Expat Entrepreneur: Martin Parker
Expat entrepreneur Martin Parker talks about the beauty and companionship of doing business in the Pyrenees, as well as the frustrations when dealing with the slow-paced lifestyle.
Name: Martin Parker
City of residence: Tuzaguet
Name of company: Guide2MidiPyrenees
Date of company launch: Aug 2009
Can you give us a brief description of your business and how it is going?
Guide2MidiPyrenees is an information website in English for the Midi-Pyrenees region of France. The site has articles on places to visit, news from around the region and France, local event listings, business directory, forum and more.
The site is developing well and attracting a lot of interest. As more Guide2 sites are launched over the next few months, bringing the total in France to ten, this can only improve our visibility in the market.
What do you like about doing business in your country of residence?
The slower pace of life. I sell advertising mostly to the English language market, but will be expanding into the French speaking market in the near future. Working with the expats here is great as you have a sense that you are all in it together, trying to make a living in a foreign country, but I want to broaden the appeal of the site.
What do you find most frustrating about doing business in your country of residence?
The slower pace of life! Getting most things done seems to take time and money, often having to go via several different bureaucrats and offices before getting to the right person.
What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?
Luckily, the Auto Entrepreneur system had just started when I came to set the business up and so I managed to avoid a lot of the obstacles and financial drags that have proven so difficult to businesses in France in the past. However, I will have to change my business type in the long run, as the AE system puts a number of limits on the business. Setting up the AE is straightforward and can all be completed online, as can the income declarations.
How has the economic crisis affected your business?
I started the business in the middle of the crisis, so can not really comment on it’s affect. However, there are still businesses out there that need and use my services, which can only bode well for the future when economic conditions improve.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up business in your country of residence?
Seek advice from business owners in your area and definitely take some professional advice. There are a lot of business advisers focusing on the Expat market, so ask around for recommendations of who to contact. Without help, it will be very easy to fall foul of the complex business and taxation rules that apply in France.
How does running a business in your current country of residence compare to running a business in other countries that you have lived in?
In France, it can be prohibitively expensive and complicated to start a business and this was the reason for the introduction of the Auto Entrepreneur system. The AE has gone some way to make it easier, but with the disadvantage of stricter rules.
In the UK, starting a business is fairly straightforward. A few choices to make for your business type, speak to the tax office and at the end of the year declare your income and expenses.
In France, there are many choices of business type and then also a number of different tax regimes to choose from. All have advantages and disadvantages and choosing between them can take a while to work out. Getting it wrong can prove expensive. The type of business you are in also has a huge affect on what you can and cannot do. Many job types are highly regulated, meaning that you will have to register with the appropriate chambres de métiers and prove that you have the right qualifications.
Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed in the questionnaire?
France and the Midi-Pyrenees are a fantastic place to live and work, but you need to accept some of the frustrating practices and learn to take things slowly. If you are thinking about moving here and starting a business, then go for it.