Dateline: Kotor, Montenegro
I forget how lucky I am sometimes. Living in Eastern Europe, but being outside of the bureaucratic web of the EU, makes for a simplified life.
Whether I’m in Georgia, Serbia, Montenegro, or even Hong Kong to a certain extent, I’m spoiled when it comes to the benefits. So much so that when I find myself trying to achieve something outside of these countries, I realize I’ve forgotten just how difficult it can be. Things that should be simple — like starting a business, registering for residency or employing people — become bureaucratic nightmares.
Did you know that in EU countries like Estonia, Greece and Slovakia you are required to produce, on average, 17 pieces of evidence for something as straightforward as registering a child’s birth?! When it comes to setting up a business, the paperwork can be even more onerous.
However, I don’t find myself commiserating with those who have to deal with such bureaucracy. Instead, I wonder why they don’t choose another solution.
So, I thought I’d share my experience on how to decide on the best place is to start your business for the greatest chance of success. I’ve managed to boil this down to three distinct tips:
1. Determine your location status and structure around that
The first and most important thing to focus on is whether or not you are location dependent? If you can be location independent, then you have access to far greater opportunities, but you have to build a structure that will last.
The current safety nets may not be the best option for founding a company that you want to last. For instance, having a Nevis company and banking in St. Vincent may not offer the same opportunities tomorrow as they do today.
If you have chosen to take advantage of the nomadic lifestyle as I have, you have the choice of finding somewhere you can domicile your business if you need to, somewhere you are willing to stay even if you don’t need it now.
It’s called planning ahead.
Once you have the foundations of permanency as your fall back then you can start to build your organization around the more flexible options such as banking, taxation, and residency.
Most importantly, take advantage of the knowledge of people who have gone before you. What’s the point in re-inventing the wheel when you can learn from the mistakes made by others and get it right the first time.
If you are location-dependent, then don’t let that stress you out. You still have plenty of options (more on that in a minute). As far as step number one goes, you need to start by deciding on the physical location of your organization. From there you can decide what is important for you and your organization before you commit to a shortlist of potentials. Which brings us to my next tip…
2. Decide what’s most important for you and your business
Whether you are location independent or you need to stay put, you still need to make a list of the things that are the most important to you in your business and domestic structure. Are fast transport links more important than being in a developed nation? Can you and your business survive with a higher cost of living for the benefits of lower taxation and less bureaucracy? Your organization can still thrive while you enjoy a nomadic lifestyle, as long as your structure is future-proof.
I’ve recently been working with a guy whose business is based in the EU and he wants to live there too. In many respects, he is location independent and can travel all across Europe if he wants; but business-wise he is firmly location dependent. In his mind, he wants to pay less tax, live somewhere more “developed” and enjoy the benefits of an EU residency.
So, what’s stopping him?
The same thing I mentioned in my opening paragraph – the nonsensical amount of form-filling and red tape. My advice to him? Suck it up, hire someone to handle the paperwork for you. It’s an age-old truth that businessmen are not in business to complete forms. Entrepreneurs are not successful because they can tick boxes.
Saving a few grand on paying someone else to do it for you is not a false economy. If you don’t want to fill out the forms, then either pay someone else to do it or forego on the perks; simple.
Look at the Dubai contingency that spend summers in London every year as non-domiciled residents. Sure, it cost £50,000 to get that status, but along with being able to live in the UK’s capital when they please, they also don’t have to pay any tax.
As a resident of the EU, you can even enjoy that last piece of the action without living there but there are those pesky forms to fill in. So pay someone else to do it for you. If you seriously undervalue your own time, then I would question your chances of success; period.
3. Understand what you’re looking for
Of course it’s important to have a goal for your business, but also to understand the wider goals for your life. The two are symbiotic and can have a huge influence over each other.
I recently read a book whose opening mantra was “What are you working towards?”. If you can’t answer that question in the context of either your business or your life, then you are wandering around aimlessly in a state of anxiety.
You need to be able to focus your energy, your attention and your ideas towards achieving something; be it in business or your lifestyle. The alternative is like being behind the wheel of a fully fueled Formula 1 racing car, but blindfold.
For me, before I focused my goals it was always about work, work, work. While achieving a good deal of success, I failed to tick the boxes for my overall lifestyle strategy. It didn’t stimulate my strengths; creating new ideas, starting new things, keeping up to date with the trends and meeting new people.
That’s what I enjoy the most and that’s what motivates me in my work. That’s why I only take on five people to help each month; any more than that and I’m basically not taking my own advice. I’m in this business to help people, but I’m not going to let the business be my entire life.
For me, some of the businesses I want to run are lifestyle businesses. I’ve structured my life and my work to be able to do that. I could only achieve that when I made a plan. So, my advice to you is to be honest and be ambitious with what you set as a target for yourself. Don’t let locational factors limit your goals. They are all surmountable.
So, my last tip is to truly focus on what you are working hard to achieve. Are you sacrificing your life for a future benefit or to reap the rewards now?
Once you’ve got it clear in your mind what you are working for then, and only then, can you begin to structure the business that will give you success.