Expat Entrepreneur: John Payne in Costa del Sol
Entrepreneur John Payne says the key to success in Andalucia is networking within the expat community - because we are all in this together.
Name: John Payne
Country of residence: Spain
Name of company: Pueblo Interiors
Company launch: 2000
Can you give us a brief description of your business and how it is going?
I trained in cabinet making at West Dean College Sussex and interior design at an art college in the West Midlands. We started off in Sussex as Village Interiors. We refurbished period houses, installed country kitchens, bathrooms and custom cabinetry, expanding eventually to include bespoke conservatories and orangeries. Our skills continue to evolve to match the needs of our customers. Now 20 years later, having relocated to the Costa del Sol 12 years ago, we offer our clients the benefit of our vast experience.
What do you like about doing business in your country of residence?
It is most fulfilling to be able to help a fellow expat with their home or shop refurbishment. I have personal integrity and would never let anyone down. All my clients know that they can trust me, most of my business comes from referrals and personal recommendations. The Costa del Sol is a small area where good news travels fast, bad news even faster. Pueblo Interiors is good news.
What do you find most frustrating about doing business in your country of residence?
Hmm, the legal system, as I am sure most people, even the Spanish would agree. Supplies are difficult too, but I have many contacts and methods of getting supplies, having built up accounts over the years. Planning well in advance helps with all the fiestas!
What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?
Initially the language. Although my wife learned Spanish at school, it was difficult for her to understand Andaluz! Thank goodness we found a 'gestor' who is Spanish but speaks perfect English. She guided us through all the pitfalls and helped us immensely. We are now firm friends, as well as being her client.
How has the economic crisis affected your business?
Ah, this question is repeatedly asked, and if I analysed my business today, the trends have shifted. With less movement in the property market, we are finding that people are improving the houses that they live in rather than leaving that irritating old kitchen or bathroom for someone else to upgrade. And they are doing it themselves, with my help, of course.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up business in your country of residence?
The key is networking within the Expat community. We have set up Andalucia Business Connections (ABC Group Spain), a business networking group, in Mijas and are about to expand to open a branch in Marbella in the near future. This way you will have the expertise of the many different trades and professions at your disposal. We realise that we are all in this together.
Would you like to add anything that we haven't addressed in the questionnaire?
There seems to be a lot of TV programmes trying to put people off moving to the Costa del Sol. One particular series looked at the towns between Marbella and Malaga, and portrayed them as violent and appealing to yobs, but this is not an accurate portrayal. Perhaps the fact that people are moving millions of pounds out of the UK to Southern Spain is the reason for media viewpoint.
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