04/03/2009 - 22:00

Managing market penetration for migrants

04/03/2009 - 22:00

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GERHARDT Otto faced quite a culture shock when he emigrated from South Africa to Perth in 2006, experiencing almost immediately the challenges of finding employment.

HURDLES: Gerhardt Otto has overcome a number of barriers to start up a small business. Photo: Grant Currall

GERHARDT Otto faced quite a culture shock when he emigrated from South Africa to Perth in 2006, experiencing almost immediately the challenges of finding employment.

Having spent years in electronic engineering for the missile and defence manufacturing industry, and then working in information technology, Mr Otto always favoured the small business model due to its agility and flexibility when faced with difficulty.

"I started GOTto Business Coaching out of necessity in December 2006, because I found it difficult to land a professional job and felt I had so much knowledge and experience to share with others," Mr Otto told WA Business News.

"I believe the smaller the business the more challenges for the business owner.

"He or she has to wear so many hats in the same day. However, I also believe there are smarter ways to utilise affordable low-cost information technology and structured methodologies that can help a business owner achieve more with less."

GOTto Business Coaching is a management consultancy group to small businesses in the trade and service industries, helping migrants get a clear vision for their new start-up businesses.

Mr Otto said despite his passion and determination, it was difficult as a migrant to penetrate the small business sector.

"The government has great support programs in place for migrants," he said.

"All these play a positive role and help migrants. However, I found that migrants are very sceptical when they first arrive, and that a trusted relationship is a two-way street involving people's emotions."

Mr Otto said immigration was a highly emotional, difficult experience, let alone starting a new business.

"It is much easier to work from the known to the unknown," he said. "Meaning by starting to build a network group among your own culture and letting them introduce you to their local business network. Therefore, I believe we do not compete with anyone [in the business coaching sector] but rather fill a gap."

Using this networking technique, Mr Otto was able to diversify into managed investment schemes for the trade and service industry, a competitive market considered too small for larger companies.

"Providing migrant support is not the mainstream of my business but making them part of a business network is beneficial to everyone," he said.

The key to entering the market was not starting with a preconceived idea or assumption about a niche for an idea in the new country.

"Investigate the market for a need and check if the real market need aligns with your business idea. Adapt you idea accordingly, perform in-depth market research, speak to relevant stakeholders, perform a feasibility study and do a financial analysis," Mr Otto said.

"Know your prospects by name, where they network and how you can reach them. Do a pilot run and even abandon your idea if needed, then compile a business plan, one-week action plan and 90-day action plan and adjust as you go along.

"Being new to a country without a referral network makes it virtually impossible to break into the local markets; having the expertise is one thing, but selling the wrong services into an oversaturated market is stupidity.

"As a new migrant you need someone who understands why you pursue your idea even if the odds are stacked against you.

"During your market research you need a mentor who can advise you on how to get an introduction to a person for the company you are interested in and want to interview to obtain market intelligence.

"I made an intense study of my wrongdoings and what to do to overcome my near failures. In fact, I decided to go back to basics and to follow a systematic approach.

"I spoke to so many other business owners and role players in the market, taking good advice from so many of them.

"As I documented my findings and plan, I decided to make this available to a local Perth migrant support group. We now engage with migrants even before they land and advise them how they can investigate the markets while in their country of origin.

"Since sharing my experience with other migrants I can sharpen my own thoughts in translating problems into challenges. I received many calls and engaged with many migrants in need and created a website providing the information for free.

"The most interesting thing about this exercise was that it forced me to re-strategise and differentiate my own business into implementing management information systems for the trade and services industry."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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