As of this writing there is still a significant drop in tourism in Belgium. Much of this drop can be directly attributed to the terror attacks that occurred there early in 2016 – which impacted tourists directly. So why would I even bring up Belgium as being a great place to start a business?
Because now is a great time to do just that.
Belgium has long been known as one of the gateways to other European countries. It’s central location makes it a great place (geographically) to transact across EU. But just because a place is good for shipping it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good place to start a business.
Here are several reasons why starting a business in Belgium makes sense:
- Skilled Workers – Belgium is one of the more advanced countries in the Eurozone. Most of the workers are educated, speak multiple languages and have travelled. This makes for a smart and skilled workforce.
- Technological Advantages – Brussels is well known as being a city that is on the cutting edge of technology. Sure, they speak French, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to use technology. You will get access to workers and customers who know how to use technology.
- Central Location – Belgium is centrally located but it’s also the heart of Europe. It’s where NATO lives and where the EU is headquartered. This give you access to people coming and going and it provides a constantly revolving customer base. This is helpful if you sell something that can be used multiple times or provide a service.
- Service Businesses Have Advantages – taxes are a huge part of doing business in Belgium and if you run a service based business you’ll get away with paying lower taxes – especially if most of what you do can be done without hiring other workers.
- No Capital Gains Tax – finally, if you’re able to make a go of it in Belgium and your business takes off, you can always sell and not have to worry about capital gains taxes. That’s a big plus.
As always there are a few reasons why you might want to think about starting a business in Belgium.
- Political Red Tape – Belgium is just like many of the other countries in Europe, there’s a lot of red tape. When starting a business you’ll be faced with the monster that lives there. There are several hoops you have to jump through – from registration with the right departments – to capital reserve requirements – you will have to deal with this head on. Some business owners have reported that it can take as long as 12 months to get registered!
- Capital Requirements – you are required to deposit 20% of your capital with a Belgium bank or capital depository. This will tie up your funds from the beginning.
- High Cost of Labor – Labor costs are high. A big reason for this is the political support system that Belgium has – someone has to fund it and unlike in the US where an employee pays a portion of it, in Belgium the employer pays all of it. Their social security is business funded.
- Strong Euro – Unlike Canada, where the Loonie is weak and selling outside the country gives you a premium, in Europe the Euro is currently very strong. That means that it will seem like you’re taking a loss if you export items. Again, in exchanges there’s parity but it will FEEL like you’re taking it in the shorts.
So there you have it. Belgium has many great qualities. It’s a great place to visit, a great place to DO business and, under the right circumstances, can be a great place to start a business.
I recommend starting a service business there and not hiring anyone. Then build it up and sell it.
We’ll see what others think about business in Belgium.