More and more people are moving to Dubai to take up lucrative job offers or set up their own businesses. In fact at least 30% of the UAE residents are ex-pats from other countries around the world who have moved here specifically for work. It’s a fascinating place to do business, but if you’re from outside Dubai it can be a little bit overwhelming at first. In the years I have been here I have learned a lot about what to expect when starting out in the city and how to get there quickly.
I’ve always loved challenges so even though I had no experience in business or running any sort of company, setting up a business in Dubai. I had no idea what would happen or how people would react to me but over time I have built the entire company from scratch and created a respected brand name for myself. It wasn’t easy though- it took weeks of frustrating effort before any doors opened for me, but once they did I was able to find the staff, set up the company, and start my career.
Once I had my office sorted there were many more challenges that I faced as a small business owner in Dubai. Issues with visas, getting my products through customs quickly, building relationships with suppliers are all things that have tested my resolve at times but which I was able to overcome with a little know-how and good planning.
After buying and selling products from the US to the UAE for several years, I can now say that there are 7 important lessons that I believe every small business owner in Dubai has to learn quickly if they want their company to succeed:
1) Get Your Visa In Order
Like most countries, doing business in Dubai as a foreigner is much easier if you have the correct visa to operate your company. In fact, this is a big part of why many businesses base themselves here – it’s worth the effort for entrepreneurs from outside the UAE to spend the time and money getting their visas sorted before they even start looking at property or premises.
Many people come to Dubai on a tourist visa and then switch once they’ve had a chance to look around. For entrepreneurs though, it’s worth getting your residence visa sorted from the outset- you’ll have more options for making the most of the opportunities that exist in this city. Line up all of your visas before you get here so that you don’t have a delay in your plans.
2) Find The Right Staff For Your Business
As a business owner, one of the most important decisions you will make is who to hire. In small businesses there isn’t always a big team that you can choose from so making the right choice with your first few hires is even more crucial.
It’s easy to hire based on the skills they bring to the table, but it’s worth considering how well your staff will ‘fit in’ with your company. Even if someone is very capable and professional they might not be right for you if they don’t gel with the rest of your team or are likely to clash with other members of the business.
3) Don’t Assume You Know It All
One of the reasons it’s easy to be successful as a small business owner in Dubai is that there are so many experts available to help you out with problems or questions you might have. If you run into a problem with your advertising, for example, there are several agencies that you can talk to about the best approach to take. If you’re not sure how to handle customs clearances, there are people who can give you advice on what forms need to be filled in or even speak to your suppliers directly if they are having problems.
If your company is based here then it’s very possible that many of these same experts can also offer you advice and support on similar matters. It’s worth getting in touch with them if you’re not sure what to do as they will charge you for their time, but it might pay dividends to get a second opinion from those who know more than you do about the subject.
4) Plan Ahead And Keep Your Options Open
In business, there’s a good reason it’s called ‘business planning’ because that’s exactly what you need to do. In this competitive market, you can’t afford to just sit around waiting for orders to come in without having a plan in place for the future. You have to anticipate problems and changes before they happen so that your company can keep going regardless.
If you’re importing your products, then it’s important to have a plan that works for all eventualities – if prices go up then what will you do? If the value of the currency changes drastically, what will you do? Do you have enough business already coming in so that even if there is a short-term dip, you won’t have to lay anyone off?
5) Stay On Top Of Your Finances And Tax Obligations
The UAE is a great place for business in that tax rates are very low. However, it’s important that you still take the tax situation seriously- not only because it will benefit your company but also because ignoring taxes in the UAE is a very serious offense.
For example, when your company has finished its first year of trading, you have to pay income tax on any profits you have made. You can postpone this until later if necessary but it’s important that you get it done so that the government knows what you are earning and isn’t able to come looking for anything that you haven’t declared.