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Aneta Vrabelova: "Forget your prejudices for a successful expansion to Germany."

Updated: May 1, 2023

Aneta grew up in the Czech Republic, studied in Munich, worked her way through the corporate world until she founded her own company AV-LEAD together with her partner. Over the past 3 years, she has opened the door to the DACH region for more than just Czech companies. What made her leave the security of a big company and start her own business? How did she get her first orders, how can you expand in Germany without a sales representative and what do she think are the biggest hurdles companies have to overcome if they want to be successful abroad? And why is it good to overcome your pride and take advice?

Aneta Vrabelova: Forget your prejudices for a successful expansion to Germany.
(c) Aneta Vrabelova

Business Animals: Aneta, what is your background, where did you study and get your first experience? What did you dream of and in which industry did you originally want to realize yourself?

Vrabelova: My background is relatively diverse. I grew up in the Czech Republic and have spent a lot of time in Bavaria since my school days, where I then moved to. I studied at the prestigious LMU in Munich. Since we didn't have compulsory attendance, I spent more time in companies than in lectures. I was lucky enough that FlixBus was looking for a suitable candidate to expand into the Czech Republic. And then, as a great car enthusiast, I joined BMW. At the time, I had no idea that this experience would lay the foundation for our future company and that I would always draw on it. Initially, I also wanted to make a career in the automotive industry, but the move to Vienna forced me to take a different path - and so I founded AV-LEAD Expansion Consulting with my Austrian partner Robin Auer.

How and when did you decide to start AV-LEAD? What motivated you and how was the path from a corporation to your own company?

Vrabelova: We have both always been very action-oriented and wanted to do something that was fulfilling and gave us a sense of purpose. The big breakthrough came during the first lockdown, when we suddenly learned to work remotely, use our time much more efficiently and start new activities - our first projects. I stayed at work for a while, but our free time was already well filled with our business activities. A few months later, it was clear that this would be our future path.

How did you get your first orders? Did you use contacts from the past? What helped you the most in the beginning or brought you further in business?

Vrabelova: The first jobs "found" us when we both worked in a company and didn't plan to work in this field. We were always open to new things, so we didn't turn them down. Because of my background, it was just constantly offered to us; after all, I had a similar agenda for the most part in the corporations. And it was those very assignments that opened the door to other projects for us. A big plus was certainly the contacts from the past, to whom I am grateful for their support and who gave me the courage to take the first step.

Your big advantage is that you have an office in Vienna. How does the cooperation between you and the customer work? What can you offer them? In which countries can customers expand with you and where do you get the most requests for expansion support?

Vrabelova: Yes, this is a great value added of our services. It's a big advantage for the customer because we work differently on their project as locals and people who live here. This is also the reason why we specialize in expansion into the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), where we are really at home and can take care of the whole expansion. The cooperation is always individual. We try to get to know the customer personally and see whether his company is in the right hands with us and whether we also fit with him on a human level. However, we also have clients whom we have never met, but are only in contact by phone and this also works very well. As part of our services, we mainly offer all-in solutions for expansion. Market analysis, strategic consulting, local marketing and advertising, contact mediation or operational tasks such as German-speaking customer service, translation, recruitment or sales agency are among the most frequently used services. We work directly from German-speaking countries, together with other local experts. This means that the client does not have to go through the hassle of searching for German-speaking staff, benefits from our local knowledge and, thanks to the scope of our services, does not have to work with multiple agencies. The requests come from different countries, but the Czech Republic has its place with us mainly because of my origin.

What kind of mistakes do you see most often when expanding? What prevents companies from expanding abroad?

Vrabelova: It often happens that a company wants to go to Germany, but is not willing to change much for it. Their main strategy is to translate the website, put some money into marketing and then somehow it will work. But with this "strategy" most companies just burn a big part of their budget, and then there is nothing to gain. Another mistake we often see is overestimating expansion forces and opportunities. Entering multiple markets at once without a well-thought-out plan usually doesn't pay off, with a few exceptions. But I must also emphasize that many companies are aware of these things and want to prepare carefully for expansion. And we can help them with that.

What should companies prepare for and what should they expect? What roles do the company's budget and sometimes pride of ownership play when expanding?

Vrabelova: Flexibility and a certain degree of openness are generally required for expansion. It must also be taken into account that the German market cannot be built up in just a few weeks.

The company budget also definitely plays a role, which is why it is important to plan early - this way you can save costs and invest in the proper marketing right from the start, for example. Established companies on the domestic market should also be prepared for the fact that no one knows them abroad yet and they still have to establish themselves. But with good preparation and our local know-how, this will definitely happen much faster.

How are you currently looking for contracts? Do you use data analysis or do you actively approach companies that want to expand?

Vrabelova: For us, it's a mixture of all possibilities. Some of it still comes to us through contacts, some customers we have approached ourselves and the rest come to us through various channels.

I hear from some companies that it is difficult to find a sales agent for the DACH region. What would you advise them and how can this service be outsourced?

Vrabelova: In some areas this is not easy, but there are several ways to increase your chances. We offer this service ourselves and act as a sales representative for several Czech companies in the DACH region. Some preparation is definitely important - the mindset is to provide quality marketing support and thus understand that this path is also a form of expansion and worth a certain initial investment. Again, there are big differences not only in mentality, but also in the readiness and organization of the documentation. The demand for sales representatives is high, and you need to show the potential agent that working with you makes sense. That is why we only include products in our portfolio that convince us and have potential. Finally, in most cases we are also paid only on a commission basis. If we earn money, the customer also earns money and benefits not only from our contacts and market knowledge, but also from our flexibility and capacity.

What are your plans for this year and what are you looking forward to? Can you tell us where you want to go with your business?

Vrabelova: We have set several goals for this year and are excited to tackle them. We will strengthen the team and plan to expand our language skills, but the focus remains on expansion into the DACH region. If you are also considering expansion, don't underestimate the preparation and let us advise you from the beginning. With our team, we will guide you through the entire process and save you from many unnecessary mistakes and costs. Germany and Austria will reward you richly for this.

The interview was published in Czech on April 26, 2023 on and translated into several languages as part of this blog article.


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