Running a business in Spain is much the same as it is back where you come from, with the additional hurdle of the language. But sit tight while I have a bit of a rant.
Don’t go in half-baked
Don’t go into running a business in Spain without believing 100 per cent in what you will accomplish. Lose the “can do” attitude by setting yourselves head and shoulders above everyone else with your “will do” approach.
Don’t underestimate the effort. You’ll need to be prepared for some pretty horrific working hours. If starting your business from scratch, you’ll need to be able to work 25 hours per day, 8 days per week… and say goodbye to any time off for a while. You’ll need a level of energy that isn’t swayed by a footie game or a hangover from a big night out. Slacking is for losers and won’t help you as you throw caution to the wind and build your empire.
Ignore the haters
Sadly there is always someone who is either jealous of what you are achieving, or feels threatened by your “intrusion” into “their” industry. Ignore them!! Put all your energy into building YOUR business… not into worrying about what others may be saying about you. Be the better person and ignore them. Yes, I know that’s tough – and sometimes I’ll admit to going hell for leather at some petty person who thinks they can cast aspersions. They only do it once, mind. So if you ARE going on the attack – do it calmly, politely, and leave no reason for doubt in anyone’s mind.
Know who/what you are
Owning a power drill and a fistful of screws, because you once put a shelf up at Granny’s house, does not make you a builder. Having bought a house once does not make you an Estate Agent. Having published the parish magazine once in “Publisher” does not make you the perfect owner of the next “Spain is Great” magazine. Whipping up a one-pager on WIX does not make you a web designer – so don’t try to kid others that it does. Be honest with yourself and with others.
Perhaps you pulled a few pints down at your local on a Saturday night back in the day – do you really think you have what it takes to run a bar fifteen streets back from The Strip? Juggling the finances? Speaking Spanish to your suppliers? Working from 7am until 4am every day of the week? Handling the menopausal outbursts and drama from the peroxide old bird you inherited when you took over the business? Stopping the resident sweaty “chef” from scratching his balls as he brings out another Full English? Manhandling the lobster red tourist who didn’t realise those shots of gin were quite so large? Think carefully before making the leap. We can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be sat outside sipping ice cold beers while your busty 21-year-old barmaid does it all for you and the Euros keep rolling in.
You need to actually sell something
You are not a successful businessperson if it’s just a two hour a week jolly up the local wine bar with a few others… lighting candles, praying to the universe, telling each other how empowered and wonderful you all are, dishing out your badly faded business cards you whipped up in Word… and spending your spouse’s hard-earned money – all while bringing in zero clients. That’s not running a successful business – that’s a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with that of course – but it doesn’t make you Sir Alan Sugar or Deborah Meaden.
Just don’t assume you have the right to stand shoulder to shoulder with the many men and women that shed blood sweat and tears to put food on their families tables and keep the wolves from the door… when the worst you have to worry about is where your next handbag is coming from or what to call your latest fluffy kitten.
Get your face out there
Networking IS key though! When we first moved to Spain, we spent at least one day/night out every week meeting people socially and getting our faces known around town. This is vital because people do business with people… and much business comes from recommendation. Although we get the Spain Buddy name out wherever we can, we have not had to advertise our ten year web design business in many years – all our work comes from recommendation or because people like what they see of other projects we have been part of. Get out there and make friends – they will be your biggest fans… and later on your happy clients will be your biggest advertisers. Always have a few business cards in your wallet, back pocket or (if you’re anything like me) tucked into your bra strap.
Watch the booze!
But remember – you are ALWAYS the face of your business… so watch how you conduct yourself. I was about to say, “Don’t get too drunk too often. Don’t hog the karaoke. And don’t be too in your face straight away.” But hey – that worked for me so I won’t knock it. These days, my networking is a lot more civilised. Yes of course the wine still flows and of course I’m always up for a laugh – but you’ll never find me rolling in a gutter. When alcohol flows, inhibitions relax and true colours are shown. If you are a nutcase when sozzled… remember that this can be the first impression that some people will form about you. Are you okay with that?
Whether you choose to be self-employed or set up as a company… make sure you are legal. There is much to be said for hiring an Asesoria, Gestoria or Abogado to take care of your accounts and business affairs. Yes they cost money – but they will save you a fortune by ensuring that everything is as it should be.
Choose your legal bod by taking recommendations from people close to where you live and operate. But go with your gut. Since moving to Spain we’ve had four Asesorias. Two were awful and two have been excellent! They all came via recommendation though – so what do I know?! What we did learn though, is that it’s worth paying a little more and having somebody who you can trust. Our two successful Asesorias are Asesoria Europa in Lanzarote (we only left him because we moved to the mainland) and CTR Solicitors in Huercal Overa (who we currently use).
Yes it is expensive to set up a business, and the monthly costs can be tough. But it pays to be safe and legal. Remember – your competitors are always watching.
Build or buy?
If you have super-duper skills in your industry, have been there before, and have full confidence in your own marketing abilities – then go for it and start something from scratch yourself. However – a lot must be said for buying an existing business. You will have access to existing clients, an established reputation, and perhaps some stock too dependent upon the business type. There are plenty of options available – everything from bars and restaurants to plumbing and electrical firms. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you and rolling with it.
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Don’t be swayed
Look – if you’re really up for it… then don’t let anyone put you off. Speaking personally, I found it terrifying when first building a business from scratch and leaving the relative safety of a secure monthly employee wage. But hell it’s worth it! There are good times and bad, of course, and you’ll need a strong stomach for the rollercoaster ride. But would I change any of it? No – not a damn thing! Follow your heart and the very best of luck to you!
Elle, along with Alan, is the owner of Spain Buddy and the busy web design business – Spain Web Design by Gandy-Draper.
Born a “Norverner”, she then spent most of her life “Dann Saff” before moving to Spain in 2006. Elle’s loves are Alan, the internet, dogs, good food, and dry white wine – although not necessarily in that order.