10 Tips for Small Business Entrepreneurs in Spain
1) Get the most professional advice. Spaniards are amongst the most helpful people I know however even 'the equivalent of Jo Bloggs' who lives two doors down the road from you will happily advise you as an architect, lawyer or a doctor rather than admit he hasn’t got a clue. Make sure your adviser is a professional and where possible member of a professional college. Lawyers, architects and electricians all have an official number or card they must carry or show you on request.
2) The place for business administration services is a “Gestoría”. They will help you go through all the legal and administrative steps to get set up. A good one will advise on the most advantageous options for your specific case. Lots of care needed with these chaps. Anyone can set up shop as one and without any sort of qualification at all. Make sure at the least the boss is a member of the offical college of economists and check he hasn’t been struck off. If your Spanish is rusty take a qualified translater who is registered and can provide references. If they are a reputable business they will sign your official documents for you and accept full responsibility for their errors and any financial fall out from them. You will have to pay a premium for this but a cheap gestoría can kill your business. Get all this in writing.
3) As soon as possible hire a good lawyer. Nothing goes down as well here as, “I’ll consult on that with my lawyer”. Unfortunately as foreigners we are seen as vunerable because we don’t know the ropes like a local. Its often not the laws or rules themselves but how they are interpreted in everyday life that can leave you feeling totally lost.
4) The grey economy is rampant and some of your new Spanish friends may advise you to be slightly less than legal. Don’t listen. Do it by the book unless your gestor and lawyer advise you otherwise.
5) Spaniards often seem to get offended at formality in the day to day running of things. However our experience shows that underneath it all they appreciate the formal approach in business. You may meet a Spanish business man who is all smiles and pats on the back, beware and never be intimidated into not following your principles and getting local professional advice.
6) Get everything in writing, never accept a verbal agreement.
7) Never contract or discuss contractual business on the phone or via email unless unavoidable. Spanish society is a face to face society and a personal presence in greatly appreciated.
8) Everyone likes a present and in business it's no different. Company gifts and little free gifts are important here.
9) If you are in a rural zone don’t bother with publicity - just work very hard at pleasing your customers and doing a good job, you will soon have entire families knocking down your door to do business with you.
10) Learn the language, adopt elements of the culture that you can, accept and inegrate as far as possible. Show your appreciation for Spain and Spanish things but never speak negatively about your own country.
By Peter John Hunt
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