1. Where did the original idea come from for your business?
I’ve always been fascinated by how people think and behave. My father was a firm believer in how the mind works and personal development. So I probably caught it off him. More specifically I suppose I ‘fell’ into life coaching when, as a managing director I found myself naturally helping some of my employees sort their lives out. Then someone said ‘Hey, Ian, you’d make a really good life coach’ and I think that’s the moment when it really started. I’d like to think they were right!
2. How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
This is an example of the Sorites Principle: How something can happen little by little over time to have a big effect and it’s one of the main tools I use to help my clients. If I had to put a number to it I’d say that it took me about two years to establish myself as a life coach in Barcelona.
3. What do you wish you’d known when you started?
I learned all about the pros and cons of setting up a business when I set up my first company in 1997. If you’re in a project that involves other associates or employees then you have to be very clear and careful. As an independent personal life coach that bit is no problem at all. But I’m still learning about the pros and cons of being a one-man team. The other thing is that you have to be consistently professional: reliable, honourable, trustworthy and fair. Barcelona is a fishbowl. If you don’t deliver a decent service then soon everyone knows about it. Most of my clients are due to word of mouth recommendations. It’s the best way to get work.
4. How easy was it to get the financing for your business?
Financing? What’s financing?
5. Did you find the paperwork difficult?
Spanish bureaucracy is a prehistoric nightmare. It’s getting better but very, very slowly. Although coaches don’t give advice, if I did, it would be to hire a good ‘gestor’ pay them whatever they ask and you’ll still end up saving in money, time, lawsuits and psychiatrists.
6. What is your business experience / background / qualifications?
I’ve worked in industry, the education service (both private and public) teaching maths, science and English. I’ve studied Astrophysics, Business Administration, Neurology and Positive Psychology. I’ve 18 years experience as a business owner in Barcelona and that has taught me an awful lot about human nature, the way we rationalise and counselling methods as well as stress management!
7. What are the positive aspects about having a business here?
I’d like to say that starting a business here is easier than in the UK but it’s not. The advantage of having a business in Barcelona is that it’s in Barcelona. So the food and wine, the social life, leisure, culture and weather are all usually great.
8. And the negative aspects?
The bureaucracy, the absence of a decent pint of real draught bitter and that for some reason a man in a dress is the pinnacle of television humour.
9. Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona?
Anybody who has set up their own company, whether they succeeded or failed is a useful contact. (Just scan the Metropolitan for names) Their experiences are all valuable lessons for anyone going into it from scratch.
If you’re doing it for the money – forget it. Most new businesses don’t make money in the first few years. In fact most don’t even survive more than five. I'm afraid that statistically you’ve got more chance of making money by going to the Barcelona Casino and slapping it all on red. However, if you’re doing it for passion, because you love it, because it fulfils you, because it gives you a great reason to leap out of bed every morning AND you have another source of income, then go for it - completely, constantly, unceasingly – celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes and never ever give up. And remember about the ‘gestor’.