After venturing more than 30 times from the U.S. to China, Eric Moraczewski is no amateur at doing business abroad.
Establishing a resourceful network across borders, the 34-year-old CEO founded FDI Strategies LLC in November 2013 — getting mid-tier firms plugged into foreign markets, assisting foreign clients in establishing a U.S. presence and helping domestic clients with finance and management projects to grow their business.
The Ohio native holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing and finance from Saint Louis University and is set to graduate from the Executive MBA Program for Washington University in St. Louis later this year.
Moraczewski, selected as one of ColoradoBiz Magazine’s Top 25 Most Influential Young Professionals in 2015, told the Business Journal this week he is excited about expanding his clientele in Colorado Springs.
Why did you start your own business? Why in Colorado Springs?
In my previous role, I was the chief financial officer for Gallagher & Associates, a museum design firm that is designing the United States Olympic Museum. I had set up our operations in Singapore and Shanghai, China, traveling back and forth, and my wife, who is from Colorado Springs, said she wanted to move here to be closer to family. Through my in-laws, I met a group of people who had a vision of bringing foreign companies into this community. Since I had established a network in China, we decided to take off from there.
We noticed in China, there wasn’t really anyone to help the middle-market firm. If you had a large, multi-billion-dollar company, then sure, you’d have companies lining up at your door to help you grow. But if you were a company doing $100, $200 million in revenue, most likely you’d never gone outside your country’s borders and there weren’t people lining up for your business.
How has your business grown since?
With the business being a little over 2 years old, our current goals are to add about 15 new clients this year and double the number of our employees. We currently have one in China and five in Colorado Springs.
We also want to have a big impact on the Colorado Springs community by taking on a new strategy, focusing on helping Colorado Springs companies develop and grow strategies for their businesses. The other piece of that is bringing foreign companies into the market here. I see growth meaning two things: You can help the businesses already here and bring in new ones. We’ve figured out ways to fill both.
What have been some challenges in your role, leading a business?
The biggest challenge I’ve run into is there not being a lot of interest in this community to do business in China or internationally. I think people — especially during the last few years — have been in survival mode. There is just now that transition into growth mode, so my hope is that we’re timed well to partner with those companies. However, there will still be a lot of people who see opportunity in the U.S. and want to tackle that first.
Most of the work we do is for people who aren’t in our own backyard — it’d be nice not to have to get on a plane just to meet a client. It’s tough, especially having two young kids, so we’ve started to focus more on what we think the community might want and that’s why we’ve started planning a strategy that doesn’t necessarily have to do with international growth. It’s more focused on helping companies develop their own strategies to move forward.
How would you describe the business climate here?
I would say it’s getting better. There are certain things that are still kind of in a stalled pattern but I really liked what Phil Lane [a local businessman, actively involved in Colorado Springs civic efforts] said at an event a few weeks ago: “For the first time in 20 years, I feel like Colorado Springs is open for business.” People are looking for how they are going to grow their business, not how it’s going to survive. If you can transition out of survival mode, that tends to mean you’re doing some things right and part of that ‘something right’ is the Colorado Springs community right now.
How can Colorado Springs retain more young professionals?
I think the No. 1 thing is creating the right jobs here. If we build them, young professionals will come. I think there are people in Colorado Springs doing some really good things in the community to make that happen. Also, salaries are a big deal. I still see people in Colorado Springs paying very much below the average salary because they can. But if you want to start attracting people from the outside, you’re going to have to rise to meet a standard wage from the outside. If you want to have that higher growth potential, you might have to pay extra for it.
What is your key advice to young professionals in the community?
Become a better part of the community. Don’t silo yourself in and try to make it on your own. There are a lot of very experienced and intelligent people in this community, and I always try to make it a goal to surround myself with people smarter than I am. There is always someone out there who has experienced what you’re going through, so why not try to learn from them and use their experience to your advantage?
What is a good first step to getting more involved?
Accountants and law firms are a great source. They tend to know everyone in the community and know who knows what. An accountant doesn’t tend to just fill in your tax forms at the end of the year — they get to know you as a business. If you’re telling them what your needs are in one area, they’ll be able to tell you who can fill those needs. There are some great law and accounting firms in Colorado Springs with great people who work at them.
Do you have any other advice?
My dad instilled this in me when I was young: There are two things that lead to success, one being intelligence and two being hard work. You can only control one of those.
You’re born as smart as you are but you can always work harder. If you really want to start your own business, hard work tends to be the No. 1 way to lead to success.