Apr 142012
Sunset For Spain

Sunset For Spain

I really haven’t had a long break during the summer and really that suits me better because getting started again is really difficult. Spain is showing that at the moment. Everyone came back to work yesterday, apart from some bank managers who will not be back until next Monday, and all I hear from people is that starting up again is so difficult.

Of course it is! You have just taken the best part of two months off work!

Now Spain is suffering from a crisis/recession of course just like most other countries. Spain’s is rather more profound though because it had a lot of dependency on just one industry, construction. As construction has been decimated people haven’t yet got into other areas where Spain has the potential to be strong, for example renewables, alternative tourism, transport and various types of more specialized agriculture.

What I am seeing though is that people are afraid of starting up things even though their chances of somebody plucking them from the unemployment registry and giving them a well paid job are about as likely as Britain having four men in the semi finals of next year’s Wimbledon tournament. I am always asking people , “If it costs nothing or little to start up and you have nothing to lose why are you just sitting on your hands waiting for things to happen?” Obviously the question is not appreciated 😉 but it needs answering.

Fear pervades everything at the moment because everybody has swallowed hook, line and sinker the story that nothing is successful at the moment.

Are people where you are prepared to step out of their comfort zone and move into something new? And why do you think there is this attitude here?

I have a theory, I always do even though they are not nearly always right. I think it is to do with the way the education service runs in Spain. Entrepreneurship is just not valued whereas working for someone, preferably the government, is given priority. Working for yourself is perceived to be a huge risk and there are very few people held up as role models of how to do it. I see no Richard Branson type figure and nobody in the line of Tim Ferriss telling people how to streamline their life. Parents push their children into the safe professions and little parental support comes to someone wanting to do something different. Nowhere does there seem to be the education or young people telling them how to set up on their own and then expand their business.

I cannot wait until we have the Bootstrapping Book translated into Spanish to see the reaction!

Related Posts

1) If I Were In Charge

2) The Dynamism of the Spanish Entrepreneur

3) Spanish Business Culture and Mongolia

Image Credit; From Dsiis on www.sxc.hu

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  21 Responses to “September and Back To Work (For Some)”

  1. Being one of the people you are talking about, I would say that fear and confidence are my biggest problems. It is easy to be an employee, go home at end of day and switch off, if all goes wrong you have the dole and laws to protect you. go it alone and thats what you are…alone! (or so its painted here in Spain)
    i mentioned the word “stability” to someone when talking about the benefits of being an employee, and they threw it back at me! The thing is we don´t have that here in Spain anyway so it was a pretty poor arguement on my part! Following my last job experience, where I have walked away without the law or dole, it looks as though going it alone is the best option open to me, so fingers crossed, little by little, whilst keeping an eye on the job market of course.

  2. Thought-provoking post.
    Although taking a long summer break is lovely lifestyle-wise, it might not help international business relations or continue to be tenable given ‘la crisis’.
    Your education observation is interesting – when I taught in a Spanish secondary school it was quite rules-based and uninspiring, although a few teachers shone through.
    True about the entrepreneur figures too… I wonder if that is set to change?

  3. Hi,

    I was only just commenting last night to people that I thought there was a huge percentage of self employed people in Spain as compared to the UK.

    Of course, I am talking about the Costa del Sol which, for better or for worse, seems to be a law unto itself.

    I disagree with your theory.

    I think that the UK institutionalises people into a “job for life” mentality only seconded by Japan’s work ethics. In the UK, you are pigeoned holed into your clearly defined job description, which a) doesnt give you a broad set of skills and b) doesnt encourage you to take a change in career direction easily.

    For me, one of the great things about the Costa del Sol is the ecclectic variety of people, from different countries, social backgrounds and industries. I find this takes away the glass ceiling and people think to themselves “I can do that!”. Positive mental attitude rules! Survival instinct. Eat or… starve!

    Maybe thats just my own characteristics but I dont think so. I know far more people in Spain who run their own businesses, from large successful international companies, to smaller local service providers here in Spain than I do back in my home country, England.

    And as for back to work after the long summer holidays! I wish, am looking forward to the break, or at lease a more manageable working day when the kids are back at school! No rest for the wicked! 😉

  4. I’d have to agree with Nicky on this one. Here in The Canaries, the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and kicking, with a high proportion of people classified working for themselves either full time or in addition to a “regular” job.

    I know the summer shutdown is a real pain in the bum for those of us who choose to keep working, but hey, it’s part of life here and provides a wonderful excuse sometimes!

  5. Hi Graham,

    Yes, basically you’re on the right track, I think. I’ve often talked with people about this and the consensus amongst the foreigners in Spain I’ve talked to seems to be that socially, entrepreneurship is not a favoured career option here, either for grown ups or for recent graduates—and certainly not compared with somewhere like the US.

    Statistics and studies seem to support this: just look at the World Bank rankings for ease of doing business or the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Spain just seems to keep moving down the rankings each year.

    I agree with Nicky about there being a high percentage of unemployed people in Spain but, again, I think this is down to necessity as opposed to any burning desire to start a company.

  6. Interesting post and comments. Nicky, were you self employed in the UK? I think that for us who work for ourselves, we naturally hunt down other business owners. When I worked in the Automotive industry in the UK I was only interested in the engineers and commercial prople in the other companies, not the business owners themselves.

    These days I am more inclined to interact with business owners as we share common goals…make money, build a good business and hopefully make a profit.

    I have to agree with Graham in that the majority of locals I know here seem perfectly happy in working for others and are not particularly interested in setting themselves up in business. The expats are different, they generally HAVE to work for themselves as they don’t speak Spanish.

    Also, owning and running a business is not for everyone. Some of the most intelligent and creative people I know work for others. In fact, many of the people who have worked for me have been far more intelligent and qualified than me, yet they simply prefer to know that every month they will get a set amount of money in their bank account.

    And finally, it does amaze too about people thinking that nothing will work at the moment. I have seen some massive opportunities recently which no one seems to be taking advantage of…so I’m on the case myself.

    There are always opportunities and if there aren’t you just have to create them yourself.

  7. You won’t need luck Toni. You know you do stuff better than your ex employer 🙂

  8. Must be a different World on the Costa del Sol Nicky. I cannot say as i have never been there but December’s tweet up might be a target for me.
    Here it is Oposiciones and Mileuristas ruling.
    I have also worked in the state education system here and nothing on the curriculum even comes close to being self sufficient

  9. The summer shutdown is cool Mike, don’t get me wrong. I just think it is a bit rich at the moment that the privileged ones (For those who are unemployed) who still get that month or two off then spend September in cafes and bars all morning complaining about how difficult it is to get back into the swing of things 🙂

  10. You might have noticed Matthew that one of the related posts is about Spain international competitiveness for entrepreneurship and it ranks just below Mongolia, that international powerhouse of commerce! It does seem to drop every year. It seems the government at a national and even more so on a regional level want to make it difficult to set up for yourself. Could it be a relic of Francoism and the need for control?

  11. Were you talking about me with 2 months off Graham? 😉 yes, starting back is he’ll although I never really managed to switch off completely.

    You know I agree with you on the entrepreneur thing. Despite living in the wealthiest province in Spain (or so I’m told) there is an absolute lack of get up and go with most people.

  12. Some very interesting points Justin especially about a certain type of person preferring the “security” of a lack of total responsibility.
    The distinction between expats and locals might also be why Nicky sees loads of people working for themselves. What do you think Nicky?
    The opportunities I see every day are astounding. If only we had 48 hours in a day to chase them

  13. I wasn’t actually thinking of you David but good point you lazy slacker and you did mention yesterday that getting back to work was so difficult so maybe I was thinking of you subconsciously

  14. …as for the going back to work after such a long break, it must be horrid. When I had a steady job, back in the UK (those were the days..lol), i never took longer than a weeks holiday as I knew I would find it so hard going back! I can´t imagine that Monday morning blues after a whole month off! oof! the hangover from he´ll.

    I think I would agree with Justin on the expats working for themselves due to the language barrier, especially in areas where they don´t need to learn Spanish. Also it “appears” a lot easier to “cook the books” or work in “negro” out here, making it appealing to the kind who perhaps wouldn´t have even dreamed of setting up a business back in the UK.
    Many a DIY´er becoming overnight builders! (fell foul to one myself!)

  15. Hi.

    Firstly, Graham is it just me but the comments are wider that the column so I cant see everything. Blog post is fine.

    Justin, I have to tell you that I have only had one proper job, since leaving university and have had my own businesses ever since.

    This might only be my own personal experience, but “being my own” boss was never set in my destiny from my life experiences nor something that I considered with a burning desire from when I left university. But I was blessed, or so I consider myself to be, to meet such a variety of people, from all walks of life when I worked in After Sales (my one and only job) for one of the big estate agents.

    Despite having a degree myself I realised that, in those days, 15 years ago, most of the people buying property had reached a certain level of wealth/success in their lives yet what was surprising was that the vast majority of my clients were self-made successful people, no necessarily with degree level education nor from a background that would naturally open doors from them. Self made in the true sense of the word.

    And the second observation that has stayed with about these “successful” people is that they did such random things, small niches, from underwear catalogues to producing the fan belts for Volvo. They saw a gap in the market and “went for it”.

    My clients, in an aftersales capacity, gave me the conviction to believe that I could take that leap.

    The unique, niche businesses that I have set up, run and been involved in over the years, well the perception and insightfulness comes from me seeing what is missing in the marketplace, but the belief that little old, ordinary me could do it, came from each and every client back in my days of After Sales.

    And this is something that I try and pass on to people, especially young people time and time again. Have belief. If you have an idea, dont let anything stop you. And that idea doesnt always need to involve a) giving up your full time job (straight away) or b) cost a small fortune to set up.

  16. Well, I reckon there are a large number of self employed people in Spain. Indeed I work for a company that was started by an entrepreneur. I know plenty of people who have taken this path in Spain.

    That said, I’m English and although my stepdad is self-employed, and does OK with it, I must admit that I’m far more comfortable working for a company than I am with the idea of going it alone.

    I respect people who can do that, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a civil service or a company job.

    And going back to work after 2 weeks holiday wasn’t too bad. Work is, for me, enjoyable.

  17. @Nicky
    Have to say and no discredit to anyone else here of course that this is the best comment ever on this blog 🙂
    Personal experience and how you got there is so important to be able to communicate to others and seeing the light like you did is so important.

    Unique niche businesses are opportunities waiting for someone to take them by the horns and run with them. You saw that and did it.

  18. Excellent post, and I think it highlights something the “system” beats out of us.

    Everyone is actually self employed. Regardless of whether you are a CEO of a major corporate, or a street cleaner.

    As soon as people start understanding that, the whole dynamic of a job, or being in business changes.

  19. Totally agree Tom. There are thousands of self employed people here usually plumbers, painters etc… Respect to all of them with the bureaucracy they have to face. I haven’t got a prob with people feeling comfortable working for someone else at all just surprised at the lack of wanting to start up something from those who have little to lose. As you know in Spain ppl work on the black when starting up so v¡even less to lose 🙂

  20. True, most people just want the government job here, but there is another factor too – a lot of Brits/French people, Americans etc etc I talk to would never risk starting a business either – most people think it’s just out of their reach, just something that normal people can’t do. So although it’s probably worse here, I do believe that the ‘fear-of-entrepreneurship’ problem is actually endemic in many other cultures as well. School teaches all of us to play it safe and get a salary – I think it’s up to parents to let their kids know that another path is possible.

  21. Good point Ben. I think some cultures are starting to teach that there is more to life than simply 45 years in a job and then a gold clock as that option now is closed to most people but the education system needs time to catch up

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