Expat Entrepreneur in the Netherlands: Sarah Fraser
Life coach, Sarah Fraser, talks about the business of helping people to reach their goals to discover contentment and personal happiness.
Name: Sarah Fraser
Country of residence: The Netherlands
Name of company: Happiness Express Coaching
Date of company launch: November 2009
Can you give us a brief description of your business and how it is going?
Happiness Express provides coaching services to private individuals and corporate clients. The aim of coaching is to help people make positive changes in their lives. This can be making a career change, discovering your strengths, increasing motivation, overcoming procrastination, reducing stress, and, designing the life you really want. I help people go from "I wish I was..." to "I am..."
At the moment I have a nice mix of individual coaching (one hour private weekly sessions at my office in the centre of Amsterdam); open-to-the-public workshop; and company based workshops dealing with subjects such as employee wellbeing, defining company values, and maximising strengths.
What do you like about doing business in your country of residence?
I speak some Dutch but choose to coach only in English, which means that my target audience is largely the expat market. As a result I get to work with lots of different nationalities. To date, I have had clients from 25 different nationalities -- from Brazil, Norway, Australia, and I've even had clients from Tahiti and Azerbaijan!
I love the variety of viewpoints that such cultural diversity brings. It helps me remain detached from my own view of the world and really give myself over to their experience of things. This helps me to avoid relying on my own assumptions and means that I am able to ask the right questions to help them deepen their thinking.
What do you find most frustrating about doing business in your country of residence?
As I work in English, it can be difficult to get into the small- to medium-sized companies, and the larger companies often have their own preferred suppliers already in place. So I make sure I attend plenty of professional networking events and build relationships with a broad range of people. Coaching is such a personal business that it's important to build trust before proposing services and solutions.
What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?
Figuring out some of the legal and insurance issues was a challenge as the requirements are different here than in the UK. Thanks to the relationships I'd built through networking, I've been able to get great support and advice from other entrepreneurs.
How has the economic crisis affected your business?
It's hard to say, as I started the business when we were already in tough financial times. In terms of private coaching, the expats I meet in the Netherlands are here for largely for professional reasons. They typically have disposable income to spend on coaching.
It's all about how you view the coaching - as an expense or as an investment in yourself that will bring greater returns down the line. From a corporate coaching perspective, rates are typically challenged perhaps more than they would be in healthier economic times. It's important to partner well with companies and work together to find a solution in which both parties can benefit and grow.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up business in your country of residence?
Check first that there's a need for your service or product by researching what is already out there. Be critical on this. Talk to other people who are offering something similar. You may be surprised how willing competitors are to share their experiences and advice.
Create a vision of where you see your business one year after launch. Dream a little with this and make it as rich an experience as possible. Creating such a vibrant image of your future helps to keep you motivated and can sub-consciously aid in directing your decisions towards what you truly want. If you want others to believe in you, you must first believe in yourself.
How does running a business in your current country of residence compare to running a business in other countries that you have lived in?
I lived in the UK and the USA before coming to live in the Netherlands but as I didn't have my own business, it's hard to compare. At some point I will probably move back to the UK and would love to continue Happiness Express there...so I'll let you know!
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