Category Archives: Business in Spain

Amazon To Open in Spain – Big Changes Ahead?

According to the press, Amazon is due to open in Spain on Sept. 15th. [Update: Amazon.es is now open.] This is hardly surprising – all over Madrid you see MRW vans delivering Amazon packages every day, and it isn’t just expats like me buying English books. Many Spanish people have been turning to Amazon for some time to ship better priced electronics to Spain with the minimum of fuss and good guarantees: cameras etc are generally cheaper on Amazon than from major retailers here. Apparently one million Spaniards already visit Amazon websites every month.

Importantly, Amazon opening in Spain could have huge implications for the Spanish on- and off-line market.

First of all e-commerce is way behind in Spain, and one of the reasons I’ve always posited for this is that Spain never had Amazon. I believe that Amazon.co.uk/.com/.fr/.de has had a huge role in fostering trust in ecommerce in those countries. Buying on-line in the US or the UK is largely considered normal, safe, and reliable thanks to Amazon, whereas here in Spain it is still not considered a normal way to shop amongst large sectors of the population.

Spain sits about 3 times behind the UK in terms of ecommerce. Online sales accounted for only 3% of all retail sales in Spain in 2010, whereas in the UK online sales accounted for 10% of all sales in the same year.

First quarter online retail sales in Spain were up 23.1% this year with respect to 2010 first quarter sales, but Spain still lags a long way behind. Amazon opening in Spain could change that in the same way it helped develop ecommerce in countries like the UK – by doing things well, efficiently, and offering generally great customer service.

The question is, if Amazon Spain brings these same important retail values to Spain (good customer service, efficient product delivery etc), could it have a knock on effect for off-line retailers as well, as Amazon sets new higher standards (e.g. in returns policies and customer service) not always seen here before?

Who knows, but one thing is for sure, I would be worried if I ran any kind of books/electronics/household goods ecommerce site in Spain right now – the bar is about to be lifted significantly, and Amazon is going to make other online operators who aren’t providing an immaculate service already, look pretty bad, very quickly.

Personally I think this is great news, I hope Amazon does in Spain everything it’s been able to do elsewhere – offering the same range of products, good customer service, and guarantees. We’ll find out what they have in store for us on September 15th.

Update: As mentioned above, Amazon.es in now open, and will thrive.

Spanish Government’s Overwhelming Optimism…

Spanish poster about starting a company in the crisis

The poster, for those that aren’t yet amazing at Spanish, reads, “Stop The Crisis, Start A Company”!

Just the ticket I’d say… the country is in economic ruin, you’ve just lost your job, things are looking pretty bleak… I know, why not start a company! After all, that’s easy in Spain – hardly any paperwork involved, and you only need €3,000 in cash or usable assets lying around to get going!

This should solve the country’s economic gloom in no time ;)

How bad will things get in Spain?

I recently received an email with an article that you may find interesting. From investorsinsight.com comes this, “Spain: The Hole In Europe’s Balance Sheet “. It makes for a depressing read, but much of it makes very good sense:

“We believe that Spain is a disaster waiting to happen [and] is set for a long, painful deflation that will manifest itself via a very high unemployment level for an industrialized economy, a real estate collapse and general banking insolvencies… Spain had the mother of all housing bubbles. To put things in perspective, Spain now has as many unsold homes as the US, even though the US is about six times bigger. Spain is roughly 10% of the EU GDP, yet it accounted for 30% of all new homes built since 2000 in the EU. Most of the new homes were financed with capital from abroad, so Spain’s housing crisis is closely tied in with a financing crisis… Spanish banks, in our view, are now facing a very bleak outlook. Spain’s unemployment rate reached over 17%; there are now four million unemployed Spaniards and over one million families with not a single person employed in the family. “

Read the full article here, and let me know what you think…

Online Business in Spain – Getting Rich from Google Ads

This post continues our series about running an online business in Spain.

How do you make money from blogging? That is something that most fledgling bloggers ask themselves sooner rather than later. For plenty of ideas, just head over to problogger.net. Darren Rose, the guy who runs that site, bought his house on the back of Adsense payments, so he knows what he’s talking about.

The Google Ads story here at Notesfromspain.com is a little different. Up until yesterday I had a vertical strip of Google ads down the left-hand column of all the blog and forum pages. Want to know how much they earned me this March, a fairly typical month? Continue reading

Online Business in Spain, Very Useful Resources

This post forms part of an ongoing series about running an online business in Spain. If that is something that might interest you, read on!

Nowadays a lot of people including, I suppose, myself, are touting the dream of a live-anywhere, internet-based income. You know, the idea that you can chill out by the beach, check your email once a week, and watch the cash role in.

The reality is obviously a little bit tougher than that. Not only do you have to find an online business idea that works, you then have to lovingly pay attention to it, full time, for a very long time. Still, it beats having to commute to work every day, and yes, you can live by a nice Spanish beach if you want to! Continue reading

Forget the Elections, how about Spanish Office Politics?

Dave Hall lives and works in Barcelona. You can read more of his great posts on his blog, and his guest blogging posts here on Notes from Spain. He is currently somewhat of an expert on life in a Spanish office:

After listening to the Notes in Spanish Advanced podcast about life in a Spanish office recently, I thought I’d write a little about my experience of some of the most striking differences from my viewpoint as a long term UK office worker now working in various Spanish offices over the past 18 months.

The biggest (and the most obvious) thing that I still struggle with at times is how to get my head around the well publicised relaxed attitude to timekeeping.

In my old UK company, we would routinely receive emails reminding us that 9 am was the start of the "working" day, and not the time you should be stubbing your fag out against the wall outside and thinking about dragging your lazy, no-good, workshy carcass into the building only to then go for an unfeasibly long pee, get a coffee and chat to your colleagues about last night’s television (OK, I’m paraphrasing). Something along the lines of "You should be at your workstation, ready to work at 9 am" was the usual message.

Lunch time was a fixed 45 minutes and the same rules applied then. In fact, this was so well drummed into us that, if you strolled back in 5 minutes late, your own dear colleagues (from outside your department) would look at you with scorn and pass comment either behind your back, or to your face in the form of a lame joke. The management had clearly done their job on us, as the staff were effectively policing each other in the form of an internalized company Gestapo!!! (Although, we’d of course swapped finger screws for finger pointing). A sad situation indeed.

Here in Spain, it’s very different. Last week, when I asked what the hours were in my new job, my boss kind of shrugged, expelled a lot of air, umm’d and arr’d , then finally said, "Well, come in about 9am ish, lunch is roughly 13.30 until whenever, and most people start leaving about 18.30, or earlier if it’s a Friday." (She then immediately asked if I wanted to go for a coffee with her). Ah well, that’s clear then, thanks!

So, not a bad situation, but totally useless for an anally retentive, logically minded Virgo like me who can only cope with life if there’s a "rule" of some kind to help avoid unnecessary confusion! I still find myself rushing back to work after lunch, only to find an empty office, and then chastising myself for being such a pillock. For someone who prides himself on having done a reasonably good job of fitting into Spanish life, this work timetable thing is an irritatingly persistent problem that I still need to shake off before my hair falls out or I start cultivating a stomach ulcer. Continue reading

Starting an Online Business in Spain – What do I know?

Warning! If you think this online business stuff may not interest you, you are probably right – why not go and read about Spanish Presidential Candidates’ sex lives or browse our forum instead!

Still here? OK, as mentioned recently, I want to write occasionally about running an on-line business in Spain… or beyond. But some people may wonder what on earth I know about that?! (I often do!)

Books on Spain

I built my first website in 2004, a site called booksonspain.com, which reviewed, wait for it, books on Spain. Every book had an affiliate link to Amazon, and I thought I’d soon be a very rich man as everyone jumped from my new site to Amazon, spending loads of money there and giving me the resulting affiliate commissions. I think I made about 100 dollars in the year or two the site was running. Continue reading

Online Business in Spain – The Dean Hunt Interview

Dean Hunt

Over the next few months I hope to write a series of posts about setting up, building, and running an online business in Spain. To kick-start the whole affair, I asked my friend Dean Hunt a few questions about his experiences as an internet entrepreneur here in Spain.

I met Dean in Madrid last year, and apart from being a lot of fun to hang out with – if you don’t mind going to bed absurdly late ;) – his up-to-date marketing advice has also had a significant impact on the fortunes of our own little online set up.

Here’s the quick-fire interview, I’m sure questions in the comments will be more than welcome:

- So Dean, how long have you been in Spain?

Just over three years now. It doesn’t seem that long, el tiempo vuela.

- What exactly do you do here work-wise?

I am an Internet Entrepreneur. I know that sounds quite vague, but what I actually do can change from month to month, depending on where I see opportunities. I am also now considered one of the leading Marketing experts on the Internet, so that has been a touching accolade.

- How long did it take before the net paid the bills?

I was messing around on the net for a year or so before I came to Madrid. But in terms of trying to do it as a job, it took a year of intensive self education before I was in a position to be paying the bills, and even after one year, I was scraping by. Luckily I have continued to improve both my skills and my profile, so I am now able to make a handsome living: I currently make approx. 10 times what I was earning in the UK.

- Many people will think ‘I can’t do that’ – What special skills does someone need to be able to make money online?

If I had to pick one skill I would probably say writing. The Internet is essentially just a lot of content strung together by links, we have a saying in the industry: “content is king”, with good content, you will succeed, and invariably most content is written… even videos and podcasts are often scripted. Unfortunately most people with this talent use it to teach, proof-read, do freelance writing etc… and frankly, it is extremely difficult to make a 6 or 7 figure income that way.

- Do you think Spain makes it particularly easy or difficult to set up an online business?

Spain makes it very difficult to set up a business, I have built a house in Madrid and I have a limited company here, and the bureaucracy can be crazy. I have done things in the UK via the net or via the post (mail), yet in Spain you have to fill out 15 forms, queue from 6am, pay hundreds of euros etc… A Spanish person once told me that the Spanish like to make things as complicated as possible, from what I have seen, he was right.

- You have a somewhat lively blog at deanhunt.com – can a personal site like that make a big difference to someone’s online potential?

It started purely as a place to gather my thoughts, all of that exploded in late 2006 when I had almost 250,000 visitors in a one week period. Since then I have been addicted to the thrill of it, and now have a loyal following and reader base. For me it has helped a lot, despite the fact that my services are fully booked for a year in advance, I still get people contacting me on a weekly basis with job and partnership opportunities. The blog has helped a great deal in opening doors for me.

- What one piece of advice would you give the fledgling blogger?

Stand out from the crowd. There are approx 6 billion web pages on the Internet, find a way to stand out from the others.

- If you could change one thing about your working life…

I work from my home office, so over the years I have started to miss the daily face-to-face interaction with other people. So I suppose it would be interesting to work one day of the week in an office with like-minded people.

- The thing you like most about life in Spain is…

The beauty. Whether you are on a beach in Southern Spain, In Madrid Centre, or even in a quiet little town, it is beautiful. Throw in the good weather, and you have a perfect recipe.

- Any Spain moans?

Just the usual I suppose: Lack of customer service, terrible drivers/roads, David Bisbal ;-)

- The one post every should read on your blog is:

It is more of a page than a post, but http://deanhunt.com/category/life-in-madrid/ shows all the blog posts regarding my life in Madrid. There is everything from photos of my house, to the announcement of my engagement to Elena, to me eating snails in a bar in Madrid (yikes).

Many thanks Dean! Remember to check out his blog at deanhunt.com (mind the killer bunnies!), and feel free to comment/ask questions below.

Working for a Company in Spain – Everyday life in Spain 4

I once had an argument with an English friend who suggested that the Spanish don’t work very hard. He thought they spent half their working day having a siesta. I told him that having worked in two companies in Spain, I could say without a doubt that the Spanish work much longer hours than the British and appeared equally, if not more, stressed as a result.

I worked as an English teacher in both companies. The second was a multi-million dollar marketing company, that invoiced its clients hundreds of thousands of euros at a time. By just floating in for a few hours a day (max 24 per week), I earned more than most of the main-floor cubicle workers I was teaching, who worked 60 hour weeks, might come in at weekends without extra renumeration, and were lucky to earn 1,000 euros a month.

They are the so-called mileuristas (great article in El Pais), late-20′s to thirty-somethings with a degree, maybe even a Masters, probably an extra language or two to their name, who just can’t break the 1,000 euros a month barrier no matter who they are working for. Inflation rises, house prices go through the roof, yet salaries in Spain just don’t budge. How is that possible, even when multi-nationals are writing the wage cheques?

Can’t answer that one, but here are a few more things you might not know about work in Spain:

- Many companies still enforce an hour and a half lunch break (as if everyone still worked round the corner from home and wanted to pop back for lunch – now the exception rather than the norm).

- It is still common for women to get paid less for doing the same job as their male colleagues. A female director in the above-mentioned multi-national I worked for said this is because the man is seen as the head of his family, and will need more money to support his household, including, presumably, his low-earning wife.

- Once you get off the cubicle floor and into a managerial position you will earn a more realistic wage, but you’ll be expected to give up the rest of your life to earn it. Don’t expect to be home before 10 at night.

- Working from home is uncommon, but pilot schemes in some companies do let people stay at home once or twice a week.

- A yearly salary is usually split into 14 payments: one per month, and an extra payment of the same amount, the paga extraordinaria, paid once in June or July and once at Christmas.

Conclusion

Working in a Spanish company is tough. You are expected to work long hours for low wages, no matter who you are working for. Multi-million dollar international marketing firm? They’ll pay you little and take their cash for the shareholders, thanks. A Spanish friend of ours works for a multi-million dollar tech company, just outside Madrid, as a mid-level IT consultant with 6 years experience. She has been placed there by her consultancy firm, a large French company. Should be driving a BMW, right? Wrong. She earns less than 2,000 euros a month, probably half what she would earn for the same job in the UK.

If you want an easy life in a Spanish company you have two options. Be the chauffeur driven CEO, or the lowly English teacher.

How does life in your company/country compare?

Kaliyoga – Starting a Yoga Retreat in Spain – NFS podcast 66


[Download MP3]

Kaliyoga: Jonji, Rosie, Ben and Marina

Photo: Jonathon, Rosie, Ben and Marina, by Fred Shively

This week we talk to Jonathon and Rosie, who set up Kaliyoga, a holistic yoga and detox center in the Alpujarra mountains south of Granada. We talk about the difficulties of setting up a business like this in Spain, how they marketed their new business in the beginning, and the rewards they now reap a few years down the line…