Owning your business in Spain

There is little mystery as to why Spain has become such a popular destination for those seeking a new life. For many Spain is the perfect choice with year round sunshine and a better quality of life overall. But the biggest dilemma facing most potential émigrés is finding work abroad and the one dream most of them share is to own and run a business in the sun.

Buying your own business is probably the best option for those wishing to move abroad and “do their own thing”. Following this dream can be a hugely rewarding and exciting experience, but beware, owning your own business is a little like a relationship. Your business needs constant love, attention and care. It’s a long term commitment and if you neglect your business, then just like a partner, it will quickly lose it’s charm!

One of the major problems that we see on a regular basis here in Spain is that historically many agents here will tell you (prospective buyers of companies and businesses) as little as possible about the life and laws associated with their chosen business, then pocket their commission and walk away, leaving the unsuspecting buyers with a wide range of potential problems. Running a business ( like marriage ) is hard work so to avoid the dream turning into a nightmare. Consider the following points before taking the plunge:

Are You Committed?

It is important to be realistic about the amount of work involved in running your own business, especially a small, owner operated company. Many people who have been to Spain on holiday dream about owning a small hotel, bar or restaurant , sipping beer or cocktails on the beach, sunbathing and chatting with friends, but somehow overlook the amount of hours that are involved in setting up the business, stocking it, creating and serving the customers, organizing entertainment and managing part- and full time staff etc. The main thing to remember is that as long as your expectations are realistic everything will be fine, and don’t forget: running your own company is a very rewarding experience!

Negotiating: The Legal Minefield

The laws relating to buying and running your own business in Spain, such as licensing for example, vary dramatically from region to region, town to town and even street to street. Dealing with the complexities can be daunting but don’t let this put you off. The most important thing is to take advice from someone reputable, honest and knowledgeable in this area, and to ensure you have expert advice and help every step of the way. Speaking Spanish is useful especially if you are planning on buying inland, but don´t be put off it you don´t speak the language, there are plenty of teachers on hand to help once you´re here and as the Costas are multi cultural communities, it´s not essential to speak Spanish from day One …. Although it’s always nice to learn when you get the time!

Mañana Mañana

There is one huge difference between Spain and the Northern countries of Europe, the UK or USA. Overthere things will get done today and in Spain it will get done tomorrow! It is important to allow yourself time when making the move to Spain. Time to move and time to settle in a new country and time to find and complete all the legalities involved with your business. Don’t be frustrated by the ´´Manana Manana Syndrome´´, it is actually well loved here by many and has it’s plus points, but remember Spain’s laid back attitude to time can take some getting used to, especially if you are used to efficiency! The working day here still operates very much on the Siesta system, so you need to remember you´ll need to do all your administration before 2pm when most offices close for the day. The shops tend to open again in the evening, but the middle of the day is largely for family and friends. Of couse for bar owners this is a massive plus point, especially if you´re planning on serving lunch!

Setting Up Home

Don’t forget buying your business is just one part of your new life. It’s important to allow time for relocation of your family and home as well. Selling your home can be a lengthy process, and then there is the whole logistical process of moving your family, pets, belongings, cars and possessions overseas. For some, a useful option is to rent furnished accommodation while setting up their new business and ensuring all is going to plan. Once you´ve settled, got used to the Spanish way of life and chosen the right area to live long term, you can find a property to buy in your own time and then move your possessions over at your own pace.

Living And Working Together

You may be considering buying something as a husband and wife team, perhaps two families or friends buying and running a business together for the first time. Romantic as this sounds, successful businesses need bosses and do not run so well based on democracies…..but who will be the boss? If both partners have worked independently before and are used to running a business serious thought must be given to ´who wears the trousers´. Similarly, if as according to the saying ´the man is the boss at work and the woman in the home`…. who is the boss when work and home merge?
While for some couples running a business together will be a harmonious bonding experience and will strengthen the relationship, for others the marriage could turn into a battleground. Living and working together needs serious thought before making the move and it is important any decision to move country and buy a business is unanimous and that careful thought is given to what and who you are leaving behind and how you and they may feel in a few months time. Don’t be put off though, living and working together ultimately proves to strengthen rather than weaken most relationships. Just make sure you put aside a little time for yourselves and ban shop talk!

Plan Ahead

A little bit of forward planning can make all the difference to a new business. Take some time to really prepare. Make a business plan, it doesn’t have to be a work of art but prepare something you can work too. Take advice from friends and talk to those who have already made the move. Do a little research into how much money is going to be required long term and what the timescales are for meeting your objectives. We recommend that if possible clients have sufficient reserves to cover their living costs for at least six months after the move…twelve months is even better! Remember unless you´re really lucky you won´t start making a profit on day one, and many clients like to spend money on redesigning or restructuring their business, ordering new equipment and hiring new staff. When looking at businesses in Spain, try to do something that you have some experience in or try to get some experience before making the move. Perhaps working in a similar business in your home town for a short while would provide you with valuable insight into running a business yourself, or perhaps come out to Spain, rent or lease for a while, get a feel for the different areas, the people, the weather, the work and the language before making a final commitment.

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