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Expanding your business into the Middle East

by LLB Reporter
15th Feb 18 12:32 pm


How easy is it to expand business into the Middle East?


The Middle East is one of the world’s new business hotspots, and places like Saudi Arabia attract billions of dollars in investment every single year. But just how easy is it to expand a business into this bustling region, and how can you maximize your chances of securing a deal? Here are some tips for any budding international entrepreneur to follow when starting their Middle Eastern business journey.

Allow time for visas

When heading out to the Middle East to conduct business, it’s important to remember that receiving a simple and easy visa isn’t always a given. Instead, you may find that there are all sorts of bureaucratic hold-ups. Often, it might be useful to engage the services of a specialist lawyer who can help you find ways to make the process as efficient and speedy as possible, otherwise you may find yourself waiting for ages to get your paperwork.

Keep your cash flow strong

When starting up a new business, it’s absolutely vital that you keep your cash flow healthy and make sure that you have procedures in place to stay financially afloat in those crucial first few months. A crucial part of this will be to keep on top of foreign exchange rates. When setting up in a nation like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, you should constantly monitor how much you will need to transfer money from the UK to the UAE if you want to have enough in your account to pay staff, buy equipment and keep the lights on.

Learn the local language

When working out in the Middle East as an American company, it’s likely that you’ll spend a lot of your time speaking English with associates and colleagues. However, it’s wise to make sure that someone on the team speaks the local language in the country you have chosen so you’re protected from potential misunderstandings.

That is because there’s bound to be an interaction with a local authority, supplier or other professional at some point while your business is in operation, and any misunderstandings could cost your business dearly. Remember, the languages spoken vary from country to country: Arabic is the official language of the UAE, for example, while other countries speak Persian and Hebrew.

Think carefully about your sector

The Middle East is booming in some ways, but in other ways it lags behind. That’s why it pays to think very carefully about whether what your sector offers matches the demand that’s already in place out there: professional services, for example, are needed, while high-tech companies are also experiencing a speedy rise in fortunes – especially in the Gulf region. Some of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds in recent years, meanwhile, have been located in the UAE.

Visiting the area in order to find out for yourself is a must-do. While you’re out there, try to set up short meetings with potential clients and suppliers. There’s nothing like a face to face conversation in order to instinctively know whether something is the right move or not, so paying a visit as well as carrying out market research is a good move.

Remember local customs

Customs out in the Middle East are, of course, different. While in many Western countries there is often a divide between colleagues and friends, this doesn’t always exist in the Middle East. Many business professionals there are happy to be friends with their colleagues – and they often reward those associates who they consider the most friendly and approachable.

The same goes for your personal behavior, which must be impeccable at all times. In many Middle Eastern countries, certain acts which we take from granted in the West are frowned upon. Some personal freedoms, especially those relating to alcohol and relationships, may not be widely accepted out there, and one move against local customs could cause problems with business relationships – so it’s best to stay alert and on top of the rules.

Starting up in the Middle East might not be simple, but given the scale of the foreign interest in this thriving region of the world, it is definitely something your business ought to consider. Whether it’s the language barrier that’s a problem or you’re concerned about cash flow, there are ways around almost any issue provided you put in the hard work and develop a strong strategy. By following the tips outlined here, you’ll stand a top chance of getting your business ready and in ship shape for a move to the Middle East.

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