Get plugged in to succeed in Spain

We’ve had a very busy start to the year at Eat Sleep Cycle and we’re very grateful for this. Our first training camp started on January 2nd and groups have constantly arrived since then, all enjoying the Girona sunshine and quality cycling.

Behind the scenes we’ve been busy bees, to say the least. Starting a company in your own country is tough enough but doing that in a foreign country and multiply the effort by 3.

There are so many things I love about Catalan and Spanish culture and theirs ways of life. It’s laid-back, family-oriented, outdoorsy and they are generally very happy people. It’s everything I love.

When that crosses over into business, however, it poses some interesting challenges.

I received a phone call from our Insurance rep. “Now that you are a travel agency you need this policy too.” A week later he says, “you have employees? You need this too”. That rounds our insurance policies nicely up to 8.

“No, who you need to speak with is the Chambers of Commerce,” the town hall tell me. “They sent you here? You need to go to the tax office.” Later at the tax office “You need an online appointment and a certificate from the local government.” At this point I am the spitting image of a headless chicken running around this peaceful town to no great effect. I can’t beat them so I join them by sitting down in a café to gather myself.

It seems like there are many Catalan/Spanish bodies to please. The Ayuntamiento (town hall), Generalitat (local government), Hacienda (tax office) and Seguros Sociales (social security). There are more but I won’t bore you!

The thing is, they don’t speak to each other and there is not a single one that provides the information an entrepreneur needs to start a business. When you visit, the staff are so friendly and nice. It’s not the people, it’s the systems and processes that in other countries have been put in place to support small businesses.

It’s not often I crave a piece of England but on this front I really do. Clear info available online including FAQ’s. Organisations established to support small businesses. I miss this.

One thing that works very well here is the “enchuffe” which literally means to be plugged in. You get an introduction to a person or organisation through somebody who knows you and them. Your problem goes to the top of the pile and is often dealt with for free. It’s an incredible feeling when it happens. Like catching a wave or descending that cambered corner perfectly. You just solved that problem so easily.

But when this happens you musn’t forget to return the favour. You have entered into a virtual bank account with this person and you are in debt. Send them a sales lead, a handsome date or anything of use to them at some point in the future.

Eat Sleep Cycle is growing and constantly changing to become better and better. By surrounding ourselves with helpful and knowledgable people and always, I mean always returning favours, we are able to stay on top in a difficult environment. It’s also a happier way of doing business.

Hopefully this is useful to anyone else starting a business in Spain!

Good luck!

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