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Making business contacts

Business in Barcelona relies on networks of contacts which can be difficult to break into and which require good Catalan and Spanish

There are three main problems that you need to overcome to start building business in Barcelona. Firstly, the business culture is strongly built around networks of relationships which means that it can be difficult to break in and establish yourself. From talking to people from South America building businesses here, even if your Spanish is good, you still need to work your way into the networks to build relationships and there is something of a chauvenistic bias towards native catalans in this way.

Many successful ex-pat businesses that we have come across are focused on the tourist industry - events organisation, tours, renting apartments and property sales for instance. The exception being the chinese communities who focus on retailing. There are a range of other ex-pats who sell in the UK and live here, particularly internet-based businesses. The Spanish market itself is a long way behind the UK in terms of internet use as a route for sales, partly connected to this relationship focus. Sales channels tend to be extremely fragmented and personal relationships are extremely important - people work via phone, not via email or online. There is almost an air of distrust or suspicion towards new suppliers that can outweigh any advantage you have in terms of quality or price. Having said that, people say that once you start to make in-roads, word-of-mouth is so important that referrals do come and do lead to new business.

A consequence of the personal networks is the need for good Spanish and preferably Catalan if you want to break into the local market. Some business people will speak English and you can find english-speaking employees and freelancers to work with you, but buyers naturally will expect you to sell in Catalan or Spanish.

The final problem is that even if you do start to find business, it isn't likely to be well paid. Going rates for freelance graphic design is €8-12 per hour for instance and a lot of freelance projects will be at less than €15 per hour. Salaries are also typically much lower here for equivalent work in the US or UK - look at infojobs.net or loquo for examples. In general, businesses here don't like spending money for things and may make do rather than pay for quality. This may have advantages if you are selling in the UK with employees based here, but is a disadvantage in reverse.

Many people looking to set up businesses get involved with some of the ex-pat business clubs. For instance networkbarcelona.com (was en-barcelona) which is a semi-casual UK style club that meets once a month with opportunities to stand up and give a quick overview of your business, thebusinesslunch, or the more American networking and business referral meetings which are much more formalised and where you pay to be a member (and be careful if you do pay because attendance may be compulsory). There are also events run by the chambers of commerce of various nations.

 

 


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