WHY START A BUSINESS OVERSEAS?
Business is a big enough gamble without having to worry about overseas markets. But some of us like to live life on the edge, willing to risk anything for everything. Whether it's career or societal dissatisfaction, tax-free havens, receptive markets, sunnier climates, or greater opportunities and challenges, every year thousands of Brits pack-up and never look back. The exodus is rolling: big time.
Last year, it was reported that over 207,000 of us (that's one every three minutes) deserted the UK for foreign shores, which is quite a big number by any demographic measure. Now, we're nothere to discuss the sociological detractions of the UK, but the fact is, transplanting an idea or existing company abroad is no longer the preserve of experienced entrepreneurs and big businesses. People are not only seeing foreign markets as possible, but more practical.
Leaving for brighter prospects (namely to countries such as Australia, Canada,Dubai, Ireland, Cyprus, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, and the USA),Brits have been taking the corporate bull by the horns, setting upbusinesses in every corner of the world. Many of them are fed up withthe UK, relocating overseas to give their lives a complete make-over.Some see it as the perfect opportunity to set up a company that mightnot have worked here. Others just go to lower costs, escape bureaucracy, or even unleash an already successful business on anunsuspecting market.
Whatever the reason, two things are undeniable. Firstly, in the twenty-first century, anyone can start a business. Secondly, you can do it anywhere. Why restrict yourself to the UK whenthe world has truly become your oyster. It should be part of any contemporary entrepreneur's plan to not only consider the viability oftheir business, but also its viability in other countries.
HAVE YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES?
So you've got an idea, but have you got what it takes? There is significantly more to starting a business overseas than sustainability and marketability. There are some pretty philosophical questions that must be answered, and that's no exaggeration. It's time to analyse yourself as a person, because although an idea may be adaptable to a foreign country, you might not be.
Moving overseas to start a business will test you in ways you won't ever have been tested before. Your personality, strengths, weaknesses, skills, talents, values will all be exposed and scrutinised. It is an opportunity to challenge and reinvent, but also to flounder, even fail. But these are the risks entrepreneurs take every day; they are the gambling chips of business and emigration.
If you're new to the game, considering your business mindset is essential. Running your own business can certainly merit you with many exciting prospects, including control, flexibility, variety and challenge, but it's not for everyone. With that power comes great responsibility, and if you are not disciplined, then expect business to suffer. However, if you have a committed and insatiable appetite for work, then refining the steely entrepreneurial ethic shouldn't be too problematic.
But what is an entrepreneur? Is it a businessman? A rich businessman? Someone off Dragons' Den? Not necessarily. Anyone who works for themselves, essentially, is an entrepreneur, whether freelancer, consultant, self-employed, sole trader, or a bloke selling burgers from a van. If you are master of your own taxable income, then you qualify as an entrepreneur.
Think you could bear the burden? Certain you could transpose these skills to a foreign environment? Only you can decide. Here are a few aspects of the entrepreneurial role. You have to govern your own:
- Confidence and abilities
- Trust and confidence in others' abilities
- Marketing and promotion, including translation, cultural sensitivity, etc
- Business-building and expansion
And here are some questions essential to the overseas decision:
- Is entrepreneurialism what I want for myself?
- If so, do I have the passion to cut it?
- Do I understand my new environment, people and culture?
- Can I acclimatise with my new environment, people and culture?
- Am I politically and economically aware of the region?
- Can I cope with leaving the UK/family/friends behind?
- Do I know what my overseas market requires?
- Have I got a flawless business plan?
- Do I know how to make local contacts?
- If needed, am I prepared to put in the gruelling hours to see success?
- Have I got the self-motivation needed to survive?
- Do I see mistakes as a learning curve?
- Am I prepared for the good and the bad, the potentially unstable income, etc?
- Can I bear the emotional demands on top of the business demands
The answer to these questions should be a resounding 'yes'. If you are uncertain, ask yourself why. And if you want to talk to someone, why not speak to one of the Startup Overseas experts.
Also key to success is a passion for your product or service. It is no good trying to shoe-horn an idea into a market, especially if you have no insight or fervour for the niche you are trying to fill. Let the market come to you; if your product or service is right for the market, and you have used promotion and marketing shrewdly to your advantage, then you should see results.
HOW CAN STARTUP OVERSEAS HELP?
At Startup Overseas, we provide entrepreneurs with all the necessary information to set up a business abroad. Although we do not invest money or involve ourselves directly with the business, we're here to give you all the essential advice on the processes, fees and nature of business in foreign countries.
Navigate the website using the left-hand columns on each country page. There you will find a growing number of topics and resources designed to help you understand the setting up and emigration systems of your chosen location.
In Setting Up Your Business, you will find all the information on company formation and incorporation; visas and residency permits; legalities and laws; patents and intellectual property.
Running Your Business focuses on the everyday running and maintenance of your overseas venture, including information on languages and translators; offices and supplies; free trade agreements; and import and export.
Next is Finance which provides you with all the country-specific information about accounting; overseas and international banking; how to set up a bank account; foreign exchange and currency; insurance; pension transfers; corporate and income tax and VAT.
We then detail the process of Getting There, which imparts travel and airline information, including costs and operators.
Finally, we wouldn't leave you stranded, so enjoy our Living Overseas guide, relaying such things as day to day living, including costs, entertainment, social etiquette and shopping; car rental; communications, including internet, telephone and postal services; and healthcare.
On top of this, you can benefit from free, first-hand advice from our overseas experts. Included in the expert canon are some of the UK's most renowned entrepreneurs, like Rachel Elnaugh, Jonathan Jay and Chelsey Baker. Contact them if you are uncertain about the viability of your business, to discuss your aptitude for entrepreneurialism, or even for a bit of much-needed encouragement.
Take the time to read our case studies. They are first-hand accounts from entrepreneurs whose footsteps you are following. Hear their stories of starting a business and living overseas, learn from their experiences and mistakes, and get a sense of what it takes to get the most from your adopted country.
Browse our directory of useful overseas businesses that can help you directly with every facet of starting a business and emigration. From foreign exchange and insurance brokers to communication and healthcare providers, we've got relocation well covered.
Use the forums to meet and talk with other entrepreneurs making the big move overseas. Chat about your experiences and intentions, swap anecdotes and advice, and generally make relocation less stressful than it needs be.
And finally, check the business news section daily for country-specific stories from across the globe. If it's happening out there, you can read about it here. Up-to-the-minute news on business, property, visas, emigration, economies, policy, laws, and more.
Expanding to an overseas market is sometimes the next logical step for any thriving business. However, it’s not for everyone: just because a business is successful in its indigenous market doesn’t mean it will be elsewhere. There are many factors to consider.
Deciding whether or not you business actually needs a physical presence in a foreign country is probably the first thing to determine. Do actually need a shop, or could you export? Need you export, or could a good web-presence work as effectively? If you do need a physical presence, should it be a complete expansion, a subsidiary, or representative/branch office?
Most of these questions should be answerable through thorough research and a sound business plan. The wonder of the internet is the ability to find these answers at your fingertips, but you will never get a true sense of your market possibilities without visiting the country of intent and doing some basic ground work. It will not only give you an idea of the nature of business, but also an opportunity to analyse your prospects and potential customers.
THINGS TO CONSIDER...
Every year, hundreds of growing businesses consider overseas expansion. For ambitious entrepreneurs, realising the market is becoming more restricted in the UK, its less a hard decision, but a natural progression. However, what will deter people, though, are certain market considerations, which could severely alter the traditional running of a business or the manufacture and selling of products.
It is vital to research tax laws and other regulations, including customs procedures and laws, import limitations, organisation of company, immigration laws, liability laws, producer and distributor provisions, etc. Some companies, unfortunately, are not perfectly transplantable, and therefore must take unanticipated steps, such as restructure of organisation, change in employee policy, etc. Therefore, be sure to explore all avenues of this potential minefield.
Whether its religious laws, or words that get overlooked in translation, there are many cultural factors to consider when expanding overseas, because they could vastly affect the traditional activities or marketing of a business or brand.
For instance, although translation of a product is simple in theory, it may not work in practice. A concept or marketing hook that works well in the UK may get lost in translation when transposed to another language. If a product employs a gimmick or humour, such as a play-on-words or British/domestic stereotype, then it won’t be effectively understood or marketed. Therefore, a product or service’s entire image may have to be adjusted to appeal to the foreign consumer.
RAW MATERIALS & HUMAN RESOURCES
Obviously, not all countries can provide you the same level of raw materials and skilled workers. It may be a case of having to import the materials or employees needed, or even modify your product or services to accommodate the materials and skills available. Again, it may completely change the business format you are familiar with.
KNOW YOUR MARKET & MAKE SURE THEY KNOW YOU
Before you book your plane ticket, there are a few things that can help before the trip. Try and contact potential customer or clients via post or e-mail, maybe send them a press release, links to your website, an online survey, brochure, or product sample. Extract as much information from them at the earliest stage possible, but remember to be culture sensitive, and have promotional literature translated if needs be.
If you can, test your market. Before jumping into a massive move abroad, why not employ a local distributor, it is a sure-fire, low-risk way of seeing whether or not your product is appropriate. Again, if suitable, why not visit or exhibit at a trade show, which will give you even further insight. If you have a unique or quirky product, contact the local newspapers and tell them you’re coming to town. This is a great way to get free promotion and the backing of a trusted medium.
KNOW YOUR COUNTRY
It isn’t any good resting on your laurels after research. The world is a changing place; things can be stable one day and volatile the next. This especially true recently, with uncertain economic climates, risks of war and natural disasters. Keep a keen eye on the news, both current affairs and finance. For instance, Israel, although a great prospect on the surface looks set to be embroiled in hostilities and war for the unforeseeable future. Do you really want to start up or expand, only to be met by the threat of terrorism or a full-scale assault?
Likewise, the United States is also another example of how a country can seem appealing on the surface, but is set for an ambivalent future. With a new president ready to introduce a host of new reforms and policies (notably in healthcare), an economy which is speculated to collapse, and a currency now being reviewed and rejected by other nations, you really need to determine the effect these factors could have on your business.
PRO's & CON's
Ask anyone in the East and they’ll tell you the key to life is balance. Likewise, equilibriums should be part-and-parcel of all decision-making, no matter how big or small. In business, this is especially true. No avenue should go unexplored in a quest to determine your sustainability and marketability as a business. The transitional nature of products, services, legalities, economies, taxes, regulations and, most importantly, consumer needs means you need to be rational in your approach to starting-up or expanding.
The following are some pros and cons for our top-ten countries, an insightful chance to weigh-up the possibilities and discern if a country offers everything you need.
LEISURE & LIFESTYLE
Whether you crave the indoors or the outdoors New Zealand has something for everyone, be it the beach, the theatre or the garden.
The country is clean, green and stocked with good people with many lifestyle benefits. It is a great place for those seeking adventure and challenges. You won't find congestion or pollution here, only friendly, honest people that believe a good quality life is important.
COST OF LIVING
Besides the friendly people and the countryside, the taxes are lower, with no capital gains tax. Housing is very affordable depending on the area, and is often found to be more reasonable than in many parts of Asia, Europe and North America.
The weather is mostly mild with an average climate ranges from 20-30°C (68-86°F) in summer and 5-15°C (41-59°F) in winter.
New Zealand has strict laws and policies meaning that it's a safe country to live with low crime rates.
Starting a business is demanding, but rewarding, and can sometimes take years to establish. Being a stable country with simple business practices and a highly educated and multi-talented workforce means opportunities and rewards for entrepreneurs in New Zealand are immense.
If you are considering relocating to New Zealand to start a new business, you do need to have a strong, sound business plan and huge amounts of determination.
Healthcare is only available for children under the age of six, and there is subsidised healthcare for those under the of age 18 and over the age of 65. Depending on your doctor's level of government funding, you can expect to pay for health care. Having private health insurance can be a good option to cut medical costs. The country's public health system is good by world standards; you get what you pay for.
Salaries in New Zealand can vary depending on the industry in which you work. New Zealand is not known for particularly high salaries; many companies offer non- monetary benefits, such as extra holiday, use of a company car or phone, or free drinks, to sweeten a salary package. Government statistics show that the average Kiwi salary is $35-40k per annum.
To be granted a visa or residency in New Zealand you must be able to provide evidence that you have enough money to support yourself and your family, but with the current financial crisis, moving may not be as easy as it once was.
Starting up overseas can be a daunting process, no matter how close to home your future environment may be. Every year thousands of Brits throw it all in and set up shop in France. If you're thinking of doing the same, here are a few pros and cons to consider.
There is a great deal of red tape involved in moving across the channel. Self confessed (and proud!) bureaucrats, the French have some very strict rules, which can, to the outsider, seem slightly illogical. You can't, for example, open a French bank account without an Attestement de Logement - a document which proves you are a resident of France. However, most estate agents and landlords refuse to sign contracts without a Rélevé d'idententité Bancaire (RIB) - proof that you have a French bank account. There are ways around this, but be prepared to make a few trips to the bank/building society/estate agent, before you get out of the Catch 22.
Health care - and therefore health insurance - is very expensive in France. While you may be entitled to a basic level of attention, it is essential to cover yourself for medical emergencies, and general illness alike. Moving from a country with a National Health Service, it can be easy to forget this when budgeting for your move, so make sure you take it into account.
There are very strict rules surrounding inheritance law in France, and it is therefore essential to assess the impact of these laws, when attaining assets such as property and shares in French businesses. In order to protect yourself and your family, it is advisable to enlist the help of a legal professional to look at the impact, of the differences between legalities in the UK and France, upon your specific circumstances.
Certain industry sectors, particularly in leisure and tourism, are flooded by ex-pats who struggle to maintain a steady level of business in low season. It is important to have an alternative or additional source of income to fall back on. It also pays to do some of market research before relocating, rather than just picking an area and a business you fancy.
In industries other than tourism, it is difficult to get by without at least a decent level of French language skills. Lots of French business people do speak English but to rely entirely upon this is a risk. Try and learn some before you move to get a head start - it will help with social integration, too!
Grab your passport and hit the road!
Property in some of the more remote areas of France is a real steal. Whether you are looking for a fixer-upper or a property that is ready to go, it is worth looking outside the more obvious tourist destinations and business centres for a cheaper deal. It is also often easier to establish a successful business away from the competition.
The pay-off for the expense of healthcare is something called ‘Caf' (C.A.F.A.L). This is a form of housing benefit, which is available to most people at some level or another. If you decide to rent a property, either for good, or just while you are setting up, you will be able to get some money back from Caf (particularly if your income is initially minimal). Look up your local office in the area you wish to move to for more details.
The strength of the Euro means that if you decide to keep on a property or business in the UK your hard earned French cash will go further towards the mortgage and bill repayments.
Most banks and building societies in major French towns have designated English speaking advisors, who can help you with setting up an account, getting a loan, setting up a business, etc. Even if you speak some French, it is worth calling branches of large banks in your local town to find out when these advisors are available, as some of the specific vocabulary and terms may be difficult for you to understand.
France is a fantastic country. It sounds obvious, because if you are considering taking the plunge, you've probably fallen in love with some parts of it already. However, you should never forget that from the Alps to the Riviera, Paris to Burgundy, there is always something new to see, and with fantastic motorways and fast public transport, getting around in your free time is a doddle. Vive la France!
Dubai may seem like the business epicentre of the Middle East, but it’s also a place riddled by uncertain interpretation of laws and regulations. It is, paradoxically, a synergistic minefield of Western business ethic sewn not-so-seamlessly into Arab cultural fabric. Dubai is a place of vast contrasts, so weighing up the pros and cons is essential to discerning whether or not it’s the right place for you.
FREE TRADE ZONES
Free zones are exceptional areas of Dubai where standard trade practice and regulation, such as tariffs, taxes or trade barriers, are made redundant or lowered for the purpose of enticing business and investment. For more information, visit the Dubai homepage.
TAX FREE LIFESTYLE
Dubai is not entirely tax free despite the generalisation often being made. However, the trade zones in Dubai do offer incentives and exemptions to this effect. These are granted to encourage investment and development in the Emirate.
The big expat population has Westernised Dubai more than any other Arab Emirate, but you must be careful to be sensitive to the traditional culture. Many media outlets are published or televised in English, and there is great embrace of the Western culture by young Arabs in the region.
AESTHETICS & ENTERTAINMENT
Beaches, sun and futuristic architecture all make up a pleasing aesthetic in Dubai. It is home to some of the most innovative buildings in the world, and the beaches are described as "beautiful." Dubai offers much entertainment on and off the beaches. There are many bars, clubs, theatres, museums and shops, catering to all Western and local needs.
With an expat community of over 80%, you can be sure to make friends in no time. There are many entertainment facilities populated by Westerners and Arabs alike, so don’t be shy, get out and meet, meet, meet!
The business language of Dubai is English, so you won’t have worry yourself with linguistic lessons or learn Arabic in one-week tapes. And with such a large Western population, English is generally the language of social interaction too.
Not so much unclear laws, rather a mix of poor interpretation and a head-butting culture of Arab traditions and Western liberality. Dubai has been described a place of contradictions. For instance, you can get legally blind drunk in a bar or hotel, but illegally be intoxicated on the street. For more information, please see the article Dubai: Liberalism and the Law located in the news section.
COST OF LIVING
Firstly, Dubai is a very costly place to live in comparison with its neighbours and vaster region. Secondly, what you save in tax can mount in compensatory fees. Also, simple commodities and luxuries are more akin to, say, London prices (sometimes higher). But expect to earn or be paid enough to equate with this. Everything is relative, so don’t think about it too much. For more information on the cost of living, please visit the ‘Living Overseas?section of the website.
The country that birthed modern marketing knows a thing or two about business. Recently, though, things have been changing. The economy has been floundering, with people worrying, entrepreneurs anxious and the dollar falling. The end of democratic capitalism? Maybe. The beginning of a new, more workable prospect? Let’s hope so.
Regardless of all the seeming turmoil, people still acknowledge the States as the world’s pre-eminent business centre, the place where you can sell anything to anyone, and bigger is unarguably better.
EMBRACE OF BUSINESS
Not many nations have an irrepressible gusto for business like the United States does. It gestated, nurtured and exported modern marketing and steely entrepreneurial ethics.
With over a population of over 300 million people, you can be sure to find a market for your product or service. The United States boasts the most culturally diverse and demographically divided consumers on the planet, a place where people are segmented by eating habits, shopping patterns and sensibilities. The people of the United States not only foster a culture of consumerism, but are actively encouraged to spend their way to prosperity.
LARGE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES
If you’ve got a winning idea, chances are someone will want a piece of the action. The prospects for investment are indeed high, with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs eager to squeeze the aestheticism and popularity of a product to death.
GOOD OPTIONS OF LOCATION
The fact is, you have a choice of 50 States. Now, you’re not going to set up an adult shop in Mormon Utah, so learn about the States, their markets, sensibilites and politics.
RICH MARKET RESEARCH AVAILABLE
There isn’t a vox-pop, survey, questionnaire or analysis that hasn’t been done. Every person in the United States can be tucked-up comfortably into a consumer demographic. Much of this research is freely open to businesses, some at a small price, but either way, use it to your advantage.
As well as the being the breeder of big business, the United States also fostered a culture of ferocious competition. It truly exemplifies the phrase ‘dog eat dog? Competition is indeed fierce and you must stay ahead of the game to survive.
Oh dear. A decade ago, less even, the United States was the paradigm of economic prosperity and the envy of the world. But what goes up must come down. The bubble finally burst, and the culture of excess is finally reaping its crop. But, with a new President in the White House, maybe things have a chance to turn around. Otherwise, as speculated, you can expect things to get worse, with a economic collapse on the horizon so severe that it will probably change the system forever. Watch this space and hope for the best.
Inextricably linked to the economy, the Dollar is plummeting, and its reputation tarnished. Whether the situation is repairable, only time will tell. Keep an eye on the Amero, a speculated replacement currency, waiting in the wings.
IMPENDING POLICY REFORMS
Not so much a con, but a very radical and uncertain moment. Expect drastic reforms in the coming years, especially in the area of healthcare, health insurance and energy. Barack Obama has pledged a complete refurbishment of the system, a move which is seeing insurance companies ploughing billions into stopping.
More coming very soon...