Starting a business takes incredible drive and hard work. Craig Dempsey is the CEO and co-founder of Biz Latin Hub, which provides office support and services to businesses expanding into Latin America and the Caribbean. Biz Latin Hub also provides similar services in Australia and New Zealand. Starting in a small office in Bogota, Colombia in 2014, Dempsey, his business partner and two employees have grown Biz Latin Hub to 100 employees and $3.2 million in revenue. Yahoo Finance caught up with Dempsey for our new #FridayFounder series to talk all things business.
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What does your business do?
CD: Our key services are made up of accounting and taxation, company formation, corporate legal services, due diligence, hiring and PEO, and visa processing. Essentially, we provide a comprehensive package of support to cover all back-office needs, as well as helping our clients from outside the region to bridge the cultural and linguistic gap when they move into a new market in the region.
It is worth noting, for anyone who is not aware, that PEO stands for “professional employer organisation”, and essentially means that we hire staff on behalf of the client via our locally incorporated entity. That allows the client to avoid going through company incorporation, facilitating a rapid market entry and exit.
It is particularly popular with corporations who need one or a small number of local executives based in the region, or for tech companies seeking developers or engineers for a short- to medium-term project. It has also become increasingly popular during the pandemic, as companies shifted to a more remote-based working model, allowing them to seek out talent at competitive rates in new markets.
What is your background?
CD: I grew up in a rural part of Queensland and joined the Australian military as a rifleman when I was 17. During my time with the military, I studied a degree in mechanical engineering and went on to manage a number of major projects, including during tours in the Middle East. After a decade in the military, during which I also received my masters in engineering science and project management, I moved into the mining industry, working in project management and executive roles in Canada, Colombia, and Peru.
That really stoked my interest in Latin America and opened my eyes to the wide range of investment opportunities in the region. I subsequently met my current business partner in Colombia, who has extensive experience working with the UK government in Latin America. It was while we were looking around for a comprehensive package of integrated back-office support for a venture we were planning that we realised there was a gap in the market. That was the lightbulb moment for us in terms of establishing Biz Latin Hub, which offers exactly the sorts of products that we couldn’t find.
How did you get started?
CD: We started out of a small office in Bogotá (Colombia's capital) in 2014, with myself, my business partner, and our first two employees – who I am proud to say are still with the company today, running our legal and treasury departments respectively.
While the first couple of years were tough, the past five years have seen us grow rapidly, so that we now have offices in 16 markets around Latin America and the Caribbean, a presence in Australia, and plans to move into more markets in the region, as well as to establish an office in the United States, where many of our clients are based.
Since launching Biz Latin Hub, I have also established other businesses, including an emerald mining company, an online marketing company, and a firm supporting venture-capital investment in startups.
What has been your biggest highlight in business?
CD: I am sure that I am like many company founders when I say that one of the biggest highlights in terms of running Biz Latin Hub was when we began to turn a profit. I rarely drink alcohol, but the beer we had to celebrate that milestone tasted great.
What has been your biggest failure or lesson in business?
CD: I am glad to say that I can’t really put my finger on a major failing, however there have certainly been some major lessons learned in the context of the global pandemic—namely that we could move to a more remote model. But, in doing so, we had to rethink how we did things like assessing performance, which becomes more quantitative and less qualitative when you have minimal personal contact with the person.
We also learned that PEO services are a big part of the future of investment and doing business in Latin America. Thankfully we were already well placed to increase our focus on those types of services, which include outsourced payroll, as well as searching for and vetting candidates on behalf of our clients. Today we have a strong recruitment team in place with well-established networks in all of the markets where we operate.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
CD: My advice would always be that if you have an idea you truly believe in, or if you spot a gap in the market, you just have to go for it. There are always going to be doubters, there are always going to be horror stories of those who tried and failed, but determination and personal faith will get you a long way.
Obviously it has to be within reason, if you have a four- or five-figure budget to get started, you probably are not going to have much luck in something like building electric cars. But If you have an idea and the means to get it off the ground, just because someone before you wasn’t successful when they tried something similar does not mean you won’t be.