In 1977, Colin Quincey was the first person to row the Tasman Sea solo from New Zealand to Australia.  In 2010 his son Shaun set off from Coffs Harbour in Australia to become the first person to row solo in the other direction, eventually crash landing on 90 mile beach some 54 days later.

Shaun spent two years speaking at events promoting a book and documentary about his experience across the United Kingdom and Australia before taking a role as National Sales Manager for Debitsuccess NZ.  Now based in the United States, Shaun compares the 54-day solo crossing to launching a business in the US.

Here’s Shaun’s story in his words:

It was day 36 rowing across the Tasman Sea solo.  At 10 pm the wind was blowing about 40 knots (75kph) with 5 – 8-metre swells.  I was flipped upside down and trapped in my cabin for 30 minutes until a wave big enough flipped me back over again and I could finally get on with the job at hand.

This was one of the hundreds of obstacles I needed to overcome to row the Tasman Sea solo eventually.  The first 36 days launching Debitsuccess USA felt relatively similar to this situation, albeit a little less lonely.  There were a number of challenges we faced and continued to face as we build our business across the US.

After being with Debitsuccess NZ for a few years, I was fortunate enough to be tasked with helping establish the business in the US, after exploring entering the market for a number of years.  The Debitsuccess payment solution was experiencing significant growth including some offshore enquiries to provide our unique full services billing solution.  The growth and international interest spurred our ambition to launch in the US and continue internationalising our platform.

Setting up a business in San Francisco and relocating with my wife Lisa and six-month-old boy Mac was equally as daunting as taking the first stroke into the Tasman!  The initial but necessary distractions from the business were frustrating, expensive and time consuming.  These activities included obtaining visas, CA driver’s license, social security numbers and medical insurance – not all were necessary, but we required them.

The tax was another complexity from both business and personal perspectives.  Navigating the Tasman Sea was significantly simpler than navigating the US tax system!  Now we’re settled, and the business is getting the attention required, the opportunities are exciting and well worth the initial setup pain.

Here are a few lessons I discovered in the Tasman Sea that seem to be relevant when entering the US:

  • The ability to adapt from the plan is equally as important as creating the initial plan.  You simply don’t know what you don’t know!  We’ve had to adjust the course along the way while keeping our eyes on the horizon.
  • Build a world-class team who believe in your adventure.  The team is essential, and you need to explore what the team will look like and the expertise each of those people need to have.
  • Excuses don’t exist.  Find a way to make progress or head home.  You must be solutions oriented and willing ot outwork and outsmart the competition.
  • Remember that 0.01% market share of 320 million is 32,000 people so it pays to have thought through how your organisation might scale up quickly and capitalise.

Everything will cost more than you think, take three times longer than you think and there is a ton of people who will think and tell you that you will fail.  I was blown backwards 36 out of the 54 days I was at sea during my expedition across the Tasman.  There were days where I would row for up to 15 hours just to ensure I would simply hold my position.  The most challenging days I would check my GPS in the morning, and I would be 45 miles (74km) back towards where I started from.   There are certainly days where I feel like I am experiencing similar challenges establishing Debitsuccess in the US, but I am confident that with a little positivity and perseverance the rewards will be worth it.

The USA is an exciting market to be in.  I hope you get the opportunity to bite off more than you can chew, and then chew like crazy should you take up the challenge.

Good luck!