Sunday, May 22, 2005

How we can Help

Logo Posted by Hello

What we Do

Koh Walter & Company is a consulting firm that specializes in helping individuals and companies create successful businesses within Argentina. Our experience in creating successful corporations within the bureaucratic maze in Argentina has proven to be invaluable to our clients. We assist our clients to optimize performance by setting things up properly from the very beginning.

Our company was first created to help American and UK expatriates relocating to Argentina to develop, build up, and operate strong businesses that will enable them to compete in the market here. Because of our strong local contacts and business experience, we are now being hired by locals as well as others that live in South America to help them structure and market their businesses.

We help individuals and corporations make important decisions on strategy, operations, marketing and organization operating their business here in Argentina.

We help find solutions that others miss. We will work with you to discuss your business plan. We start by defining the right questions. We have developed several successful businesses here in Argentina. We are open-minded, innovative and have a vision that others do not. That’s why we find solutions that others miss.

Our company provides practical advice related to complex business issues arising from competition, regulation, public policy, strategy, and marketing. Because of our commitment to deliver unbiased consulting, we are recognized for our advice. Our clients come to us expecting integrity; they understand this sometimes calls for their willingness to listen to unexpected or even unwelcome news. Not all business plans are good and we are not afraid to give our unbiased advice.

How we Work

We pride ourselves on a boutique heritage and philosophy. We believe that we offer the best business minds and capabilities, coupled with relentless commitment to our clients. As a boutique firm, we seek to form close, life-long partnerships with clients, demonstrated by our willingness and dedication of Partners to every engagement. These central tenets of commitment, performance, and shared risk have guided our firm’s growth. We have ensured the highest recruitment standards for our people, preserved a distinctive, independent and entrepreneurial culture, and, above all, consistently set the highest standards for our client work.

Our Boutique Philosophy

Size: Controlled growth and independence, maintaining a small, personable, and entrepreneurial culture.

Selectiveness: Careful choice of our people and our clients, aspiring to form life-long partnerships with each.

Focus: Close partnerships with a limited number of clients in “exclusive” relationships. We don't want to work with everyone.

Uniqueness: Experienced business minds focused on increasing client market value through a rigorous fact-based but entrepreneurial-minded approach in the context of a culture that genuinely care about its people.

Service: Relentless commitment to serving clients' interests with experience and dedication.

Key Personnel

Koh Walter & Company’s boutique approach to client service allows us to take a highly active role in client work. The firm was started with a shared vision of allowing every advisor to develop a deep personal investment in the work. Each of our Partners and associates believes in making that kind of commitment every day, with every client relationship.

Michael Koh -

Mr. Koh is the managing partner and founder of Koh Walter & Company SRL. He is also the owner and founder of, which is the most respected real estate property management and consulting firm in Argentina, as well as Koh Inversiones S.A. (Koh Investments), which is a private venture capital and investment firm that specializes in investments within Argentina. Mr. Koh has often been called a visionary by locals and foreigners alike for his foresight on the real estate market and his investment activities within Argentina.

Prior to moving to Argentina, he spent the past decade as a senior level marketing executive in the United States. His clients included the US Federal Reserve Bank, Ericsson, Boeing, EDS, Nokia, Perot Systems, AT&T, William M. Mercer, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Thompson & Knight LLP, Price WaterhouseCoopers, Vinson & Elkins, Hunt Oil, Accenture, Hicks Muse Tate & Furst, Bombay Company, Bank of America and over 500 corporations.

Luciano Walter -

Mr. Walter, a partner, is director of local business strategy and development. He has helped implement marketing and built up important relationships with key personnel within Argentina. Mr. Walter is a Senior Director of Apartmentsba SRL and Koh Inversiones SRL.

Contact Us

For more information on how we can help you and your business succeed in Argentina, please contact us at:

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Importance of Relationships with Trustworthy Local Contacts

Another key to the success of starting your business will be creating relationships with locals whom you can trust. That is more difficult that you would think. A good attitude to have in Argentina is trust NO ONE until they prove they can be trusted. There are only a handful of people I trust here in Argentina. Still, it is impossible to create a business with out the help and assistance of local contacts. It is simply impossible to start a business in Argentina without good advisors, accountants, lawyers, banks or financial firms and local business owners.

As previously mentioned in the "Business Environment in Argentina" section, it's a jungle here and you will fail if you don't take the time to set up relationships with good local contacts.

There are various ways to structure your corporation but most corporations require that you have at least another partner. You can't form a corporation with just one person so naming only yourself is not an option. There are ways to form a company with just one person but they are not the best option because there are limits to the amount of money the company can earn in each calendar year. It won't make sense for most entrepreneurs starting a company here.

One common corporation here in Argentina is the equivalent of our LLC (limited liability corporation) in the United States. It is called a SRL here. It stands for Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada. You must have at least one other partner in your corporation so it is essential that you have someone that you can trust 100% because at least on paper that person will own 10% of your company.

There are ways to limit your liability and our company can assist you in setting up your structure properly.

Power of Technology

Power of Technology Posted by Hello

The power of the internet and technology should be utilized to the fullest extent. It is wise while putting together your business plan to set up everything you will need to stay connected in Argentina. Just because you are leaving the United States does not mean you will not need to stay connected to the United States. Odds are you will have clients, business associates, advisors, and friends in the USA that you will need to operate efficiently in Argentina.

Perhaps one of the most important technological advances for the expat moving to Argentina is the VOIP (voice over IP) phone service. It is amazing technology that allows you to make/receive unlimited calls to/from the USA for a flat $25 per month fee. You can go to Vonage to sign up for the service. Email us before you sign up if you would like to receive one month free. After you sign up, you will receive a small box that you simply plug into a high-speed Internet connection here in Argentina (or anywhere in the world).

As long as you have a high-speed connection you can plug in your IP phone and you can make and receive calls unlimitedly to the USA and Canada. Service is quite good as long as you have a good connection. You can sign up with the area code of your choice so you can get a number from any USA city. You can also sign up to receive a toll-free number (for an added fee) if you have many clients in the USA.

Email is powerful but there will probably always be a need for faxes. eFax is an amazing service that allows you to set up a USA fax number in the area code of your choice. Faxes received at this number are automatically sent to you via email to you in Argentina, or wherever you are traveling. You select an email address you want the fax delivered to. You can receive faxes from anywhere in the world you are traveling to.

Not only can you receive faxes via email but you can also send faxes via email or online via their website with your efax number and PIN number. Efax will convert your document to a fax and they will email you a confirmation so you know the fax was sent. It is amazing technology that should be utilized. Service is very affordable at $13 per month.

Paperless PO

Paperless PO Box is a great service that allows you to have a USA address even though you are living in Argentina. This company gives you a PO Box address in the USA. All of your mail is scanned by a computer and then they email you a copy of what they scan. Keep in mind that if you need a physical copy of the mail or it is an important document, you may want to have that mail sent to a family member or friend in the States. The US Postal service will forward all mail to you to Argentina free for a one year period although the mail service here in Argentina is not too reliable.

This service is wonderful for most documents that you don't need the original document. In this day and age of the internet, there are very few documents where you need the original copy. All the scanning of the physical mail is all automated by machines so there is never an actual person reading your mail. If you do need a particular document, their company can overnight you the document. The original mail is preserved for 90 days and then automatically destroyed if you do not request it. It is affordable at $30 per month.

PayTrust enables you to send payments to anyone in the USA. Even though you are living thousands of miles away in Argentina, odds are you will still have bills in the United States. Taxes, professional services fees to attorneys/accountants/advisors, credit cards, etc. are a part of most expat's lives no matter where they are living. We all have bills in the USA and this company allows you to pay these bills with no hassles effortlessly.

You get a user name and password and log in to your account. You can see your account balance from your bank and send payments to anyone in the USA. This is far different than online bill paying with your bank. You actually get a PO Box address that you can send your bills to. All bills are scanned and you can see these bills online. Paytrust allows you to even pay property taxes online which is not possible with traditional online banking. The cost is reasonable at $13 per month.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Keeping your Cash Offshore

Offshore deposit accounts should form the foundation for any expat. Offshore accounts are not used to beat bond or equity markets - they won't. Offshore accounts are used because they offer both safety and liquidity.

Before moving to Argentina, you will be well aware that you will not want to deposit any significant amount of money into the local banking system. The locals have been swindled out of their savings by their own government. While it will be necessary to open local u$s dollar and Peso accounts, it will be for convenience purposes only-- for things such as paying bills with online banking.

With the tremendous power of the internet, gone are the days of using a traditional bank with high fees. Unfortunately, due to historically low interest rates, deposit accounts -normal or offshore- are paying out very low interest rates. Still, with all the advantages it is a must for an expat doing business in Argentina. Deposit accounts are both safe and secure. Offshore deposit accounts should form the basis of your financial life.

Set up an account with plenty of time before you move to Argentina. Allow time for any checks, ATM debit cards, credit cards, PIN numbers, etc. to arrive at your USA address before you move. Making sure you have these accounts should be your priority and the one thing you concentrate on doing before you move.

It is not necessary to worry about setting up long-term investments in the first 6-8 months of moving abroad. You might decide that Argentina is not for you or you simply can't work in this type of business environment and move back to your home country. This initial 6-8 month time frame gives you time to see how things are going. Put any spare cash into your deposit account during this time.

For Americans, a good option is BankDirect , NetBank and EverBank. They all have been around for years and are FDIC insured. They all offer online banking and allow you to withdraw money with no hassles in Argentina at any ATM machine. Bankdirect and Netbank allow you to withdraw up to u$s 500 equivalent per day. (1,420 pesos at the time of this post).

It really does not matter which bank you decide to use. The important thing is to keep your cash offshore out of Argentina.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Importance of a Solid Business Plan and Business Model

Perhaps the most important factor in the success of a company in any country, but especially Argentina is coming up with a solid business plan. Everyone has great ideas but how many people follow through with those ideas? Not many. In a country like Argentina, it takes much more than a great idea to make it. You must formulate a business plan and keep working on it until it is perfect. Even after it is perfect, pitch your business plan and business model to all your business associates, lawyers, family and friends. Talk to your acquintances that may work for financial institutions as well. Present your business plan to every single one of them until every single one of them tells you that you have a good idea that they deem to be viable. If even one of them points out flaws in your plan, keep changing it until it is perfect.

The moment of truth. Once you perfect your business model and everyone tells you how great of an idea it is, ask them if they would want to become an investor in the company you were forming. If it is such a great idea and you thought your business plan was solid and you pitched it correctly, you should have people interested in what you are trying to put together. If you just get a few people that say they would invest you have accomplished something. Once you make it through all those steps, don't move forward unless you are well funded.

Put some serious time and money into researching your business plan. In my quest to do business in Argentina, I came down to Argentina about 17 times over the course of 2.5 years. Each trip I would make a few contacts. More than anything, I wanted to learn how things operated here. It is imposible to understand just how rotten the system is until you are working here on a daily basis. It is not just one segment of the work industy. It is rampant problems throughout the system.

There is no such thing as "easy money" here in Argentina. I am routinely working 12-14 hours a day and making a fraction of what I made in the USA. Still, I see progress on a daily basis and I know I am creating a valuable entity. Although I tested the waters back in 2002, I didn't move down to Argentina permanently until August 2004. Because of the hard work and dedication over the course of 2+ years putting together a solid business plan, after only 9 months I am already getting unsolicited offers from individuals and corporations from outside Argentina to purchase my company and several of my owned properties.

Don't get discouraged by others that tell you that you are foolish to want to try to start a business in South America. Everyone told me that it was a mistake to quit a lucrative career in the USA and move here. Now, after only a few months, those same people are telling me that they are envious and wish they had the courage to follow their dreams as I did. Anything is possible but remember that it takes a solid business plan, dedication and a lot of hard work, and enough capital to get started and operate for the first few years.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Business Environment in Argentina

9th de Julio Posted by Hello

I am an American and I moved to Argentina last year. I came down over the course of 3 years 15+ times before I moved here permanently. I find the Porteños very educated and friendly. However, it is a totally different world being in a city like Buenos Aires as a tourist and another living here and operating as a business.

Before moving down to Argentina, I read that Transparency International, which is a well respected organization listed Argentina as one of the most corrupt countries in the world to do business in. I thought to myself there had to be a mistake. Why would they write this about a country I loved so much. How could Argentina be grouped with countries like Libya, Ethiopia, Kenya, Angola and the Congo??

Let me tell you something. After living down here and doing business with these locals I can tell you that I'm surprised Argentina isn't ranked further down the list. It is sad to say but the way many businesses here do business is almost criminal. The truly shocking thing is most businesses have done business like this for so long --this is all normal to them. They don't know another way to do business. The Porteños always try to compare themselves to their European descendents but from a business perspective they have more in common with African nations like the Congo, Angola and Ethiopia.

There is no sense of ethics or loyalty for the most part. There are exceptions to the rule but many locals try to extract as much as they can out of the first/only transaction. They try to make as much as they can in the beginning and they don't worry about a longer term mutually beneficial relationship in the future down the road. This is perhaps the biggest challenge I have doing business here.

The reality is that the vast majority of companies here in Argentina would be bankrupt or go out of business in as little as 2-3 months in the USA or the UK. In the United States companies that operate like this quickly go under and are replaced by companies that are organized, ethical and offer good customer service and strong relationships with clients that last for years. That is very rare here. Many companies here think they are doing you a favor by spending money with them or giving them your business. They are so short sighted here. It's truly unbelievable.

Many savoy and intelligent businessmen and women have emigrated to the United States and Europe because they could not do business in their own country. Not only do they not trust the government but they don't trust one another. Family fortunes have been made but then lost due to rapidly changing laws, market conditions or outright theft. It is scary to think about but it is not like the United States. There are not stories after stories of how people made fortunes. There are far more tales of how people lost their shirts. One successful Porteño, named Roberto, who owns and administers emigrated to the US emailed me the following, "Argentina, for the most part, is the closest thing to the wild west anywhere, aside from some African countries. And chances are it will forever remain like
this, in between short periods of calmness." I couldn't agree with his statement more.

Many locals are blind to this type of behavior and they believe this is how business is done all over the world. The Porteños that have studied or worked abroad in the USA, UK, Asia or other parts of the world recognize this defect of their own country. My doctors, attorneys, accountants and friends all studied or worked abroad so they understand how difficult it is in their country. Many meetings I go to on a daily basis the locals apologize ahead of time for the system here in Argentina.

However, this kind of behavior is exactly what has caused my company to grow so quickly. Americans and Europeans don't like doing business in this fashion. Individuals and investors that are flocking to Argentina do not trust the locals (for good reason) so they have hired me and my company as a consultant to assist them. It takes more than a good idea to evolve and create a viable business here in Argentina. It takes capital but it takes a good knowledge of the kind of business environment that is in place here. Many foreigners pack up and go home very quickly because they are not accustomed to working like this. They were not educated on how slow the system is here and how much red tape there is. They have never before operated in an environment where there is no loyalty, ethics or professionalism.

Those with a solid business background that have operated in the USA/UK/Europe/Asia, that have a good education and understand business and long term relationships, and are well funded are going to become dominent leaders in their respective fields here in Argentina. The key is having a realistic expection before you come of what the business environment is like. There are many opportunities in Argentina for a foreigner with a good head on their shoulders and a good business plan. There is no hope of coming to Argentina and getting ahead by being an employee. You MUST start your own business here to thrive.

While I am fully aware that it is impossible to change the system on a massive scale, my goal is to create businesses and help others create businesses that will fundamentally help change the business community in Argentina. Since the dawn of time -- no matter how much corruption there was in a society, companies with a solid business model that operated efficiently and properly and were well funded, not only excelled but they caused other companies to rise to the occassion.

How I ended up in Argentina

Here is my story:

I was a corporate executive (Partner) in a successful company in the USA. I made the big bucks, lived in the huge house, drove the BMW, etc. One day I asked myself, "what would I honestly do if a doctor told me that I only had 3 years to live"? I mean what would I seriously do. How would I change my life? The answer was I'd travel and see the world. I made a list out of all the places in the world I always wanted to visit but never did because I was too busy working. I made a list of cities/countries all over the world. I followed through on my plan. I acted like I only had 3 years to live. Of course I still had to work so this "what if" scenario did have some limits. Basically I told my Partners that I wanted a ton of vacation time or I would quit. Luckily I was a rain maker so they gave in and I got the vacation. This all started at the end of 2001.

Argentina was the first place on my list. I fell in love with Buenos Aires. I bought an airline ticket on so I couldn't extend the trip. I was down here for 10 days initially. Hotwire doesn't allow you to change the ticket at all. I was having such a great time that I ended up buying a round-trip ticket (from Argentina back to the USA) to extend and stay a few more days. It was expensive at around $800 but it was worth it. After all, if I only had 3 years to live... what's another $800??

There was something about Buenos Aires that I really loved. I couldn't describe it to friends in just words. I loved a lot of different things about the city. The fashion, the sense of style, the architecture, the food, the beautiful women, the beautiful women (oops, did I say that twice)? The city is extremely safe contrary to the warnings I got before the trip.I felt like coming back to the USA, quitting my job, selling my house and cars and moving to Argentina. The only problem was that I wasn't anywhere near retirement and I couldn't speak Spanish. Two big obstacles if you want to move to a foreign country.

I gave up the dream but I kept traveling around the world. I would travel to Switzerland come home to work for a few weeks. Travel to Peru. Come back and work a few weeks. Travel to Cuba and follow the pattern for almost 3 years. I hit almost every country in South America. Traveled around Cuba, Mexico and much of Europe. Still, Buenos Aires was always in my heart. I came to Buenos Aires almost every month. I was staying in expensive hotels. I was spending a fortune.

I started to try apartment rentals and I had a horrible experience or got cheated almost every time. One time I sat in this old chair and it fell apart. I hit my head on the wall. The company had the nerve to take u$s 200 of my deposit. I told them in any other country not only would I get my deposit back but they probably would have gotten sued! There wasn't much I could do. I noticed that the locals have no concept of repeat business. They try to extract as much as they can out of you with the first transaction and don't care if they ever see you again. It went against everything that I learned and followed in my professional business career. In the USA, we build up relationships and hope to have a mutually beneficial relationship with our clients for many, many years. Here in Argentina, they try to make the most they can one time.

I kept returning down to Argentina. Not wanting to stay in an expensive hotel everytime and not wanting to deal with the hassles of a short-term rental, I decided it was cheaper and easier to just lease an apartment for a few years. I went out and found a posh luxury apartment. The problem here is that you can't pay month to month for the most part without a "guarantor" that will basically put up their property in case you stop paying. Good luck finding that. I had to prepay a 2 year lease with cash. Plus security deposit. I'm talking like u$s 25,000 up front!!! Before signing the lease, I asked the owner if I could sublet the apartment when I wasn't there to use it. He was hesitant at first but finally let me once I told him that I wouldn't sign the contract without that clause. It was hard for him to say no with $25,000 in CASH sitting on the table. We wrote in that clause in the contract. I never thought about making money or a business out of it. I just wanted to cover my expenses of the u$s 1,000 per month. I figured I could rent it out to friends that came down.

Leasing that one apartment would be a decision that changed my life forever. I started a website – was amazed with what I found out. People were really looking for a luxury apartment that was larger than a hotel room and more comfortable with more privacy. I not only was covering my monthly rent but I was making money. I was amazed at what I discovered. I furnished it nicely, got a US style expensive mattress and it was in a luxurious building. I charged about $100 a night and it was still about $200+/night cheaper than the Four Seasons or the Alvear Palace. I quickly went out and subletted 3 more apartments. All in a nice section of Recoleta. My apartments stayed full year-round and I built up a reputation of nice apartments, honest service and not ripping people off. I never seriously thought about moving down here. Still, I put together a business plan for a few years and told myself maybe someday years down the road, I’d quit my job and move to Argentina.

In my extensive travels around the world, I mostly stayed in 5 star hotels. After all, if a doctor told you that you have 3 years to live, wouldn't you want to stay in the best places? Not just because of that reason. Think about it. What is the reason people shell out up to $300+ per night for a room at the Four Seasons? Because it's a known entity. People know they can count on good quality service, a nice mattress, clean sheets, hot water, AC and a really good experience. When they are flying halfway across the world, they don't want to have to deal with a problem. That kind of peace of mind is worth something. I told myself in the back of my mind if I could create something like that I would have a real business. I knew my competition would not be cheap apartments for backpackers or budget travelers. I decided to go after the market that usually stays in the Alvear Palace or Four Seasons.

Basically, after about 47+ international trips in 3 years, and I don't want to mention how much of my savings I blew though traveling --my “doctor told me I have 3 years to live” scenario played out. 3 years had passed and I traveled the globe. Buenos Aires was still in my heart. Without really thinking about it, I quit my job where I was making big bucks, had 4 months of vacation a year (yeah….I know I know), sold my house, sold my cars and decided to move to Argentina. I knew that I had a solid business plan that could make money. I moved to Argentina and I started looking for property to purchase. I had already researched the laws here. I knew that I had a business model that would work. I built up a network and paid for surveys from foreigners that purchased here. A funny thing. Almost all of them made mistakes or were cheated, lied to or worse. I paid about $150 per survey and I did dozens and dozens. I was spending a few thousand dollars but I figured that it would be worth it if I didn’t get cheated.

I have been posting publicly on various message boards since 2002. So far, I have been dead on target on (1) tourism, (2) real estate and (3) the exchange rate. I continue to see real estate and especially apartments rentals to be a viable business. I see real estate rates here exploding in the next several years. There is more foreign interest. Also, keep in mind the locals can’t trust the banks so the one stable investment for them is real estate. All the wealthy people I know here in Argentina have one thing in common. They ALL own multiple properties and they all are renting them out.

Those that are thinking about investing in Argentina might do well to think about real estate. I believe that conventional type mortgages will come into the picture in the future. When that happens, real estate here will be like anywhere else in the world. Property rates will explode. Also, keep in mind once you establish rentals in your property, you are turning your real estate into a business. I have apartments that I charge about u$s 130/night and they stay booked about 25+ days a month and they are booked solid 3 or 4 months in advance. Why? I put about u$s 25,000 into EACH apartment in high end furniture, mattresses, bedding, high-speed Internet, USA phone lines, cell phones, lighting from Italy, etc. I use the same mattress that the Four Season's Presidential suite uses. I'm talking a 3,000 peso mattress($1,000+). Most local apartment owners are using their grandmother's mattress that was passed down from family member to family member.

The locals can’t and won’t do that. The majority of my clients aren’t looking for the cheapo apartment. The backpacker type isn’t my clientele. I figured out a long time ago that there are hundreds and hundreds of cheap apartments with furniture that has been passed down from family to family. However, there were no real luxury property rentals. I went after the people that usually stay in the Four Seasons or Alvear Palace, the Loi Suites Recoleta, etc.

Moving to Argentina was the best decision of my life. I’m working much much harder here. In the USA I never worked more than an 8 hour day. Here I routinely work 12-14 hours a day but I find it rewarding. The biggest challenge is that the business environment here is difficult. Many people/companies are totally unethical and you have to know and understand the laws or you will get taken advantage of.

Still, moving to Argentina was the best decision of my life and I never see myself moving back to the USA. The USA is one of the best countries in the world. I don't miss it though. I didn't move because I had to or I was going through some mid-life crises. I moved because I truly believe that you should be with the person you enjoy being with, you should visit the cities you've always dreamed of visiting and you should live in a city that you are passionate about. Most people lead very ordinary lives. They have an ordinary job, live in an ordinary house and do ordinary things. I found that if you want an extraordinary life you must do extraordinary things.

Moving to Argentina was one of those things and after moving here I knew I made the right decision. I certainly didn't move to Argentina for the money. If I wanted to make a lot of money I would have stayed in the USA. Still, I figured if I could be in the city that I love and have a successful business, I would fulfill my dream. It's hard work but very