Arriving in the Land of Windmills and Tulips
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”-William Arthur Ward
There was definitely wind in Transoft’s sails when the 21st century began. Milton and his small team had some momentum from the early success of AutoTURN and GuidSIGN and were contemplating their next moves as an emerging transportation engineering company. The question was: expand locally or expand globally?
When it comes to business expansion, it is one thing to be like Starbucks with a location every few blocks in most major North American cities. In the case of Transoft, they needed offices in key locations to provide sales and service support to their clients. So where to expand to first?
Expanding across the border from Richmond into Seattle? Too easy. Los Angeles or New York? No, too trendy. Moreover, North America was running fine, thank you, from Transoft’s base in Richmond, BC. For their first official office outside of North America, Transoft decided to reach customers on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, from a base in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 2001. But prior to that, Milton realized he had to set the groundwork.
Shelley Frost, Transoft’s first marketing manager completed a foreign market analysis project for Milton around this time. Her research showed that there were plenty of fertile markets for the software and that AutoTURN had international potential.
“I think what was really telling from the analysis was that engineering is universal and different markets were struggling with the same challenges,” says Shelley. “The product was useful anywhere development was happening and that was in every corner of the world. The types of trucks used may be different, government regulations change or the size and type of projects may vary, but the need for efficient, effective tools to do the work was universal. The software, at its core, solved a problem and it was built in such a way it could be customized to meet the needs of different markets giving it global scope.”
With extensive advance planning by a small marketing team together with assistance from DFAIT (the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) Milton embarked on a major market tour in 1998. Despite covering six cities (Bonn, Berlin, Cologne, Paris, The Hague, and Copenhagen) in four countries and having 20 meetings over 15 days, the results were very mixed and the business potential was unexpectedly discouraging. Yet some reseller opportunities seemed worthwhile to pursue. Upon return, the first of Transoft formal resellers were established in France (PSR Sarl, Pierre Thibault), the Netherlands (EDS, Theo Weiring) and Denmark (Hansen Hennerberg).
Three years later, Milton felt there was a strong business case for opening an office in the Netherlands. In 2001, Jeroen Vuister was hired into the position of Managing Director in Europe. His entrepreneurial spirit, language skills and ICT background proved to be great combination of assets to take on this challenge. His first step was registering the subsidiary Transoft Solutions (Europe) B.V. at his home-office address in Capelle aan den Ijssel, just outside Rotterdam. From his home-office he started to find new business partners, hiring new people and finding a new office location to accommodate his new team.
“We needed the Rotterdam office to keep us abreast of any European market developments, plus we wanted a local presence to make it easier for our customers to reach us,” said Vice President of Corporate Marketing Noel Dolotallas. “We looked at a lot of different cities and with Jeroen’s influence, we decided that Rotterdam gave us everything we were looking for. When the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at it.”See how the latest version of AutoTURN helped spur new growth in the fledgling European market in the next installment of Our Story