Angele Giuliano - Business lessons from a Maltese business woman
In this episode Angele Giuliano tells us about the challenges of managing cash flow as a small but active business, the pros and cons of business partners and why smiling might be the key to more sales.
Tony Radford 0:00
On today's show, I've got a very special guest all the way from Malta and Angele Giuliano from across limits.com. Angele, how are you?
Angele Giuliano 0:10
Hello Tony. I'm very well thank you and, and, you know, I'm really happy to be here with you and with your audience.
Tony Radford 0:16
Okay, well I'm sat in rainy England. How's the weather there in Malta?
Angele Giuliano 0:21
It's really really hot. It's about 35. And of course, sunny and windy. Being a small island Malta, we always get all the winds from all over the place. So at least there's a breeze, but it's still very hot.
Tony Radford 0:34
Excellent. Okay, thank you. Well, I am view the sun because I love the sun these days. Until can you tell us about across limits?
Angele Giuliano 0:42
Sure. So Across limits. We started it in 2001. So actually, on the 12th of June this year, it had its birthday. It's 19 years old. So it's quite a mature company. By no means a startup. And I think like all companies and it went through various iterations, pivoting realignments and whatever. But something which remained at our core is actually doing innovation in the areas of health and education. Now, of course, these are not areas where, you know, aren't easy to sell.
And therefore, you know, from the very beginning we had to be innovative and find ways of how to fund all the crazy ideas that we wanted to do all the different types of software. And one of the best ways we found was actually using international grants and European grants in order to fund the prototyping of some of the software which then some of them make it made it to market and some of them of course, you know, maybe wasn't good enough, remain that proof of concept. And through that experience, we learned a lot about how to move around in Europe. And you know, being in Malta people tend to remember you and you go to Brussels or to other countries, you know, you know, the Maltese company, we were quite quite unique back then.
And basically, we learned ourselves how to move around in Europe, not just when it comes to funding, but also when it comes to like the networking, the tendering the different business opportunities. And therefore, by the time we develop, like a consultancy branch of the company, where we actually help other people to access the European opportunities and see it as a much bigger picture, because people have Unfortunately, this very, you know, small opinion of the opportunities out there. And in fact, I can say from my experience that even for a small company from Malta, it's helped us to launch us in the international markets. And nowadays, in fact, we are 90% export, so we do only 10% percent of our work in Malta, we still live here. So I have about 10 employees here, and 16 of them then as contract workers abroad. And we also have a set of experts where we scale up and down according to the tenders and the projects that we have. But we're still very much tied to this area of innovation in it in education or health.
Tony Radford 3:23
What would be one of your biggest challenges as a business?
Angele Giuliano 3:28
Well, I think because most of the projects we do our long term, one of the our like Achilles heel was always cash flow. Because you know profitability is great, but if you don't have the cash to make it till the end of the year, you're dead in the water. I think that was always the real challenge for us. So we've had to sometimes survive with overdrafts with the bank and then you know, interest rates and whatever. I think that was always really our biggest problems because our projects tend to be two to three years. Sometimes there are reimbursements. So even if there are tenders, so you are making profits. But still there are milestones and unless you reach the milestone, you do not get paid from the client. And therefore you have to advance a lot of things yourself. So you can imagine that was, I still is, in a way, our biggest challenge, just cash flow.
Tony Radford 4:23
So presumably you've become an expert in juggling budgets have you and cashflow over the years?
Angele Giuliano 4:29
We have and the way we we found it is you need to have two sources of revenue one, which is long term, and one which is a little bit short term. So in fact, for the short term, what we did was we've opened also training and nowadays we also do also because of COVID. Even more online training on the topics which which we understand best, like again, innovation, robotics, IoT, and that gives us like little help of money coming in, which is not big. It's not like the tenders where you gather 100K or 200K tenders. But it helps the cash flow until you wait for the big amounts to hit your bank account.
Tony Radford 5:16
Okay, that's really interesting. Thank you. So thinking about being in business and you said you recently were 19 years old. Looking back, what is one thing you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Angele Giuliano 5:28
Well, for sure how difficult it would be to have business partners. I think that is something that I think everybody eventually learns with their own experiences good and bad. So originally, we started this for partners. Then I bought out two and finally I bought out the last one. So now I'm the 100% owner, which is tougher in many ways, but simpler in many others. So you know, I don't have to convince three other people when I want to do something good or bad, because you know, I'm not perfect, of course I make mistakes. And that is sort of, you know, maybe somewhat hindsight, 2020. So, although in the beginning, I understand that, you know, 19 years ago, I was much younger, of course, they didn't have the confidence, in fact, to have the original business partners were like, more experienced entrepreneurs. And I think I needed that to start so maybe on my own, I wouldn't have started so so you know, it's not good and bad, but definitely had someone told me no, this is gonna be tough on this point.
Tony Radford 6:41
And were your partners Maltese or were they from other countries?
Angele Giuliano 6:45
Now there are three guys so you know, even that's not that I can't keep my own with three guys. But definitely the Mediterranean dynamics go into it. You can imagine that you know, sometimes things everything's fine and sometimes like, everybody's like, you know, stressing.
Tony Radford 7:11
Great. So, you know, what's the next step for your business?
Angele Giuliano 7:15
Well, at the moment, we have been steadily trying to grow the value of the business. So basically 19 years, we're a mature company, I do not want to work until I am 75. So, I am going to at that point in time go for an exit. And the idea we are thinking of doing that is eventually by either merging with a larger consultancy, that is maybe missing this angle of the EU or innovation or as being outright acquired, because I mean, we have a good name with the EU people know us and the circles they trust us. So we are like a boutique consultancy and therefore, at the moment, this is what I'm doing I am actually also getting help from mentors and from from other experienced people who have done M&A, mergers and acquisitions before. I'm always learning something. And you know, that is kind of what's next for the company growing but sustainable towards merging or being acquired.
Tony Radford 8:22
I wish you good luck with all of that. Next question. If somebody gave you 500 pounds to spend on marketing, how would you spend it?
Angele Giuliano 8:32
Well, like I told you, at the moment, we're pushing our online training, I would invest it in really pushing one of our courses. You know, at the moment, people are more at home, hopefully they have a little bit more time on their hands. Maybe they're thinking of changing also their job. And because we actually have the have the status as an EU recognized Training Center, our certificate credits are actually sort of valid, like a further and higher educational establishment. So they are a, you know, you understand when I say ECGs, the European credit transfer system. So like, like when you go to university and you take credits, they are worth a certain number of credits. So our courses can be used for that for professional development. And therefore, I think I would just pick one of them and, you know, try to push one of those courses.
Tony Radford 9:30
You mentioned before, you had partners and they were sort of more experienced than you were when you first started out. I mean, do you have a business mentor or something like that?
Angele Giuliano 9:41
I've always had mentors at different stages of my growth and development. But again, sometimes it's like having a personal relationship. So you need to find a mentor which can understand you and which you can have a conversation. Definitely now I am alone in this sense, and not alone in business, but alone as a shareholder. I need a mentor sometimes just to bounce ideas off and to tell them you know, I'm thinking of doing this, if this makes sense, and especially now with my sort of vision of growing, making the company, you know, bigger, more sexy, but a value. I need someone who's been through that already. And therefore, this is at the moment, the type of mentor that I have. So yeah, no, I totally believe in mentors. And today, you know, I try to pay it forward. I also mentor the next generation, especially of women, entrepreneurs, so I'm very much involved in female entrepreneurship here in Malta and in Europe. And I try to give my time when I can to help other ladies you know, start up a business.
Tony Radford 10:50
Okay, that's really really good. Well done. Um, final question. Can you give us one actionable sales tip?
Angele Giuliano 10:57
I think smile because You know, whether we are on the phone, whether we are like this some video, and especially if you are in person, when you smile, people are more kind of automatically open to listen to you. And therefore there's maybe more chance of you selling them something. Whereas, you know, if you're a grumpy, you know, ugly, whatever, salesperson, I don't think that that's gonna work so well.
Tony Radford 11:26
That's a unique suggestion, by the way. I don't think anybody has said it. So, Angele it's been a real pleasure having you on the show. Thank you very much. Now, if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?
Angele Giuliano 11:42
When they can send me an email. It's firstname.lastname@example.org. Or else find me on LinkedIn. Thankfully, there's no one else with my name. So you can find me there and just connect and we can have a chat and maybe there's a Win Win relationship in the making.
Tony Radford 12:02
Okay, thank you very much.
Angele Giuliano 12:05
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