When running multiple businesses at the same time, the regulatory and cultural hurdles multiply.
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
A co-founder of WeWork, Adam Neumann, once said that “people are the most important thing. Business model and product will follow if you have the right people.” This is true by and large, but it’s missing something even more fundamental. The people with which an entrepreneur will do business are, first and foremost, wrapped in culture.
In the world of serial entrepreneurship, especially as your ideas move across borders, culture plays a key role in how a business owner will manage his or her team. With the EU and Switzerland, Europe offers strong benefits to aspiring entrepreneurs, while it also inheres a myriad of cultural norms and challenges.
Here’s how you can survive the jungle of about 40 different nations.
1. The right place to settle.
It’s essential to consider the cultural norms as well as the regulatory stance of the country in which you decide to prepare your business’s launch. In regard to the regulatory aspect, one can say that there are two different paths which entrepreneurs are able to choose from.
In discussing the merits of opening shop in the EU, Alexander Alexandrov, the CEO of CoinPayments and Velas, said to me in an interview that the U.S. “tends to focus more on punishment rather than guidelines. The EU though is working toward allowing businesses to feel they are wanted and working with new industries in a much clearer way. This led to many companies moving there – Estonia, Czech Republic and Switzerland (Schengen zone).”
To back these sentiments up, Alexandrov has even moved his newest venture, Velas or Virtual Expanding Learning Autonomous System, from Estonia to Zug, Switzerland. Also home to “Crypto Valley,” a hub for blockchain and crypto startups, Switzerland has a long history of catering to ambitious, forward-leaning companies. The Swiss minister of economic affairs, education, and research, Johann Schneider-Ammann added that “we want to create an environment in which young people are prepared to take risks. We want to breed entrepreneurs.”
Similarly, countries like Great Britain and Germany also have a robust infrastructure for registering and running a business within their borders. This group of nations offers great legal security, extraordinary education for its citizen, as well as a remarkable landscape of internationally successful businesses. On the other hand, the same countries are known to inhere some of the highest tax systems in the world, and a large number of rules concerning how you should run your business.
When I decided to move my business from Germany to Cyprus, I chose the second available path. The Republic of Cyprus is not only among the countries with the most beneficial tax systems in Europe, but it also grants local companies a lot more freedom than many other legislations. However, when one of our former clients decided to forget about a five-figure invoice, I realized that I can’t expect the same help from the government of Cyprus, as I would probably receive it in Germany.
2. The right culture to thrive.
Regulatory circumstances certainly represent a critical factor for your business, yet particularly as a serial entrepreneur, cultural differences might be even more crucial. During the holiday season, such as the summer and winter months, you will typically see many offices empty in Europe. In the United States, however, reports of employees working on Christmas day and through their children’s summer holiday is not uncommon.
In order to operate multiple businesses at the same time, entrepreneurs can’t get around outsourcing. But what if you need a job done on the weekend or during the holiday season? These details go beyond tax rates as work ethics within different European cultures vary greatly.
In a 2016 report, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD) stated that Greece, France, and Poland all had the largest percentage of overtime employees in Europe. Turkey came out on top with 20.9 percent, while the other three cited 11.7 percent, five percent, and five percent respectively. At the bottom of this list are Germans, Norwegians, Dutch, and Danish citizens.
Another less spoken advantage of working in any of these European countries is the low-language barrier. If your native tongue is English, naturally Great Britain is the first choice, but Switzerland, Germany, Malta, Cyprus, and Estonia all rank highly in English literacy. The international education company Education First reported that “Europe has, by far, the highest English proficiency of any region in the world.”
3. The right mindset to survive.
Clearly, there are more variables than this, and you shouldn’t get too caught up in the details. Though they are important, when considering entrepreneurship, or even serial entrepreneurship, a CEO will rarely be able to consider every aspect of each decision. In terms of navigating this uncertainty, Julien Backhaus, a German serial entrepreneur and success magazine (“ERFOLG Magazin”) publisher, advises to change the way you think about insecurities.
“Serial entrepreneurs need a structured and well thought out strategy to tackle their goals. This includes being prepared for future setbacks,” he said to me in an interview. “It’s not possible to predict when events such as difficulties in the private life, the loss of important employees, or an economic crisis occur, yet every entrepreneur is doomed to face serious hardships sooner or later. You have to accept this if you want to have a productive relationship with your doubts.”
At the end of the day, no matter where you plan to start your small business, the time and effort required to get it off the ground will be taxing. Having a supportive network of similar individuals in a place like Switzerland may be incredibly helpful. Alternatively, the low taxes, legal expenses and bureaucratic demands present in countries like Cyprus may perfectly suit your needs.
The combination of having a strong plan, staying organized, and focused on the greater goal are mainstays of entrepreneurship no matter where you are in the world.