Switzerland is renowned for its thriving economy, excellent infrastructure, and business-friendly environment that has attracted numerous entrepreneurs from around the world. However, for newcomers (YOU), starting a small business in Switzerland can present its fair share of challenges. I would also add that there numerous people that start their smalls business just because they can't find jobs. I would be that one statistic number for sure. When I moved to Switzerland the only way for me to start working, was by building my small business and showcasing my expertise and gaining experience. And oh snail, it was not an easy road to go through.
Language and Cultural Barrier One of the primary challenges might be for you ( and me) is the language barrier. Switzerland has four official languages—German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Depending on the region, the predominant language may vary, making it crucial for entrepreneurs to adapt and communicate effectively. While English is widely spoken in business settings, proficiency in the local language is highly beneficial for networking, establishing relationships, and understanding local regulations.
I am counting my 8th year here and I am still struggling (though it's just me ... seems like. But to be honest with English it took me 10 years :D maybe that's how long it takes for my brain to adapt).
To overcome this hurdle, you may consider language courses and engage in language exchange programmes to improve your fluency. Though I had zero money for that and struggled a lot in the beginning. Additionally, seeking local business partners or consultants who can provide guidance on cultural norms and business practices can be immensely helpful. Though again, in the beginning, you may not have enough to pay. But don't forget there are always places that provide such information for free or minimum. My start happened at the LiLi Centre (Integration Centre in Luzern).
Complex Legal and Administrative Processes Even though I studied law it did not help me at all without language skills to understand what the heck is happening around in the administrative world for my small business. I am also not the best at administration and understanding taxes (Yeah, I know it seems I am worthless haha or very criticising myself but I totally felt not competitive in this field). Switzerland has a well-regulated business environment, which ensures transparency and stability but also results in complex legal and administrative procedures. Registering a business, obtaining the necessary permits, and licenses, and navigating tax regulations (I think I had or still have nightmares about that) can be daunting for you unfamiliar with the Swiss system.
To ease the process, seeking professional assistance from lawyers, accountants, or business consultants specialising in Swiss regulations can be invaluable - though again if you have ZERO in your pocket - go to non-profit organisations that might help you. BUT please GO. Experts can guide you through the legal requirements, help with paperwork, and ensure compliance, thus minimising the risk of costly mistakes. And it is costly. TRUST me.
Competitive Market or I say: step up in Your Creativity game! Switzerland has a highly competitive market across various sectors, which can pose difficulties for you as a newcomer trying to carve out your niche. Understanding the market dynamics, identifying a unique value proposition, and developing a sound market entry strategy is essential.
Thorough market research, including analysing customer preferences and needs, studying competitors, and identifying gaps in the market, can provide you with valuable insights. By tailoring your products or services to meet specific demands or offering a differentiated experience, you can increase your chances of success.
Though I will be honest. At the end of the day, You will be all in one: marketing department, sales, communication, management, HR, content team, social media manager, and accountant. This is where Your creativity needs to step up. Don't overpush and try to focus on one thing at a time. Same as not always the rules of business will work for you. It really depends on your experience and ability to go out of your comfort zone.
Building a Local Network Establishing a strong local network is crucial for you as a newcomer, aiming to start a small business in Switzerland. The Swiss business community highly values personal relationships and networking. However, building connections can be challenging for you lacking pre-existing networks.
To overcome this challenge, I would suggest actively participating in industry events, joining business associations, attending fairs, and engaging with local entrepreneurs and the community. Will be honest, I am a person with anxiety when I am in an event so the only way for me to start pushing my network was - social media!
Leveraging your social media platforms and online communities focused on showcasing your professional attitude, ethics, experience, expertise and business - might be vital. That's what I did for the first two years.
While starting a small business in Switzerland as a newcomer may present its fair share of challenges, with determination, preparation, creativity and strategic planning, success is within reach - a hard one but it's possible. By addressing the language barrier, navigating complex legal processes, developing strategies, and building a local network, you can overcome the initial struggles and lay a solid foundation for your business.
Can I say that I am successful - probably yes. I am not a person who sticks just with small businesses as I am working 100% (but that's another topic), but I absolutely know what it means to start a business in Switzerland and the challenges you may face.