Starting a company in the UAE can seem like a massive undertaking, especially for someone coming from outside the region. When we started Frank Porter in Dubai in late 2017, we dealt with many challenges. While at times discouraging, the ‘start-up’ process is not impossible, especially if you are aware of some tips:
1. Figure out your business activity
For sure, you already know what you want to do, but do you know the exact UAE ‘business activity’? Your business activity will determine your business license and legal structure, so this is extremely important. Some businesses can be licensed under multiple structures, so you need to determine which structure best suits your needs.
2. Whatever budget and timeframe you had, double it
There are many different start-up costs in the UAE, which are not always clear when you start the process. This is especially true if things don’t go as planned (which they of course never do in the start-up world). Be prepared for these costs when budgeting. Also be ready for things to take longer than expected. If the expected timing is ‘approximately 2 weeks’ – this can actually mean ‘at least 1 month.’ So, plan accordingly and multiple by two!
3. Get an excellent PRO
There is really no comparison to this in Europe, but it is absolutely essential to have a good PRO (Public Relations Officer) in the UAE. It is a service you don’t realize the importance of, until it’s almost too late. They do the basics like processing visas or renewing licenses. However, the true skill of an excellent PRO is the ability to solve seemingly ‘unsolvable’ issues – which will always come up in the process of starting a business in the UAE. Unfortunately, the only way to find a good one is through a lot of trial and error.
4. Be patient with hiring
It takes time to hire the perfect team and requires a good dose of patience. In the beginning this can be quite draining and discouraging. Due to the transient nature of expats in UAE, you will go through a lot of turnover. To find the right people can be challenging in any region, but it is especially costly in the UAE as every hire is an immediate ‘visa cost’ to the company. But as with everything, patience is key – so as long as you are aware of this process it starts to pay off massively with the right people in place.
5. Create your own business culture
The UAE is a melting pot of nationalities and cultures. With so people and values represented, it becomes difficult to have any defined ‘UAE business culture.’ This is why it is integral for your company to develop its own culture from the start – which always starts with the founders. What are your company values? What are your long-term goals? This ‘culture’ will be felt at every level of your business, so you need to take time and define it.
- Anna Skigin
CEO of Frank Porter
Images courtesy of Unsplash