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A conversation with Patricia Santa Cruz: Founder of PSM Consultancy, the first trilingual online platform in the Netherlands for tax, accounting and subsidy application services!

Hello Patricia! We’re thrilled to be chatting with you today at FEM-START. Could you share what sparked your entrepreneurial journey and the motivation behind launching PSM Consultancy?

I graduated in Economics from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, my country of origin. In 2010, I obtained a scholarship from the Dutch government to pursue an MBA at the University of The Hague, where I completed my studies in 2011. Since completing my MBA, I have aspired to become an independent entrepreneur. However, setting up a business in a foreign country, such as the Netherlands, presented significant challenges for a recent graduate, leading me to hold off on this idea until I gained more experience. Initially, I worked in Accounting and Finance in various international companies, specializing in tax issues.

I began offering free tax advice to Peruvian immigrants at the Peruvian Consulate in Amsterdam. This experience marked the beginning of my vision of establishing a tax advisory firm, upon understanding the difficulties that Spanish speakers in the Netherlands face in this area, due to linguistic and cultural barriers. Soon, I began offering tax services as a freelancer in my free time. Thus, PSM Consultancy was born, focused on providing services to Peruvian immigrants in the Netherlands, many of whom had participated in my consultancies at the Consulate. My first client was a small Peruvian merchant. Over time, the demand for services increased, and I was limited in serving more clients. 

At that time, I decided to hire an immigrant accountant with experience in tax aspects in her home country. Subsequently, I hired a systems expert to develop a web platform that would systematize tax operations, a fundamental need for the growth of the company. The platform was successfully implemented in 2020 and my company experienced huge growth in sales. To meet the growing demand, I hired more accountants and have been continuously training them over the years.

I am currently undertaking the second year of a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) at the University of Manchester, with my research focusing on the factors affecting the success of immigrant entrepreneurs in the Netherlands. This research will allow me to explore other options and develop policies to support these entrepreneurs, increasing their Life Time Value, aware of the crucial role of entrepreneurs in generating employment and boosting the economy of the country. I plan to introduce consulting services in my company to offer more diversified support to immigrant entrepreneurs.

Can you highlight some key steps and strategies you employed to kickstart PSM Consultancy?

The key steps and strategies to kickstart PSM Consultancy included specialization in Expatriate Tax Services where we focused on managing Dutch tax services for expatriates with limited Dutch proficiency. It also entailed effective communication which meant ensuring clear understanding and effective communication with clients through constant attention and adaptation. We also gave a lot of attention to building credibility and trust hence, overcoming stereotypes and prejudices associated with diversity by demonstrating experience, professionalism, and reliability. Another important step was marketing, we developed a marketing tool to attract potential clients through targeted content, SEO optimization, and social media integration. The development of a web platform was also a requirement, we created a user-friendly and efficient web platform to showcase services, facilitate client interactions, and streamline processes. Lastly, the automation of processes where we implemented automation tools and systems to simplify repetitive tasks such as client onboarding, data collection, invoicing, and reporting.

How did you manage to build and grow your customer base?

To build and grow our customer base, we conducted a strategic re-evaluation of our business model. We refocused on our core mission and vision, aligning our services with the specific needs of our target audience. As CEO, I prioritized quick adaptation and execution with the team. This strategic adjustment not only regained efficiency but also strengthened our market position by offering more focused services. This experience emphasized the importance of flexibility and alignment with core objectives in navigating today’s business landscape.

Reflecting on your journey, what were some significant mistakes, and what lessons did you learn from them?

One significant mistake was deviating from our vision and mission by offering services outside our target group, which proved counterproductive and resource-intensive. From this, we learned the importance of staying true to our core objectives. Additionally, not prioritizing the swift implementation of our web platform hindered business growth. We’ve since learned the value of timely technological investments. Through strategic improvements like platform automation and multilingual accessibility, we’re ensuring wider reach and better user experience, aligning with our mission while expanding our team to support organic growth and actively seeking opportunities for market engagement.

 What stands out as your biggest achievement since founding PSM Consultancy?

The first notable achievement in my business journey was the bold decision to establish a company in a foreign country and leave my job, despite the lack of comprehensive information about the complexities and nuances of the local business environment, facing an unknown system, I had to ask numerous questions and discover aspects that might be obvious to locals, but not necessarily to foreigners.

I am also proud of the successful implementation of the first multilingual platform in the Netherlands. This initiative has allowed us to offer tax services in three languages, and with an eye on the future where we plan to expand to more with the support of future investors. This expansion will not only expand our reach but also make it easier for expats to understand the complexities of Dutch tax regulations. Likewise, we have the ambition to take this successful model to other countries in the European Union, where immigrant populations face similar challenges in their integration.

A relevant milestone on our path was the successful launch in 2023 of our mobile application, replicating the functions of our web platform. This innovation has benefited expatriates travelling in and out of the Netherlands, allowing them to send information from any corner of the world, whether during vacation periods or family visits. With that said, we sustained success through the formation of a multicultural professional team of Dutch tax experts. This diversity in the team not only enriches our perspective but also establishes a solid foundation for offering high-quality services, taking into account the different experiences and knowledge that each member brings to the team.

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs, particularly those who do not believe they can do it?

It is essential to overcome fear and pursue business goals with confidence. Recognizing and accepting mistakes as an integral part of the learning process is revealed to be crucial on the path to success. As a female entrepreneur, securing funding may present additional challenges compared to men, but it is imperative to not allow negative opinions to become obstacles to progress.

I emphasize the importance of seeking support within a community like FEM-START (In just a few months of joining FEM-START, I’ve attended several significant seminars covering topics like funding, intellectual property, international taxes, and investments. I’ve also had the chance to take courses on venture capital, crowdfunding, accelerator programs, and subsidies for companies), and join diverse business groups. This approach not only provides valuable perspectives but also strengthens the ability to face and overcome challenges.

Although it is inevitable to face obstacles, let us remember that every challenge can be overcome with the support of someone with the necessary experience to provide support and find solutions. By building a strong network of support and trust, women entrepreneurs can not only overcome challenges but also inspire and pave the way for others in the business world.

 What’s next for PSM Consultancy? Anything we can look forward to?

Currently, we are immersed in a plan to transform our web platform through significant improvements. The main purpose of this initiative is the automation of processes incorporation of various languages. This strategic approach has as its central objective to significantly expand the reach of our platform, with the aspiration that an even greater number of immigrants can benefit and use it effectively.

In parallel, we are dedicated to the expansion of our team, with the firm intention of strengthening our internal capabilities. This growth not only supports the organic development of the company but also ensures that we are adequately equipped to address the challenges and demands inherent in the development and expansion of our platform. Simultaneously, we have turned our sights towards participating in various pitch contests, to increase our visibility. Our goal is not only to provide an improved experience for users but also to establish a strong and sustainable presence in the market. We remain focused on delivering exceptional service and constantly evolving to meet the growing needs of our diverse audience.

If you want to know more about Patricia’ company PSM Consultancy, click here!

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