MY FAVOURITE MISTAKE: “We Failed to Launch in the US”

Tue 8 Feb 2022 2:00 pm UK Time

• When Trenton Moss decided to launch his agency in the US, he didn’t realise just how difficult it would be.
• Fast forward six months and they had to pull the plug.
• Come along and hear more about Trenton’s favourite mistake and what lessons it taught him along the way.

They spent 25 times their revenue to get their US launch off the ground – but it didn’t work out.

“We didn’t realise that to launch in America, we’d be starting from scratch. We thought, ‘We can get work here in the UK, we have revenues here. If we put some feelers out in the US, do the same kind of marketing we do here in the UK, surely that’s going to work?’ But it didn’t.”

In 2014, Trenton Moss decided to launch his agency Webcredible’s training business in New York – despite disapproval from their advisors.

And things started off reasonably well.

“We ran some courses, got some people paying to go on them, and got a local trainer to deliver them,” says Trenton. “The ultimate aim was to introduce our agency services. The training was just a foot in the door.”

“But it didn’t work at all. We got nowhere. We got a few leads and had a few calls with people, but we just got nothing.”

The big realisation for Trenton was that nobody in New York knew who they were, which was a stark contrast to their experience at home.

“In the UK, we’d been going for ten years. We had a real presence in the market. That all counts for zero out there because you’re a nobody. You’re basically a start-up,” he says.

“It was such a realisation about those ten or so years of hard work we’d done in creating brand equity. We had nothing of that in America, and we didn’t realise we’d taken it for granted.”

After six months, they had to make a decision. While they’d made some revenue, they’d spent 25 times that trying to make things work. 

The UK business also started to run at a very small loss, and they had to work out what was best for the agency’s future.

“We realised we’d have to pump around £250k into the US venture, and if we did that, and the decline in the UK got worse, in six months our business could have been in trouble. We decided we weren’t going to take the risk and pulled out.”

So, what did Trenton’s failure to launch teach him?

  • Hire local from the start. “If I had my time again, I would have hired a CEO straightaway from the US. Someone with local knowledge, which would have meant working with them and supporting them, but it wouldn’t have been as time-consuming.”
  • Go in with a client. “We really needed a client that could have been generating some revenue out there, that we could have then funnelled straight back into the business in America – it wouldn’t have felt like we were just throwing money into it and going nowhere.”
  • Partner up with other agencies. “People in the States are way more open and friendly than here in the UK. Even if you’re a director competitor, there’s a lot of complimentary agencies – we should have gone hard on the partnership angle as we were very niche.”

In truth, Trenton and his team hadn’t realised just how momentous a project like launching overseas would be.

“We should have realised how hard it was going to be,” he reflects. “We got distracted by shiny new ideas. Ideas are really easy – execution is really hard.”

“Once you get into the nitty gritty of the execution, that enthusiasm wanes.”

Come along and hear more about Trenton’s favourite business mistake and learn what NOT to do when launching your agency internationally.