Chris Hughes
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Running a Small Business in Spain - A light hearted view.

Posted by Chris Hughes (co founder WhatsWhat.biz, internet entrepreneur and Business Analyst)

Many years ago I worked as an IT consultant for Banks and Insurance companies in the City of London (mostly on the trading floors). It was fascinating work where I would write programs and design spreadsheets to help traders make decisions on whether certain multi million companies were viable to invest in.
I also gave presentations to audiences (for 5 figure sums of money) on the fundamentals of running a small to medium size business. Looking back over my clients, between 79 and 2000, I counted over 60. Railtrack, BUPA, Sun Life, Prudential, Marconi, Elstree Film Studios - the list is long and a lot of them were repeat business.

Times have changed but one thing has not changed:- "The belief that you have a great business idea, you can start a business, be your own boss, and you can earn a living doing it." Don't get me wrong, there is no substitute for enthusiasm, but you have to know WhatsWhat about running a business and where enthusiasm ends and running a business starts. For example there is a minimum head count for "Key" staff. If you have a Restaurant, nobody can be good at cooking food, serving food, advertising and marketing the business and keeping the books straight. Facebook, Google and Microsoft were not started with just one person.

Generally business owners are middle aged, and full of aspirations of running a business in Spain. They arrive in Spain with an idea (and depending on how much savings they have), most of them are out of business within 5 years. Only a few really make it.

So here are a few of the aspirations and suggestions.

Turn a Hobby into a Business:  I have heard many a comment from Restaurant/Bar owners who started the business "because they liked cooking". Not a good reason to start a business. For example I like cats, but I am pretty sure I cannot earn a living from running a Cattery in Spain.

Introduce your business to the public: So once the business has opened, try to produce business cards with information on them, not just a name. Without any indication of what the business is about, missing contact details like phone number for example, is going to be a waste of money. People can't be bothered trying to work out what it is you sell - so don't try and be cleaver - people need to be told, in plain and simple English. And when you get your customers, find out where they come from, and where they found you - then do more of it. So many businesses have no idea whether their new business is coming from, and the "I get most of my Business from referrals" is a precariously dangerous attitude.

Identify your potential or new customers: On one occasion I visited an Indian Restaurant and was presented with a menu written in English and Spanish. I asked the waiter if he had many Spanish customers and to my dismay he said hardly any!!!- My next comment was obvious.... "Then why have you spent money getting your menu translated into Spanish? - His reply "Because we are in Spain". You see it had never occurred to him that the bulk of his customers (95%) were English, German, French and Dutch, so why not first focus on these Nationalities?

Communicate with your existing customers: On another occasion when presented with the bill, I asked where the customer comments feedback ticket was? - Blank looks again - Hello am I speaking Swahili? On another occasion I asked where the restaurants customers came from? - More blank looks. You see to get your very important business message to your customers (e.g. Next week we do 50% off all meals) you must have a way of letting them know. And by the way its not cost effective advertising in a publication that is distributed to outlets over a distance of over 200 Kilometers. Fact: Nobody travels that far to do shopping or eat out.

Social media is what?: In a nutshell I have been running two successful businesses before WhatsWhat and to date lots of friends, lots of likes and lots of followers later, not a penny has come in from either Facebook or Instagram. Been there done it, it does not suit all businesses, unfortunately "Friend requests" very  seldom bring in business, as do "Invitations to Events" and I really am not interested about Jo Blogs updating his cover photo.

Which brings me nicely to on-line Directories and WhatsWhat.

In the light of the fact that business will blindly post their details on any directory they can find that's free - no frills offered, not on first page of Google Business search, no chance of being displayed first on the page. You know what people say about something that's free - nothing in life is free - if it is, it's not worth having.

As I said in previous articles try to post your business in sizeable directories (i.e. the ones that are on the first page of Google) but unfortunately, as the size of the directory grows the chance of finding your business entry in the directory diminishes due to the increased numbers of your competitors entries. This is a prime example of how WhatsWhat works in your favor. It doesn't matter how many "Plumbers" there are in the directory, if your customers "Like" you or write a review about you, you will be re - ranked to the top of the results page.

Try it yourself, choose a directory, any local directory, choose a profession or business that you need tomorrow. Who do you find first on the first page? Well that's my point !! If the directory is any good you will now have many to choose from. The list is in no particular order and never changes, even if you can find one that is within 3 miles from you - after all that hassle, are you actually interested?

However your confidence increases tremendously if the first business on the list is one that has the most number of customers that liked that business or have written a good review. 

If you need help with your business and need some new ideas, then contact WhatsWhat we will arrange an appointment with a consultant. Don't wait and hope, get out of "Titanic Mode" pick up the phone and contact us before its too late - (+34) 641 15 25 34

PS/ Our Business Advice is not free - You know what they say about anything that's free!!