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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
Building your business abroad
Peter Ibbetson
By Peter Ibbetson
Head of NatWest Business Banking

Research is recommended
Have you ever dreamed about starting up your own business abroad? BBC News Online asked Peter Ibbetson to provide a few pointers.

Deciding to pack up and move abroad to start your own business is probably one of the biggest decisions you will ever make.

Not only will you have to consider the personal aspects of moving abroad such as education, healthcare and buying a house, but you will also have to research and plan for setting up a business in unfamiliar surroundings.

Although many of the factors that you need to consider when setting up a business overseas will be the same as those in the UK, it is essential that you research and plan your move well in advance.

It will also help if you have already set up a small business in the UK and are aware of the challenges of going it alone.

Planning is key to success

I would recommend that you make several visits to the area you wish to relocate to.

The shop is part of a restaurant building
I got lost and soaked on my own there every day and I loved it, I loved the frustration and everything
Thea Vandeputte

It is essential that you research your customer base, even if you have been trading in the UK with the same product or concept for many years.

This will also allow you to assess local competition and network with potential business contacts.

If you are flexible about the country that you move to, it may be worth looking to start up where there is a shortage for your skills or a gap in the market for your particular product.

Be ready for cultural change

The NatWest/ British Franchise Association survey found that the biggest deterrent for businesses thinking of starting up abroad was the language barrier.

This can be easily overcome by either learning the language before you leave or by hiring a multi-lingual member of staff.

Peter Ibbetson
Simple things such as the hours people work and public holidays must be taken into consideration
Peter Ibbetson

The way in which business is done varies in each country.

Simple things such as the hours people work and public holidays must be taken into consideration.

It is also vital that you investigate local customs with the countries' UK embassies.

In Italy, for example, cold calling is rarely successful, therefore most introductions to new contacts will be via a third party.

Whilst in parts of Asia, strict punctuality is expected of all guests and arriving late to a meeting will cause great offence.

Mind the red tape

You will encounter government regulations and red tape in your chosen country.

It is therefore important that you employ a solicitor and accountant with an in-depth knowledge of your chosen country.

A list of these is available from any embassy in the UK.

Your tax position will also change and it can be complicated to assess
Much of the red tape that UK businesses encounter is the same across Europe, as they are European Laws.

There will be, however, some domestic legislation in place, which you must adhere to.

Your tax position will also change and it can be complicated to assess.

It is dependent on the number of days that you spend in the UK. The Inland Revenue will be able to verify your position on this.

The main hurdle however for those people who decide to set up business in a new country is gaining permission to do so and the visa/work permit process can be a lengthy one which varies from country to country.

In the US, for example, those planning to open a business may be eligible for an Investment Visa and in Australia, business owners can apply for a Business Skills Visa.

Finding your feet with the finance

It is important to assess and confirm your finance requirements before committing to anything in your chosen country.

Like all UK banks, foreign banks may require a personal investment and security.

Your UK bank will be able to make this easier by supplying a list of corresponding banks in your new country of residence, which will recognise a letter of introduction from your UK bank.

You can maintain your UK bank account, however, if you will be accepting payments in local currency it is usually beneficial to open an account with a local bank.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, try not to worry.

Moving abroad and setting up your own business will be an exciting and rewarding experience - make the most of it.

Have you set up a business abroad? What has been your experience? What problems did you encounter? Was it plain sailing, or a total nightmare?

Email us with your advice.

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