London is a steaming, smoking, smelting forge for businesses of all sizes and calibers. There is no better place in the world to start a successful venture or to open a new satellite office.

If we were to talk the IT sector alone, there are more than 40,000 companies with HQs in London and the city has secured more than 1.13 Billion in venture capital thanks to them.

Investments on such a scale have made the local government soft and welcoming. They support new businesses and startups, help with relocation, development of a business plan, provide training and consulting and the city also hosts events for entrepreneurs to meet with potential investors.

Add the fact that the UK has the lowest corporate tax rates among other G20 countries and allows for you to register a business within 48 hours and you’ll get a treat of a deal for doing business in the Big Smoke.

The fact that there are more than 8 million people in London that serve as both a prominent market and as one of the largest workforces in Europe serves up to be a splendid cherry on the icing.

The social factor

Starting a business in London sounds simple enough… on paper. But, in reality, you will face an entirely different business culture than the one you are used to. US residents may find the shift to be simpler because of the formal style of business in London, but even they will be surprised with the devil that hides in the details.

For once, you won’t get a straight answer in London, especially if it is a negative one. The British are simply not as direct as the people from many other countries are. We were born and raised to be polite and it taught us the mindful flexibility since childhood. By mindful flexibility, I mean that we don’t tend o clearly point at things we like or hate.

The British also don’t trust others easily. We have to get to know you before we do business with you. This may prove to be a challenge for expats and newcomers in a given niche.

You have to be active to overcome this wall, as we tend to do a lot of business via networking out of the office. A meetup for brunch will probably prove to be more fruitful than a formal meeting at an office.

The British also take appearances seriously. You will still need a formal office space (not a co-working hub or a flat with a laptop in it) to be treated with respect. This may be a challenge for an expat, but we can help you with that here, at London Relocation so that’s one less pain off your back.

British habits

People call us conservative. We tend to hear the word “classy” when others say that. The difference in spelling doesn’t change the essence of the word though. What this means for you, our dear expat entrepreneurs is that you will have to get acquainted with a few customs and traditions.

You will leave a great impression if you shake our hand, introduce yourself and explain your suggestion or business idea with a few sharp, precise points. Do all of the above but switch out the handshake for a cheerful hug or a wave and you’ve lost us immediately.

Wear a suit or jeans and a shirt and you will be fine. Dress up in shorts and a beany and you’ll be eaten alive.

This may sound strange, but don’t listen to what we say. Try reading our body language and check out everything that goes between the lines. More often than not, what remains unsaid has the highest value.

It’s these little nuances that can make your break the success of your new venture in the Big Smoke.

There are other details, however, that will definitely break your chances for success in London. Never-ever do the following or suffer the consequences:

  • Small talk is fine, We love to start the conversation with something like a chat about the weather. Don’t overdo it and do not overstep your boundaries. It is one or two sentences tops and the subject is weather and nothing else.
  • We are practical folk so if you tend to overspend on a meeting we will assume you do the same in business and life. Don’t be generous. It is OK to buy a coffee for a prospect or a partner but everything that goes beyond that is a major no-no.
  • Do not show any displays of emotion. We just don’t know how to react to that so we will probably just run away.
  • Do not expect people to like you from the get-go. As I said above, we are very suspicious and any relationship, especially in business, needs it’s time to mature and blossom.

Ok, this pretty much sums up our journey into the business world of the Big Smoke.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the British business culture? Perhaps you have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve that you would like to share with your fellow expats? Our blog is the perfect place to do it and earn great points for your karma. Join our conversation and feel free to share your thoughts here!

 

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