S2 E 10 Running (and Growing) an American Business Abroad with Kevin Barber

September 03, 2019

Growing a Business "Abroad"

Kevin Barber is the founder of Lean Labs, a marketing agency and HubSpot partner that describes itself as "an outsourced growth team for SaaS and Tech Brands that want to grow lean."

Not long after launching a marketing consultancy, Kevin moved to Costa Rica and grew the company, through trial and error, to what it is today.

Over the years, Kevin has launched two iterations of a marketing agency with different focuses and levels of success. His journey to Costa Rica plays a huge part in his growth journey, which we get into in the conversation. 

We learn how changing your perspective is critical, how empathy plays a major role in growth, and what a CEO's job should be in a growth-oriented company. Plus more. Sit back and set a course for growth.

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Communication and Empathy

Even a factor as simple as time zones taught Kevin that leading and growing a team, and business, should rely on empathy and communication. 

In Costa Rica, Kevin's time zone was Central for part of the year. But that country doesn't recognize Daylight Saving Time, so for part of the year it was Mountain Time. 

With clients and team members in several countries, a dozen different time zones, and different cultures, timing and communication paired with digital-first communication meant a lot of effective, efficient communication, a dash of empathy and a generous portion of grace. 

Without great communication and lots of empathy, it's much more difficult to grow your business and your team.

Tracking Assets as a Growth-Minded CEO

As the CEO, Kevin says, it's your job to grow your employees, not your customers. It took him a little time to discover this philosophy and truly implement it, but Kevin says he's so glad he did. 

Kevin used to think that the "stream of income" he had to focus on were the clients. Over the years he's realized that his focus should center on the team, since they're the ones producing for those clients. If he focuses on the team, the team can focus on the clients. 🤯

This mindset shift means Kevin focuses on developing the assets of Lean Labs - the employees. As the development moves forward, the team is then responsible for developing and implementing for clients. 

It seems like a small shift, and a common-sense approach, but Kevin said it was life changing to the growth in his business over the last 18 months.

Running Your Business by Getting Out of Your Bubble

Running an American company from a different country can help you get out of your bubble. For Kevin, that meant going from his market in Kansas City, where his local work brought him to a level of known and trusted, to a different world where remote work led to a new network where Kevin and the brand were not as known. 

Kevin ran a small agency - himself and two other people - for about 10 years. He knew how market, he owned about 75% of it, and he was comfortable. "With my customers, my network, my circle of friends, my sphere of influence, my neighborhood... we were doing well," Kevin says. "It was a dream life where we worked and I was able to go to the lake on Fridays and spend time with my family. I liked it so much, I wanted more freedom." 

That's when Kevin moved his family to Costa Rica. In about six months, his circle had grown to the point where he realized his success in Kansas City was a much smaller pie than he had thought.

"I had climbed through the foothills and thought I'd climbed a mountain. Only to see that the mountain was still in front of me." - Kevin Barber on perspective

Kevin found himself surrounded by other business owners and entrepreneurs with larger businesses, which drove him to see a new perspective. So he launched Lean Labs with a new mindset for a marketing agency, and found even greater success - even though at times he felt like a small fish in a large ocean. 

Kevin's lesson - Get out of your bubble for a new perspective. Maybe it's not moving to a foreign country. But you can step outside of your sphere and learn how the rest of the world works. It's a big, big world out there. 

Helpful Links

Connect with Kevin.

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