking about their own fears, not yours. It’s just planting a new fear, and it is up to you if you choose to believe it or not. Don’t get me wrong, fear is healthy, but propagating fear is unhealthy; it turns into anxiety, and you feed the fear. Change the fear to the excitement of the adventure ahead.

If l listen to all the negative thoughts in my mind I would never give anything a go. I wouldn’t be a fixed-wing pilot. It would have been out of the question to fly hot air balloons. Or even entertained the thought of riding solo across America. Forget it! Imagine how much I would have missed. I would have stayed in the safe zone. Who would I be then? I wouldn’t have learnt that I could…

Imagine You Can

Try to imagine you can do whatever you want and you will. Can you imagine it the way you want to experience it? Forget how you can find 100 ways not to, just think about how you can. Your imagination is powerful. Have you ever read a book and then saw the movie and found you were disappointed? That’s your imagination it’s better than Hollywood. “Make it so” – Jean Luke Picard.

Take Control of the Self-Talk

Like I mentioned before about ‘giving it a go’, you must take control and be the driver. Look-out for the ‘negative nelly’ in your mind is hissing negative worries and crazy thoughts of how you can’t. To get any good results, you have to control the ‘negative nelly’ in your mind; the self-talk is like a cheeky kid without any boundaries running amuck until you give it some direction and commands.

Get Involved

Get involved in a positive community of like-mindedness — coworking spaces, adventure sports, something that feeds your passion.

When I left my employer, my self-esteem was high for a bit, but then it was hard, and I was struggling, and it bashed my confidence around. So I went and learnt how to fly a plane. I decided that if I could land and take-off and be the pilot of my aircraft, I could do anything. That helped me build confidence through pushing through barriers in my head. Do something that challenges you. However, remember it is a constant conscious effort.

2. Communication

It comes down to simple things like how we communicate with each other. Never in history has it been easier to communicate with all this technology, we can use Google translate to have a conversation or for our basic needs while in a foreign land. However, are we willing to solve a problem that needs to be addressed to communicate with each other?

 There is an argument that although we are technically more connected, we a more unwilling to connect in person, we just text. It’s easier. We don’t write letters, which were a great way to process your emotions, but it is not something that we do, how we react rather than respond. With instant messaging, emails and texting, there is ample room for miss interpretation. 

Business becomes a struggle because we forget to communicate with our customers addressing their simple needs and offering help to solve the problem. So your customer goes somewhere else.

Often regional towns forget to communicate with each other. Because they are small, they assume everyone knows what is happening, but most people are just trying to get the basics done and forget to look up and breathe. There is a number of reasons why communication breaks down in small towns. I surmise it to be like family, we assume something and don’t bother talking about things any more, because we think we know them. And it’s not till the shit hits the fan that you find out that maybe they just needed more information or a little push in the right direction with the right communication.

We are more connected now than ever before with the ability to instantly communicate now with technology. Sometimes, I wonder if it is making us more disconnected with each other.

As I travel and talk with owners of businesses in regional Europe and Regional Australia, the issue of communication comes up. around their dislike and fear of social media. They forget that they could help a lot more people if they used the tools and all the hard work is done for them. Forgetting why they went into business in the first place ‘to be of service to someone’ and marketing becomes a drain through fear of the unknown. ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’.

In Australia, the local pub is a great place to get local information the locals will give you an idea of where to go and what to do. In France, we stopped in a tiny town to have a drink at the bar, and the local publican was the tourist information and even jumped on the phone to the local Major to see if he knew of any accommodation for us. It was just so welcoming, and also thought we had a language barrier; he did everything he could to hustle and make things happen for us and bring good fortune to himself and his community. If we spend money in their town everyone benefits.

Communicating with a small niche is more effective than generally speaking to the masses. When someone has a connection to the problem you’re solving emotionally, there is always a better result.

Is The Lack Of Soft Skills Killing Us?

The other thing that is coming up a lot is the need for soft skills. For small business and startups is the problem of depression is a massive problem in Australia with 800,000 people suffering and dying each year from this epidemic. Simple skills like learning to meditate, having a meaningful positive community to connect with and being aware of the problem, e.g. depression and taking action and asking for help.

Simple skills we need for learning skills such as strong work ethics come from understanding you’re why in what you do.

Soft skills are enhancing the power of excellent communication skills, or a how-to have and encourage a positive attitude, how to look after your general health, how to have more self-confidence, how to build effective and meaningful relationships is a critical factor in all this change.

There is a need to develop soft skills like this is becoming more and more a need. Soft skills for personal growth and professional growth is something companies in both regional Europe and Australia are investing.

Building a Positive Culture

Positive communication for creating a great culture in your organisation. It is much more critical now than ever before since most of today’s startups and their teams are remote spread all over the world.

Connecting with other passionate people in your industry is so much easier today than before, through online groups and forums. Most people are looking to technology for a place to feel good.

Storytelling for selling is a new part of the new positive culture. Sell products about influence and identifying with something unique and building up the picture that people want to associate.

The desire to identify with a community and hanging out with those niche interests and it is all possible today through online platforms, and that is the beauty of an online community’s.

Recently while at the Eu Summit I learnt that, remote teams are becoming normal using technology platforms such as Slack, Google suit and others, which means that constant communication through multiple platforms is a thing of the past and most startups company’s use one platform for all their conversation, which has numerous platforms inside of the one workplace.

While in regional Australia for Small Business Week, and it was indeed a pleasure to meet the small niche of entrepreneurs who are hungry to solve the problems of their small community. Moreover, all the same, issue came up that I am mentioning here, and I am certainly not immune to them myself, and that is why I write about it.

How To Enhance Communication Skills:

How we choose to communicate can affect the people around us. We always have a choice on how we communicate and we have the power to help or hinder with our communication. What do you choose each moment of the day? Here are some reminders of how to communicate better. I say reminders because you know this already but it is really just a reminder. Here goes…

Observe

To observe yourself and others is to be mindful of how you are operating and showing up in the world. What do you see, hear, feel, taste and smell in each moment? That’s right to you use all of your senses to nature they are on autopilot but perhaps observe what stands out the most when you next walk into a room. Just notice don’t judge because you will find there is more going on then meets the eye.

Listen

People want to be heard. When you listen to others, you have a better chance of helping them solve their problems.

Intention

Your intention is essential in all that you do and say. If you set your intention and are mindful how you want to affect the world around you, you will attract exactly what you need.

Body Language

Numerous studies have concluded that over 55 per cent of communication is non-verbal, posture, what you do with your hands, facial expressions, colours you wear — even your intention.

Body language is a subset unconscious language that we as the observer picks upon. some people are more aware consciously of their body language than others because they have trained themselves or modelled themselves of others carefully. Clarity of who your audience is, who your customer is and even why you do what you do. Identifying all these you can know precisely how you help people.

Emotional connection

Connect with emotions. People always remember the way you make them feel not necessarily what you say. Words will trigger emotions so you will remember the words if it triggers an emotion or something important to you.

Ask

Don’t be afraid to ask. Asking questions is an excellent way to understand precisely what they are trying to communicate. People love to talk about themselves, so ask questions to understand their pain points and how you can help, it will help you build trust and remember people.

3. Global Awareness & The Economy Of Change

What I mean by global awareness, is solving the problem in your community, sure, but knowing how big is the problem locally, nationally, internationally? 

Looking further abroad and understanding the extent of the problem on a global scale can open up doors for your business. The reason I bring this up is that often in small townspeople are often unwilling to look outside their community. Often the problem you are solving is bigger somewhere else, not in your town.

Why should we look further abroad?

That’s a good question. I believe that looking further abroad is understanding how your industry operates on other continents and gives you more information. So ‘why not’?, is what I say. The simple fact is that problems your solving is not always big enough in your own back yard, some times it’s bigger somewhere else.

Now is the easiest time in history to build a global business. And small business is not small any more because of technology, enabling us to go global from day one. I know, it’s easier said than done but it’s been proven time and again by the ones how are hungry to make it happen. And the ones who don’t give up after the first attempt and create reasons why they can’t, or won’t. It’s a conscious choice.

Economy’s Of Change

The economy’s of change – meaning focus on specific ways of disrupting and creating focused change. These economies of change are shifting the business landscape. I am talking about, the Gig Economy, Circular economy, Sharing Economy’s, the Digital economy which is all affecting local businesses in Regional Australia, Europe and globally.

Sharing Economy

Then we come to the sharing economy is otherwise known as the collaborative consumption or peer to peer-based sharing. It is a concept that highlights the ability or preference of individuals wanting to rent or borrow goods rather than own them. Sharing rather than owning is becoming more and more popular and a more straightforward option as we move away from traditional ways of life.

The Gig Economy

Uberization, as they call it here in Europe. the gig economy allows anyone the ability to instantly do transactions and to instantly earn money. This means that anyone can start a side hustle at any time to make more money. It’s a free-market system in which tempory positions are shared with independent workers for short term periods.

The term ‘gig’ is a slang word meaning “a job for a specified period of time” a term used in the music industry.

The Circular Economy

This is my favourite. The circular economy. It has an emphasises on recycling and wastage aimed at minimising waste and making most of the resources.

The Digital Economy

Sometimes called the internet economy. New economy or web economy. The digital economy refers to an economy that is based on digital computing technologies is disrupting every industry banks and cryptocurrencies for trade but also making it easier to do business.

All of it is affecting the way we do traditional business, but some small businesses are unaware of it. It’s not the future it is here now. Most people in regional areas build a business without thinking of anything but lifestyle and fail to build it to exit the market.

Why can’t you live in regional Australia or regional Europe and build a world-class business? Well, the fact is you can.

All these buzz words are not just cool words they are affecting the way we do business now and in the future. Because the landscape of the industry is rapidly changing, and we have to build something more agile. Sure it’s all a new language, but the language of the future is simple, it all comes down to getting back to basics.

Fear of the unknown

Most people in businesses are feeling the ‘crunch’ of technology, and the pressures of how people behave around their products and services, which are continually changing.

The fear of the unknown social media is what most small business owners are failing to see that it is low hanging fruit. How technology can help their business be discovered easily or how by using technology, they can help someone solve a problem or thrill their customer.

In Europe recently I walked into the local coffee shop in a town of 200 people. The owner ‘wows’ his ( tourist) customers daily with live footage of a vultures nest and the Chicks Vultures growing up and learning to fly. His live video footage is all taking place up in the mountain they just climbed. He knows what his customer wants, and it is a conversation piece to thrill them.

However, in a small town in Australia of the same size, I couldn’t even get a steak sandwich at the local pub or any local produce. To me, that is just disappointing because the entire town suffers when it is not done well; it has a flow-on effect. I sometimes wonder if (we) as business owners, have to get out of our way and get on with helping others.

Let’s Try Harder

Regional towns benefit when the businesses get it so right, and I have seen small towns in Australia get it right. My point is ‘let’s try harder’, let’s try harder to help each other. We can be lazy buggers in Australia because we have it so good and this alone is hurting our economy. 

On my last trip back to Australia I shared some extensive experience and thinking about marketing in new ways and how businesses and jobs are shaping for the future.

Technology has helped globalize business. How they can jump on the bandwagon, and use it in your own businesses to stay relevant. How to identify problems in your community and solve it locally and take it global to help other communities with the same issues.

Moreover, acknowledging that small business is no longer a thing, because of social media. It is for every person, an everyday, mobile experience.

Generally, we talk about how technology is changing how we behave around the products we purchase and produce to emphasise that their market might not be here in their town, state or country, but the more significant opportunity might be somewhere else in the world. It is the same for startups in Regional Europe.

What’s different in Australia is the vast distances we have that challenge our distribution channels.

At a recent conference in Barcelona. Talking with startups, generally, they said, Australia is so far away they don’t think about Australia as an option to test a product. Or that their might be an opportunity there for there product, it is also a tiny population compared to other markets. That doesn’t mean that Australia is not a good testing ground for the right product.

Finding New Ways To Adapt To Change

While here in Limoux France at the coworking space SAPIE, while chatting to local entrepreneurs, they are having similar issues. They are not looking global or for even other nearby countries. With the economy of change affecting the small businesses they just see shops closing and people complaining. They are trying to find new ways to adapt but struggle just like every small town in Australia.

There is a general fear of social media here in regional France. Rather than being afraid of our stores closing in small towns, we need to ask why are they closing and start to understand peoples behaviours and how we can combat it. Sometimes it takes fresh eyes to see the solutions.

I believe it is essential that our young entrepreneurs are aware of these economies of change so that we can discover new ways of reaching our customers in the future.

In Limoux France, for instance, they are innovating and creating their local currency, to encourage and reward locals for buying local. They have a coworking space, and they are reaching out to find new ways to promote regional trade and for their younger community to get involved. What they are not doing is using the tourism market enough or reaching out enough, the same thing happens in regional Australia.

How To Have More Global Awareness:

When you discover a problem you discover how big that problem is, locally, statewide, nationally and country by country. then you have a complete understanding of how big the problem is and how you can target a bigger market. Because if it’s not a problem, it’s not a problem. And there is no need to spend time and money solving it not a problem!.

For example, the aboriginal woman of a community Outback Australia recognised that their language was about to be lost. To combat this they realised they needed to go digital because that is what the younger community were using daily. They also then realised that if they solved the problem for there community that could be a basis for other indigenous languages around the world to save the culture.

  • Reach out to other communities.
  • Have a sister city program and partner with them on another continent with the same industries.
  • Know how big or small the problem is on a global scale. ‘Google him up’ read about your industry on other continents.
  • Look at how the economies of change are affecting your community. Understand how the gig, circular, digital and sharing economies is not just changing jobs but if we understand how people behave around these disruptors then we can use it to our advantage.

4. Be Service Focus!

What service means is how we treat each other — having the intention to help someone solve a problem. To shift the focus from “what’s in it for me” WIIFM to “How Can I Help” this all comes down to consciously building something with the intent of helping others not from making a bucket load of money.

Often business owners fail to understand who they are targeting and wanting the more significant portion of the pie — forgetting to do the simple stuff and discover how we solve the problem and quickly.

However, we are all too scared of failing? Well, guess what? As you may know, already know business is an adventure you fall, it hurts, and it hurts again, but then maybe you learn something about yourself, and you get better.

From my experience and observation as a startup mentor and a co-founder in a startup, we stop looking at the simple stuff.

We are missing the big chunk of what matters to people, to make it easy for them as possible to get what they need.

That is why the economy’s of change has changed the landscape of how we are doing business now, and we will see more of it in the future.

It all about ethical transactions and ease of use. The sharing economy, the need to do something that matters with the circular economy and make our business more ethical with blockchain tech. It all comes back to serving a need.

How to give excellent service:

Excellent service is simply being extremely good at what you do and knowing exactly how to help your customer and foreseeing their needs.

Listen to your customer

Listen to your customer’s pain points. Find out how else your customer solves that problem. Know where else they go so that you can know where the hangout. If you are of service to others it’s not about you, it’s about them. Don’t take complains personally and be reactive, just be responsive and do something to help them as a human being.

Customer engagement increase

Studies use to say that we had about seven different engagements with your customer before you get a customer now they are saying it 14 touchpoints. Which means there is more choice and people are confused. They are trying to find a common denominator to help them feel comfortable about their decision to buy.

Solve the problem first

Solve the immediate problem first, give some relief. Be attentive to the needs of your customer.

A lot of the time when you talk to founders, they are only solving a problem that exists for themselves.

In the small town of Moranbah regional Qld, Melissa Westcott, founder of ‘big on shoes’ created her little empire looking at a market that was solving her problem, but she soon found that she was addressing a much bigger problem globally. See Timbo Reads interview with Melissa Westcott.

Discover where your customers hang out 

Find out where your customer goes otherwise to solve their problem. Use the tools of social media to reach groups to discover where they hang out. I don’t care if you don’t like it if you want to help people find your stuff then be there for them on social online and help them. Be in the business of assisting people in the best way you can. Hang out where your customer needs you most.

Uniqueness

Your Uniques Selling Proposition (USP) is just that… unique. What is the thing that you do that delights the customer? Maybe it is the story of how your business started or that you only help people.

Smile

Be intentional about how you interact with people knowing that you have the power to make or break a person day just with a smile.

Community

Build a community around your business. People want to be apart of a community that is specific to them.

Respond

Don’t react; respond. The difference between reacting and responding is taking responsibility for the complaints and ask how you can help.

Communicate

Communicate with your team. Communication with members of your organisation is essential to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Communicate with your client so that you are getting the right results.

Transparentencey

What is it really? Be open and honest with all areas of the business. Being transparent helps build trust.

Compassion

Even if you can’t help them have compassion for yourself and others. Sometimes we can be compassionate with others but forget about ourselves. If you are compassionate you are genuinely caring and not judging yourself and others. No one’s perfect right?

Consistency

If your team is consistently helpful and makes the experience easy, then your customer will come back and bring a friend. Word of mouth is powerful, and if you give consistent service systems, then there is less of a chance of missing something important.

Remember your why

As a startup or business, remember why you are in business and always be of service to others, so be intentional about it with the result in mind and stable core business values to help you stay consistent and aligned with the right clients.

It is always exciting to have conversations with like-minded people from all over the world. It often unexpectedly gives me the answers you have been looking for and flesh out the ideas, tell stories of what’s happening on other continents and connect people — discussing changes that are occurring in the business landscape and how we can use and work with new technology to expand and grow business. It’s exciting, and it is always the connection and conversations that are what is essential about travel to me. 

Where to next?

Today I’m based in France, heading for Germany but have spent the past four years circulating regional Australia building startup communities and helping to stimulate and grow the startup ecosystem.

As a startup mentor at Business in Bare Feet, I help people with very early stage ideation. I am one part of a global team of mentors who have a focus to help regional people all over the world have access to global markets, mentors and grow business. Being full-time travellers ourselves, we are focused on helping to stimulate startup ecosystems in regional areas around Australia and around the world. We are on the ground talking with and actively assisting the startups in accessing global markets. Helping startups to get access to Mentors and connecting them to the people and the opportunity’s that are ready for, we often see the same issues that pop up with start-ups and business owners.

We all have observations are common and none of what I discussed here is rocket science. But it is a good reminder that we are not alone and we can make a difference. Know that you are not alone as a startup, even if you are not in a major town or city where all the action for startups is happening. Our team is here to provide support for regional startups. We have mentors ready to help you grow with our Global Mentoring Club SAND TRACKS come and join us!

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