Top tips for growing your business abroad
Working outside of the UK, depending on where you land of course, certainly has some tempting potential benefits – sun, sea and sand, apart from the pay packet. According to a survey by Experis, almost half of IT and finance professionals in the UK have seriously considered moving abroad to work and it will have crossed the mind of many a Brit in the dark days of an early morning Winter trip to work. But is it a case of the ‘grass is greener on the other side’? How different is working abroad to working at home in the UK? Here are some top tips to consider before you take the plunge whether as a business owner seeking to expand outside the UK or as an employee wanting to experience life beyond our shores.
Do your homework
We support UK based recruitment agencies that place perms and contractors into Europe and the Middle East, and agencies based in Spain and Belgium who place in the UK as well as throughout the rest of Europe. As a result we’re familiar with how employment law, commercial trading law and debt assignment law can vary – the latter, in particular, is not recognised in parts of the Middle East, so it’s imperative to do your homework before you look to grow your business abroad.
Speak to as many people as possible – both in your industry and from outside – who have successfully grown their business abroad to check out what problems they faced and also sweep the internet for advice, which will also help you to keep up-to-date with any new pieces of legislation.
Learn the lingo
If you don’t know your bonjour from your auf wiedersehen, then you’re in trouble! Whilst the majority of countries can speak basic English (at the very least!), it’s vital, in the first instance, to try and learn the local language and break the barrier, as a simple mistake could land you in hot water; it will also help with better communication with your staff, customers and suppliers. It is well known that people are much better disposed to do business with someone who genuinely tries to communicate in their language rather than blurt out in English like a Colonel Blimp. Alternatively, you could consider hiring a multi-lingual member of staff, who can help with translations. In addition, each country has their own way of doing business, so understanding their culture is equally as important as learning the lingo.
Red + tape = a big problem if you don’t prepare!
Without question there will be plenty of red tape and government regulations to get through if you work abroad; it’s imperative therefore to hire a good lawyer who can help go through this with you and has experience of working in that particular country and with their legal system. Most of the barriers in Europe will be similar to those found in the UK, but there will be domestic legislation that you will need to be aware of and adhere to.
It’s important to be aware that your tax position will change and is dependent on how long you spend in the UK; this is something the Inland Revenue can check for you.
Obtaining your work permit or visa will take the most time to arrange, and varies from each country, so make sure you leave enough time to get this sorted before you start work.
Fix your finances
You will need to assess your finances before taking the plunge and moving anything to your new country of residence. Ask your UK bank to provide a list of bank recommendations and a letter of introduction. If you are paid in the local currency, then stick with a local bank; otherwise you can accept payments if you keep your UK bank account. Also check your pension contributions (if any) and health insurance requirements (usually covered by the employer). If you are planning for a long term assignment and transfer your family, you will need to check out schools, accommodation and regular flights home (in some cases employers will foot the bill, but it depends on your package).
Find someone who knows their numbers
Hiring an accountant who has experience of working in that country will be money well spent, as they will be able to explain the tax system for you and flag any barriers that could prevent you from working in that country or losing some of your profits. They can also advise about the level of tax you will have to pay, as some countries pay low rates of income and corporation tax combined with higher tax rates, which means you will pay more throughout the year each time you make a payment, rather than pay one lump sum.
Find out how you will get paid
Whether it’s Sterling or Euros, you need to know which currency your hard earned work will be paid in, as it could mean you take home less money or a lower salary than expected. Don’t be left with a nasty surprise when you receive your first pay-slip or invoice!
Say goodbye to huge phone bills
Technology has come on so much during the past few years, so with VoIP (voice over internet protocol) systems like Skype – a phone line over the internet – you needn’t worry about huge phone bills if you’re calling back to the UK or elsewhere in the world, as you simply pay for the internet connection.
One more thing…
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, relax! Enjoy the experience of working abroad and make sure you take full advantage of different cultures, languages and people! As the world gets smaller, don’t miss out on your chance to get to see more of it…but at a price that you can afford.