Lauren Cohen 0:02
Good afternoon, everybody. I am Lauren Cohen, your host of Investing Across Borders where we teach people to invest, live, work and play across borders. I’m also an international, legal. and real estate expert. I am here with my friend, colleague and amazing entrepreneur, Penny Zenker. I have known Penny for a couple of years, I met her through CEO space, we were both on faculty, and Penny is all about systems. Keeping things organized, getting you massive return on your investment in systems. And she’s been an amazing influence for me, and really just a very impact driven, very empathetic, amazing entrepreneur. Penny, say hi to our audience, and just give us a little bit of your bio.

Penny Zenker 0:50
Well hi everyone, I’m happy to be here. So a little bit about my bio is: internationally, I started my own company, when I was overseas living in Zurich, Switzerland, and I built it just myself to a multimillion dollar business. And I sold it to a public company in France, so got a lot of cultural experience.

Lauren Cohen 1:13
Definitely multicultural, cross borders. First company, sold to France from America, definitely qualifies you to be on this podcast on many levels.

Penny Zenker 1:25
Totally. And there’s a lot of good stories to talk about in that, and also while I was living overseas. I had a franchise for a kids play park, that was a Spanish concept, that we were franchising in Switzerland. So I’ve done that. And then, after doing all this business, I decided to get back into being an entrepreneur. And so I went into business coaching so that I had a little bit more flexibility in my schedule for my kids being born. And it turned out, a couple years later, I came to be a Tony Robbins business coach and worked with companies around the world. So, for five years, I worked with Business Breakthroughs, one of his companies. And that was an amazing experience, working with people in all different countries, around the world. And, then writing my own book. On the Amazon bestseller list, my book is: The Productivity Zone: Stop the Tug of War with Time. As you said, I’m about systems. But I want to make that clear, as I call myself the focus-ologists. That it’s not just physical systems, it’s also thinking systems. It’s all of those systems, in the structure that we can put in place, to be more, to think and act more strategically. So that’s really what I’m all about,

Lauren Cohen 2:48
What’s the name of your podcast, again?

Penny Zenker 2:50
My podcast is called Take Back Time.

Lauren Cohen 2:53
Take Back Time. And I was a guest on her podcast, and to be honest with you, this is often, especially during COVID, one of our biggest challenges. You know, especially for entrepreneurs, or service providers, that trade time for money. And it’s once you can get past that, trading time for money, you’re going to be able to take control of your time, and taking back your time is the one thing that you can never get back after you give it away. So taking that time, or saving time, or being more productive, or having more systems is critical. No matter where you are in the world. Now, let me ask you, have you found significant differences in running a business, or operating in Europe versus in the US?

Penny Zenker 3:38
So I’ll give you that wishy washy answer of yes and no.

Lauren Cohen 3:43
That’s a lawyer answer! You’re sure you’re not a lawyer?

Penny Zenker 3:46
Yes, I could be a lawyer. Actually, I was almost a lawyer, I wanted to be a lawyer and went through a co-op in college and then decided that’s not for me. But you know, it’s more alike than you think, in terms of the problems that businesses face. They are pretty much universal. I found that when I worked with companies around the world, that everybody has a challenge with time management, with cash flow, and with managing people, in hiring and getting the right people on board. But where the things differ is, how you manage the people. And so, there are some similarities and there are some differences. And understanding those, is key to success when you’re working across borders.

Lauren Cohen 4:35
100%. And I think that also you’ve dealt with multiple cultural differences. And in one of my ebooks about going global, the key to being successful across borders is understanding, and recognizing those cultural differences. Even companies as large as Target fail when they fail to take those cultural differences into consideration. The key example I use, is when Target went into Canada and failed. Because everybody thinks Canada and the US are the same. I can tell you, as a Canadian living in the US with dual citizenship, it’s not the same. Canadians and Americans, Canada and the US, are not the same. That’s why you need a green card or a visa, to live and work in the US. And, I think that you are just a perfect example. Because probably I mean, Switzerland, Spain, France, you know, everybody thinks, oh, they’re all part of the European Union. Well, yeah, but they’re still different countries. Like people in Switzerland, there’s French, Switzerland, there’s German Switzerland, you know. And then there’s the banking system, and how does that work? How does that impact other countries in Europe? And it’s just a lot of considerations that need to be taken into account. And as a franchise model with the PlayPark? Certainly, you’re going to appeal differently to the prospective franchisee? Because it’s not one size fits all, right?

Penny Zenker 6:12
Right. There’s a lot of interesting stories you know, in and around how culturally they’re different. So if I might give a couple of examples.

Lauren Cohen 6:19
Yes, I’d love that.

Lauren Cohen 6:20
So, in the kids play park, you know, in the United States, an open time would be from around 9am to 6pm, or maybe 9am to 9pm. So what I was shocked about is, well, they were closed over siesta time. They were closed, I was like, how do you close it these hours? How do you not open until one o’clock? There’s so much more business that you could do. And actually what I saw in that, and what we can learn cross borders from other strategies, is that actually, you train people when to come. So you might be open fewer hours, that means that those fewer hours will be able to pack more people in because if you’re doing the right marketing, you can train people when to come. And I thought, that’s really interesting, because that’s a way to maximize your return on investment and, you know, the costs that you have associated with being open, that the staff costs and everything.

Lauren Cohen 7:22
Sure, and then that brings us back to trading time for money. And the expectation you create in your clients, you establish, and you set boundaries. LikeI’m available during business hours, if you’re texting me at 10, at night, you’re not going to hear back from me. And I’m often very guilty of this. But the reality is, it’s the same thing, you’re training the kids, you’re training the parents, to come to the park, at certain hours, you’re training your clients, this is when I’m available, find your question. And if you don’t have it, it’s obviously not that urgent, wait till the next day.

Penny Zenker 8:03
Or write an email. Condition them to email it! Because you know, urgency is the gift and the curse of the entrepreneur. We have this sense of urgency where we want to deliver that high level of customer service and respond right away, because we think, Oh, you know, they need and expect to hear from us. But sometimes they just need to get something off their chest and it may be at any time. So you know, condition them, give them the channels for different times of when your open office hours, when they can contact you during these times. Otherwise, the best way to reach me is by email. And I even had one person that I was working with, and they got to a point where what they would do is they would take longer for somebody that tried to call them and leave them a voicemail message, they would purposely not get back to them as quickly as they would if they sent an email. In the right channels that they asked them to send it, just to prove a point and to train them, that I will get back to you quicker if it comes in this method. And they could see Oh, wow, it is much quicker in this way. So you know, there’s lots of ways to train people and how to set those boundaries so that they work.

Lauren Cohen 9:26
Again, it’s creating expectations, and it’s the boundaries are clear, the expectations are set, and then they’re accepted. The challenge is, for example, that play park, for us, if they were open from 9am till 9pm. And then suddenly they closed and they started opening at one, there’d be a lot of frustrated parents, because you said that the trajectory at 12 hour days and now you’ve shifted that. That’s the challenge of an entrepreneur is if you shift within the scope of providing service, and you’re, you know, you were trading time for money, and now you want to shift to I’m sorry, these are my hours, you have to retrain and reframe the whole process.

Penny Zenker 10:14
That is a challenge, you want to, as much as possible do that from the beginning. I think the other challenge, that I was alluding to, is our mindset. Our mindset makes us think that we have to accommodate all of those hours, right, our mindset is limited and feels like we are accommodating, accommodating everyone else versus this is the service we provide. And this is the context in which we provided and we, you know, in project management, they call it scope creep, right? When you define the project like this, and then all of a sudden it becomes like this, because you don’t have any boundaries or set any type of guideline. So I think we need to get out of the mindset of trading time for money, or it has to be like this, this is what’s expected of us and decide what is right. The right service that we want to provide, and how does that fit into the needs, and make that perfect combination by creating those, and managing those expectations.

Lauren Cohen 11:21
Yeah, and creating a balance as well. And I think that it’s also about providing a higher quality level of service, it’s quality versus quantity. You can have somebody that’s available 24/7, but if they don’t know what they’re doing, they may as well be available, zero. But you could be available for one hour, like you said, the office hour, let’s say or office hours, two hours a day, they come in there, ask their questions and get it answered, it doesn’t take you six hours to answer their question, you can get the answer because you know the information. That’s the key and the differential. And I think that if we can reframe what we deliver, then this is appropriate. Like Penny said, it’s pervasive, everybody everywhere has similar business issues. They may be different in how they manifest, they may be more in some places, maybe more passively aggressively defined or delivered. Because people want to hide behind the veil of professionalism, or maybe they’re being polite or whatever. And, you know, they used to call me the “stern Canadian”. Because I wore my heart on my sleeve. And I sometimes didn’t couch what I said, and like a lot of Americans tend to couch what they say, I would just kind of say it. And they’d be like, Whoa, like, Where’s that coming from? So you have to temper it a little bit, you know?

Penny Zenker 12:48
You know, it’s funny that you say that, and I was laughing when you said passive aggressive because many people in Switzerland are passive aggressive. They won’t say to your face what they actually think, but then they’ll write you a letter or something. Like, it’s something as simple as I was learning how to play the saxophone and, I was all excited, and I did it over lunchtime. So, you know, when I had seen my neighbors in the afternoon and said, Hi, and the next day, I had a letter in my mailbox highlighting the ordinance that you cannot make noise between 12 and 1. They could have just come over when I saw them, and said, Hey Penny, you know, this is when I rest and I’d really appreciate it if you could find another time to play. But the passive aggressive in the way that it was, it was written and highlighted. And it was just, you know, it’s a different culture. So you have to get used to understanding. They didn’t mean it in an attacking kind of way, right? So you have to get used to that. How can you work with people that have a different way of communicating? And it’s not easy. Another quick example, if I might share it. Because it’s funny. When I sold my IT company in Switzerland, I sold it to a French company. When I started to make these trips to Paris to meet with the executive team, they were very aggressive with me. They talked to me in such disrespect, at one point he was yelling at me. And that is certainly not anything that I have ever been used to. And I took it a little personally, I was like, Who who are you to talk to me like that? And then, the next interaction that I had with him, he was just all like nothing ever happened. And I was like, Wow, that is so different and I’ve understood that in passionate cultures. As you might have people that behave in that way and that’s their management style. You see that less, I think, in the United States than you do in those, you know, passionate countries. And I was shocked, but I still had to figure out how I was going to work with this person with that type of of style. And yet at the same time, hold MY boundaries.

Lauren Cohen 15:23
Right. Yeah, for sure. And it’s definitely a common theme, working mostly inbound into the US. People have to adjust the way that they do business. Because when they come from Israel, or France, or Morocco, or Spain, or those countries that you know, are very, very authentic, and we’re trying to learn to be authentic. Too much authenticity can hurt in certain cultures. So you have to, again, like you said, you have to know your audience, and it’s super, super important. Give us an example of one thing you did, that was a fo paux?

Penny Zenker 16:09
Well, I’m sure I had many phone calls. So one, is just when you’re growing your business, and thinking that, language is the only difference. So we were developing technology tools, and we were going into other countries, and we didn’t realize that like a Microsoft version, in Switzerland or in the US or in Finland are completely different, they are different, I guess, because of the language on the system, but even something as simple as that, right? You need to do your due diligence, as you start to work in different countries and in the context of what you’re working, and really understand, what are all the differences, what are the things that you need to know when you’re working with that country. So I didn’t anticipate that. And that created an exponential amount of work and challenges for us, because then the software wasn’t working. And we didn’t have that understanding of how to properly debug it and things like that. So I don’t mean to get too technical, but it’s really about the preparation that goes into that. I wasn’t aware of that makes a huge difference in working with other cultures.

Lauren Cohen 17:31
Yeah. And I think that these days, there’s a lot of people in those countries that act as kind of a concierge to help you adjust and adapt to the culture or prep. You have spent a fortune 500 company or you’re dealing with these cross border matters to work with people that are kind of on both sides, that can help you prepare, because preparation is going to be key. As Benjamin Franklin said, a failure to plan is a plan to fail. And it’s really true. It’s not just about business plans, it’s about having the right team in place and preparing. And of course, how long ago was this? 20 years ago? Things were different, we didn’t have the internet. Now I could talk to friends, no problem. And I learned how to talk with the person, I can speak French. But that’s not really even relevant. You just have to learn. I remember we had a French guy come on one of our calls about my real estate company, and the guy sat through the whole meeting. And at the end, he goes, nope, not interested. Boom. And he was so mad. And I’m like, Whoa. Just like that. That’s just the way they are. It’s nothing hidden. He was so rude, and yet, other times we’ll have completely opposite. So it really does depend on your audience and knowing how to address them and doing some research ahead of time to figure out the people and culture, because both of them are super important.

Penny Zenker 19:06
And so like you said, you can take back time by doing the right preparation. And working with experts who already know what’s going on in that space, they can help you to get from A to Z, you know, in half the time. And sure, why make your own mistakes when you can learn from other people’s mistakes. Why do it the hard way, when you can do it the easiest way. And it may cost a little bit more, upfront investment, but that investment is off multiple folds when it comes to doing it right. We all know what happens when we do something and we do it wrong. And then we have to do it over, and the cost and time of doing it over is much more costly.

Lauren Cohen 19:58
But people unfortunately, they have to hit that wall sometimes. Like I have a guy who came to me to invest in real estate, deep pockets, seemed like he was ready to go. I sent him a proposal about how to create the structure for cross border investing. It was $5,000, it wasn’t very much. But he said, I’m out, I’m not doing that. I’m gonna do it myself. I know what to do. Okay. You can plan your cross border tax stuff, and everything. Then, about three or four weeks later, he came to me, he goes, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Penny Zenker 20:39
Right. And in the last four weeks, in that time, then the question is also, what investments did he make in between, right? That were messed up. And that’s somebody who recognized pretty quickly, what I typically find is people who say, I’m going to do it myself. And they end up coming back, but much later.

Lauren Cohen 21:01
Oh, when they’ve spent hundreds of 1000s of dollars. Oh, for sure. I wish I had known you then. You know, listen, I had a woman on the show the other day, she tried to get her visa three times. She said, I wish I had known you then, I wish that everybody could know people like Penny and myself to help you save time. Because really, that’s really what it is. By paving a path to success, I’m helping you save time, and helping you save time, in turn puts money in your pocket. And that’s the critical thing to remember every step of the way. So Penny, how do people reach you?

Penny Zenker 21:49
So I have a website that they could go to: and that pretty much has links to all the things that I talk about. The different tools that I have. And they can reach me by email at

Lauren Cohen 22:11
Okay, cool. That’s awesome. And do you have any parting words you’d like to share about investing across borders and not trading time for money?

Penny Zenker 22:22
I think it would just come back to the point of DO IT. Because you open up so many opportunities to take away those borders and boundaries, and do it smart. And that means, you know, look for the experts in the space that you’re looking to develop in so that you can get ahead of the learning curve.

Lauren Cohen 22:44
That’s so very true. And these days, there really are no borders, there are borders, but still, you can do business anywhere on the internet, you still need to set up that right structure. And without that structure, you will end up banging your head against the wall and throwing away time that you can’t ever get back.

Penny Zenker 23:06
Right. You don’t want to structure something in a wrong way. I’m working with a company right now that is outside of the US looking to come into the US. And you know, they’re concerned about the whole tax and liability issues that could come in the US. And so you would structure your company completely different with that understanding. And you need to understand from the experts, what’s the best way to structure it to maximize.

Lauren Cohen 23:34
You know, I have tax experts that deal with people from literally all over the world. And you don’t want to give the tax guy that money. The $5000 you may spend today is going to save you $100,000 at the end of the year. And that’s super important to remember. So it’s like Penny said at the beginning, it may cost you a little more now. But it’s going to save you so much over the course of a year, two years, multiple years. So I thank you so much for your time today. I wish you to stay warm. I hope that you feel better. You had a little sled accident, please, please feel better soon. And I’ll be in touch with you and I look forward to posting this very, very soon. Thanks again. This is Lauren Cohen, real estate and legal expert at Investing Across Borders where we teach you how to invest, live, work and play across borders. Thank you again and stay safe. Bye, everybody.