Starting A business In Spain
In this post i will go over the highs and lows or running a business in Spain, what its really like and what i have learned over the last 16 years here.
When i first came to live in Spain i worked for a small British building company as a carpenter and builder, my Spanish was poor and this limited me to finding work here. After a few years with them i went self employed here.
It takes a bit of doing to set up as self employed but it gives you the freedom to work where and when you want as your own boss. At that time my Spanish was poor to none so i had to pay my accountant to do it all for me.
Then a few years later i started my own carpentry and building business here in Almeria and built it up and employed a few guys to work for me.
What a headache that was.
I found that the Brits i had working for me didnt want to get up early for work and loved their beer too much. They wanted the same money they had in the UK but didnt want to do as much work for it here. The first guy i gave a contract to was working well and so i invited him to my house for dinner and to get him to sign the contract that i had put together for him, this cost me money to set up and is not easy or at least it was not easy back then.
It can beBut keeping it going is the key…
So we arranged 8pm at mine for dinner and he was 45 mins late and turned up pissed as he had watched a football match in his local bar. Great start right…Well he lasted about 3 weeks and then i gave him his cards. there was many more after that..I went through about 10 guys here over 5 years and then went to working on my own.
At first i was limited to only working for Brits as my Spanish was poor and this was ok back then as there was loads of new Brits coming here every week but now there seems to be less although things are on the up again now and hopefully better once Brexit sorts itself out.
Once i learned to speak Spanish well i was able to work for Spanish clients as well as the brits and that made such a difference to my earnings here.
Also not speaking Spanish means that even the simple daily tasks like answering the phone will be hard to impossible. Buying materials and ordering materials is very difficult if you dont speak very good Spanish.
These are things that most Brits dont really think about when they come here to start a business and they end up struggling big time and have to employ someone to do this for them.
Just a few years ago i worked for a British family here in Almeria who bought a bar near the beach. there was mum, dad, son and his girlfriend. None of the 4 of them could speak Spanish but the son was learning fast and was having weekly lessons.
The bar they bought was in a great area right on the beach but needed a lot of renovation as it was old and had been empty for some time, thats where i came in and worked there for about 4 weeks along with a few other trades getting the place ready for the opening day.
All went ok and six months later i passed by and saw that there was a new waiter there that i knew from another bar. He was Spanish and spoke very good English. He told me that the owners were all out on the beach for the day and he and one other bar person were in charge.
He told me that the family had employed the 2 of them as they could not get on with learning Spanish, these waiters were doing all the ordering and buying.
So just to recap…there was now 6 people taking a wage out of this small bar and 2 spanish people were in charge of the daily running of the place.
I think anyone knows what was going to happen ….It was another 3 months when i passed again and saw that the bar was closed mid day when all the others were open. I asked the waiter in the bar next door why and he told me that the owners had gone back to the uk and that the bar was for sale.
Personally i think the main reason for this is not learning Spanish.
If they had bothered they would not need to employ the 2 Spanish people and there for have lower overheads. A small bar in Almeria cant suport 2 people if 4 of them want to be on the beach all day.
I often had a day off and went to the beach or had long weekends on the beach but you need to work hard here to make it work and its not all sun and sangria, if you are thinking of running a business in Spain then it can be great and can be a success but you will be competing with other local businesses that speak fluent Spanish and work long hard hours.
I am now sort of retired as we have bought a plot of land and are building our own house here but it has been hard here to get enough work to keep me going at times over the years and without speaking Spanish i think i would now be in the Uk working in the wind and rain for a building company.
I guess you get back what you are willing to put in.
If you cant run a business successfully in the uk then why will it be any different here. The problem is that many Brits here think it will be easy but Spanish workers do a lot more hours so to do well here you need to do the same or offer better services. Learning Spanish is the most important thing you need to do here.
After all you would not expect to be able to run a successful business in china if you cant speak Chinese would you?
The reason i think i personally did well was that i gave a very personal service and was always on time and kept my prices low to start with when i have new clients then later once we established a relationship and they appreciated my services i could charge more.
Thats a big thing here many spanish love the manana word. Also as i could speak English and Spanish i was able to work not just for Brits and Spanish but also had German, Belgian and french clients who spoke spanish.
Give your new business and yourself the best chance you can and start learning Spanish even before you move to Spain. It will be very hard to run a business here without speaking Spanish.
See the video below on what you need when starting a business in Spain.
Hows your Spanish and how are you learning?
My New Book out now on Amazon. My 16 years experience working in Spain tips tricks and advice on finding work and running a business in Spain