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Starting a Business Abroad: What is Your Business Here?

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Globe, by Nick WheelerSo you’ve managed to reach a decision on where you you’d like to move to. Now you can start thinking about the kind of business you’re going to be running. By this I don’t mean the merits of a mechanic’s versus a cupcake shop, but more how you have conceptualised the business in your imagination.

How much free time do you imagine this new business is going to give you? Will it be the kind where you work regular hours, or will you need to be up at the crack of dawn? Perhaps you imagined that you would have every afternoon off to go surfing, or every weekend hiking in the mountains.

If your main motivation for moving abroad is for a change to a more relaxed lifestyle, I have only one bit of advice: avoid the hospitality industry. You may think that running a little bistro or B&B is no big thing, but unless it is something you have done already, trust me when I tell you that it takes up far more of your time than you’ve anticpated, and that you will not be spending your afternoons lazing in a hammock with a good book.

Another thing to think of is how committed you are going to be to your new venture. Are you going to run the business throughout the year, or were you hoping that you could operate for, say eight moths and then take every winter off to go skiing? Or are you hoping for it to be a “part-time” foreign business, which you run in conjunction with activities elsewhere? Only you know what you are hoping to achieve, both for the business and for yourself, and I’m not going to speculate as to the kind of work-life balance that people starting a business in a new country are looking for, but bear in mind that the ideal and the reality might not tally with each other.

Generally, anyone starting a new business, whether in their home country or abroad, is doing one of three things: striking out on their own in a field they are already working in; branching out into a similar but different field; or trying something completely new. Each of these requires its own approach, but regardless of which one fits your personal circumstances, remember that you are not just picking yourself up and plumping your new business down in a new country. You are going to need a network, contacts, suppliers. Unless you are running a virtual business or are planning on doing some pretty hardcore commuting, you’re also going to need to build up a new customer base, in a business environment where not only might you not speak the language, but also where there people might have a very different way of doing business.

Think back to my last post and ask yourself this: are you willing to hustle, possibly in a language you only speak falteringly, in order to get things done? Alternatively, if you were hoping to set up in an expat enclave, are you sure that you can go up against all those people who have already made the jump and established themselves before you? What do you have that they don’t? Of course, you will eventually have a comprehensive business plan, but at the moment while you’re at the pondering stage, this is something to consider.

When considering the kind of business you are going to be starting in a new country, consider not only the country you will be setting up in but also what you hope to gain from your new venture. Are you primarily seeking wealth, or a slower pace of life and more time for yourself? The answer to that question could affect not only the type of business you set up but also where you locate it. There are also implications for the impact it could have on your free time, or rather, what you imagined would be your free time.

Right! Now that you are thinking not only about the country in question, how suited you are to running a business abroad, and the kind of business you would like to be running, tomorrow, we finally get down to some proper research.

[Image by Nick Wheeler]



  1. The hardest part for me as an aspiring entrepreneur is coming up with a business idea

  2. Stephanie Migot says:

    The only advice I can give you about that is to make sure that your business idea is something you are genuinely passionate about and interested in, or you’ll be setting yourself up for failure before you even begin.

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