Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Good morning everyone! My name is David Civit and I am the CEO of AGESEM. The company was created in 1985 when I was 25 years old. In this sense, the entry of Spain into the European Union and therefore the creation of a new consolidated European tax system opened a window of opportunity that ends up with the creation of new business consultancies. Therefore, the company’s main aim is to tax and legal advice businessmen in Catalonia.
My flagship product is to advise small businesses and help small entrepreneurs in the difficult task of achieving business survival (local until 2000, global since the 21st century).
My main customers are small and medium companies that need a personalized and 100% tailor-made solution for their companies, but still at a low and affordable rate. Going away from impersonal advice, in AGESEM we want to make our clients think and understand, and of course, learn the process. Our main aim is to make a comfortable, friendly and trustworthy environment that determines a relationship of empathy without forgetting the need for professional treatment.
We started thirty-four years ago with just plenty of energy and enthusiasm by our side. Nowadays, I am proud to say that we have achieved a reliable portfolio of about 250 SMEs. We are increasing our revenues by more than 20% each year. I believe this is the economic progress that measures the success or failure of a company.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
That’s a good question. It all really started at the university. One friend and I saw one announcement from a consolatory that was looking for some young employees. They hired us at the age of 21, and we worked there for four years. Here was when I realized that the most important thing in a tax and legal consolatory is personal attention and to empathize with the client. With the years, we gained a lot of experience and know-how and decided we wanted to have our own client’s portfolio and our own enterprise.
The future is the collaboration with autonomous entities that collaborate in the common good.
Frankly, when you are 25 years old, your idea is more like a dream. We were two young boys with just plenty of energy and enthusiasm by our side and few savings. They took with them some of their previous clients and some new ones from the word of mouth. It was all about the contacts that we had made in the university, previous job, and our family.
Besides, in Spain, in the 90s, the process of creating a company was still more a bet than a technical reality. There were no business plans, there were no economic studies... We started with great enthusiasm, technical knowledge and a desire to improve and professionalize our work, the image of the consultant was not a known figure nor regulated. At that time, it was about making an attractive product, of satisfying a need for service and, finally, and that is the most important thing, of being useful. The notice did not need a great regulation at that time, there was no law on money laundering, nor data protection, in fact, personal computers had just been born. At that time there was just a business opportunity to explore, and that’s what we did.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
In the 90s there were no mobiles or social networks. The offices were different, with wooden furniture, typewriters, and in a small corner, the first PC, with MS-DOS and the first versions of Windows.
The first item on the agenda of the first Administration meeting is to make a logo, which was obviously done with primary tools, and the second part was to create a working protocol with financial institutions and clients. Your answer to administrative phone calls and wait for word of mouth to do its magic. You ask friends, friends of friends, ex-work colleagues… everyone! Trying to convince them to trust you. Besides the bureaucratic work, this was the most time spending activity at the beginning, looking for more new clients!
The main reason why I started a new company on my own was that I couldn’t find one company that had all that a client needed. A client needs empathy, he needs to know you understand him and you want to get the most of his revenues and businesses. Only if you put yourself in the shoes of your client, can you know their problems and solve them. All the companies I have worked for before only cared about taking the maximum profit from the client, not maximizing his wealth. I wanted to work in a company where long term win-win relationships were maximized.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The company was constituted in 1990 in a small interior office. We had a small portfolio of our own clients and another that came from an initial partner, property manager.
The company was funded in its bootstrapping principles, that is, with few resources and limited economy. My advice is to have a previous development plan and the exit documents with the founders, in which it is specified what will happen if one of the parties decides to leave the company. In my case, my colleague decided to quit the company after fifteen years and the exit procedure was very complicated.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
To retain and maintain customers there are three keywords, the first quality, the second trust, the third empathy.
A method like the vision of the bat (that is to see things from the point of view of your interlocutor), besides being a very successful creativity technique, is also a way to position yourself in the market as a collaborator or colleague of your clients. If you put yourself in their skin, you can interact better with them, you can understand them, and you can reach a high degree of commitment.
The company, as far as I am concerned, is not yet properly using the tools of social information and Big Data. Regardless of the type of customers and industry, we understand that the use of global tools can contribute to the globalization of all types of companies, including a modest consulting company with a turnover of around $445,000 (2019 forecast).
Big Data and Analitycs have arrived to stay in the business management of companies. Around 30% of companies in the financial sector (banking and insurance companies) in Spain already take advantage, to a greater or lesser extent, of the opportunities offered by these solutions to boost growth and innovation, as well as manage the new and demanding regulatory environment. Improve efficiency and productivity. One of our main aims would be to strengthen the website to include services to foreign investors. With big data we would learn what a foreign investor is looking for and what advice needs may interest, this is an idea that we plan to develop in the near future.
Social networks are present, as I see it. Still, some medium and small companies in Spain like mine find it very difficult to stay tuned and updated! However, the Spanish company is still not very active (especially in small businesses).
The company is in Barcelona, and the city, regardless of a political and city culture problem, is considered one of the most cosmopolitan in the world, in this sense, being in Barcelona is a competitive advantage.
Objectives of the company? Improve efficiency, be competitive and likely, turn it into a real company with a future beyond its current management and ownership.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Traditional consultancies use classic methods to obtain clients, the recommendation of the users of our services themselves constitutes a cheap and valid system to get new clients (word of mouth). We do not have, therefore, advertising expenses or significant use of social networks. Is the company profitable? Yes, but it could be much more.
We are aware that the use of digital tools, blockchain, and social networks is essential in the short term. Our commitment to the short term is a joint venture with the advanced digital enterprise for an integration that will allow the transformation of a traditional office to a 4.0 services company.
The reliability of blockchains is an essential tool in the transmission of information and value in client-advisor operations in a very short period of time. That reliability requires that all SMEs establish protocols to apply this new technology.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The lack of creation of a fixed and good network in its beginnings and non-application of modern business policies, getting out-dated.
Be careful with constituting a company with two people or more. Do not write some social agreements that do not take into account all future situations.
Creation of an informal network of collaborators since the 2008 crisis to obtain common benefits. We actively collaborate with three companies. We give each other clients depending on what they need.
The future is the collaboration with autonomous entities that collaborate in the common good.
It is necessary, in the Spanish state, to flee from an economic system (which is the majority in Catalonia) of family businesses driven by egos and which are lacking, in general, of business policies of economic capacity and business organization.
In this sense, it is necessary to apply to these companies, a family protocol, and a business organization chart to ensure their survival. I don't know in other countries, but capital models equivalent to business management with family egos have, in my opinion, a very small possibility of surviving in a global economy.
There have always been political, economic and social. I believe that the only way to ensure economic development is creating a policy to support the culture of effort (the more you work, the more benefits you will receive).
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For our everyday business, we use SAGE to do the accounting of our clients. Here in Spain, there are two main big accounting programs: SAGE and A3. We use Sage mainly because the program updates itself constantly as Spanish law changes.
We also use Slack to communicate with co-workers. I really recommend it as it helps you communicate very fluently.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, a self-help book that explains the need to think about the future and make bold decisions forward.
Thinking about past failures is an even bigger mistake. We must, therefore, make valid strategic decisions to avoid future regrets.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Illusion, fight, imagination and forget about the fear: date to start a new company. Once a lawyer with whom I collaborated told me "you can do any job, solve a problem, help a client, with the help of a good book"
Now it has all changed, we have at our disposal all the information incredibly greater than the Alexandria library. Let's analyze, search and find the best solution. Only struggle, collaboration, and effort should be our weapons.
Finally, I would recommend everybody to collaborate with third parties, we will only find greater success if we share it with others our success.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I could certainly look for a digital partner to turn our traditional advice into a 4.0 services company. If you are interested, just contact us through our email.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help others get started.
Interested in sharing your own story? Find out how!
Are you ready to boost your revenue?
Using Klaviyo will open up a massive, untapped sales channel and bring you closer to your customers!
Level up your email marketing with Klaviyo!