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Doing business in Spain

Innovative approaches to building business relationships

A modern office meeting with mimd-century design furniture
Millennials leading the business space

Expanding a business into the Spanish market can be a daunting task for C-level executives, founders, and entrepreneurs alike. However, with the right approach and understanding of the cultural nuances, it can be a highly rewarding endeavour. In this article, we will dive into the key strategies for building relationships and partnerships with key stakeholders in the Spanish market, including government officials, local businesses, and industry associations. Our focus will be on providing uncommon and innovative ways to achieve the best results and establish a successful presence in the market.


Doing business in Spain and building lasting relationships

One of the most important aspects to keep in mind when building relationships in the Spanish market is the importance of personal connections. Spanish business culture places a strong emphasis on building trust and establishing personal relationships. In other words, people come first, then business. This can be achieved by participating in networking events and industry associations related to your industry. This will not only allow you to meet potential partners but also establish a presence in the market and demonstrate your commitment and support to the industry. Additionally, consider hiring a local consultant or partner who can provide valuable insight into the market and help bridge the cultural gap, specially the untold rules and customs.


Using LinkedIn to ask for introductions through first-degree connections is one way to build relationships in the Spanish market. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for connecting with professionals and establishing a professional presence in the market. By reaching out to first-degree connections, you can request introductions to potential partners, customers, and other key stakeholders in the market. This approach allows you to leverage the existing relationships of your first-degree connections and can help to establish trust and credibility in the market.


It is important to remember that when reaching out to people, personalise the message, and avoid generic messages, as it will increase the chances of a positive response. Also, make sure to have a clear idea of what kind of introductions or connections you are looking for, and be specific about it.


Online presence

Another important strategy for building relationships in the Spanish market is to establish a strong online presence. The Spanish market is highly connected, and social media and digital platforms play a significant role in building relationships and partnerships. Consider creating a Spanish language website and social media accounts to reach out to potential partners and customers, this will pay back greatly. Additionally, consider using digital platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with potential partners and establish a professional relationship. Remember that in Spain few speak fluent English, which makes it more hard to get to know them and establish personal relationships.


Spaniards are well known by not speaking other languages fluently, which is an important factor to consider when building an online presence in the Spanish market. It is important to create a website and social media accounts that have a Spanish profile in them, to reach out to potential partners and customers in their native language. This will help you to establish a stronger connection and increase the chances of success in this vast market.


It is also important to note that while the official language in Spain is Spanish, there are other languages spoken in different regions of Spain, such as Catalan, Galician, Basque, and Aranese. Catalan is spoken in Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands. Galician is spoken in Galicia, Basque is spoken in the Basque Country and Navarra, and Aranese is spoken in the Val d'Aran, Catalonia.


While doing business in Spain, it's important to be mindful of the specific region you are targeting and ensure that your online presence is appropriate to that region. For example, if you are targeting a region where Catalan is spoken, it would be beneficial to create a website and social media accounts in Catalan in addition to Spanish. This shows that you are respectful of the local culture and will help to establish a stronger connection with potential partners and customers in that region.


Additionally, consider hiring a translator or localisation expert to ensure that your website and social media content is accurate and appropriate for the Spanish market. This will help to avoid any cultural misunderstandings or errors that may negatively impact your online presence.


Leverage partnerships

Innovative ways to establish a strong presence in the Spanish market is by leveraging partnerships with local businesses and government officials. Spain has a strong network of small and medium-sized businesses that can provide valuable support and resources for expanding businesses. By forming partnerships with these businesses, you can gain access to local knowledge and resources, as well as establish a presence in the market. Additionally, building relationships with government officials can help navigate the regulatory environment and gain access to government programs and resources. We have found that some law firms have direct access to local Government officials and politicians, which make these firms a good choice to partner with as they can operate as intermediaries.


Partnering with law firms that have direct access to local government officials and politicians can provide valuable resources and support for expanding businesses in the Spanish market. They can assist in navigating the regulatory environment, establishing partnerships with local businesses and government officials, and provide insight into local business practices and cultural nuances. It is essential to research and carefully select a reputable law firm that specialises in your industry and has experience working with international clients.


Participate in accelerator programs

Another innovative approach to building relationships in the Spanish market is by participating in accelerator programs and incubators. Spain has a thriving startup ecosystem, and accelerator programs and incubators can provide valuable resources and mentorship for expanding businesses. Additionally, by participating in these programs, you can establish a presence in the market and connect with potential partners and customers. Some of these incubators are sponsored by large banks such as Santander (santanderx.com), and BBVA (openinnovation.bbva.com), which means that the opportunities to outreach are truly big.


Incubators sponsored by large banks such as Santander and BBVA can provide a wealth of opportunities for expanding businesses looking to establish a presence in the Spanish market. These programs provide access to valuable resources, networking opportunities, and funding, as well as the bank's extensive network of contacts and resources. Additionally, by participating in these programs, businesses can establish a strong presence in the market and demonstrate their commitment to the industry. It's a great option to consider for startups in the technology sector.


Be mindful of cultural differences

More importantly that many would attribute, it's important to be mindful of the local cultural nuances. The Spanish market may have different business practices, in terms of negotiation and deal-making, compared to other countries. Be prepared to adapt to these practices to succeed in the market. For example, during a negotiation, Spanish negotiators tend to prioritise the personal relationship and building trust before discussing specific business details.


In a negotiation, Spanish negotiators may take more time to get to know the person they are negotiating with, and may even spend time discussing non-business related topics such as family and hobbies. This is seen as an important step in building trust and a personal connection, which is crucial for a successful negotiation in the Spanish market, and if you try to rush these preliminary conversations, you might be seen as too pushy, or even suspicious.


Another difference to consider is the negotiation style. Spanish negotiators tend to be more indirect and subtle in their approach, and may not always express their positions clearly. They may also be more willing to compromise and find a middle ground, rather than insisting on specific terms. It's also important to note that in Spain, the decision-making process is often slower, and may involve multiple levels of approval. This means that negotiations may take longer and require more patience.


In light of these differences, it is important for C-level executives and founders to be aware of cultural business nuances, and adapt their negotiation and deal-making strategies accordingly. It is essential to be patient and take the time to build personal relationships and trust, and to be flexible and open to compromise and indirect communication. This will help to establish a strong presence in the Spanish market and pave the way for successful negotiations and deals.


Choose your office location smartly

When setting up an office in Spain, it is important to choose the location smartly. Many foreign companies tend to locate their offices in the Mediterranean corridor, but this may not always be the best choice for their specific needs and goals.


One important factor to consider when choosing a location is access to a highly educated workforce. For example, while the Mediterranean corridor may offer a more relaxed lifestyle, it may be harder to access a highly educated workforce in southern Spain than in Madrid center.


Another important element to consider is the reputational ramifications of the location. Historically, Southerners are considered more relaxed and laid back than those who are used to working in the fast-paced environment of big cities. This can be an important decision influencer when clients are making purchase decisions and may affect the perception of your company.


Additionally, it's important to consider the local regulations, taxes, and laws that may vary between regions. The best location for your office may vary depending on your industry and specific needs, and it's important to conduct thorough research and consult with local experts before making a decision. We will cover this element in another article.


Engage with vulnerable sectors

Successfully conducting business in Spain involves more than traditional strategies; it demands an embrace of innovative approaches to relationship-building that could involve adopting unconventional methods. One such method is joining consumer group platforms. While this idea might initially appear unpopular due to the high degree of commitment and effort it requires, it can offer profound benefits. Actively participating in consumer groups allows businesses to listen and respond to the pulse of consumer sentiments and demands directly, thereby fostering a more intimate and empathetic relationship with the market.


Consumer group platforms offer a unique arena for businesses to engage with their customers. They provide an avenue for dialogue, where feedback on products or services can be shared and evaluated in real-time. This level of engagement allows companies to be responsive and agile, adapting their business strategies based on direct feedback from those they aim to serve. Moreover, these platforms also offer a level of transparency that enhances trust and loyalty among consumers, as they appreciate being heard and valued by the businesses they patronize.


In addition, engaging in movements that represent vulnerable sectors can prove beneficial for businesses in Spain. Although unconventional, it exhibits a commitment to social responsibility and ethical practices, which have become significant considerations for modern consumers. By supporting the needs and rights of the marginalized, businesses are not just merely providing services or selling products; they are taking a stance and making a difference in society.


By participating in such movements, businesses can demonstrate their long-lasting commitment to inclusivity and equality, which can resonate strongly with customers who share these values. This not only helps businesses distinguish themselves from their competitors but also fosters a deeper connection with their customers based on shared social values. Moreover, supporting vulnerable sectors often leads to positive press coverage and improved brand image, which can significantly enhance a company's reputation.


Conclusion

In summary, building relationships and partnerships in the Spanish market requires understanding the cultural nuances, building trust and personal connections, forming partnerships with local businesses and government officials, being flexible and open to new business models and leveraging digital platforms and accelerator programs to reach out potential partners and customers. With a strategic approach and a willingness to adapt to the market, C-level executives and founders can establish a successful presence in the Spanish market and reap the rewards of international expansion.


 

With over a decade of hands-on expertise in business etiquette and cultural nuances, iBerotech leverages insights in the Spanish business ecosystem and built partnerships to empower foreign firms in skilfully navigating Spain's intricacies while launching businesses.




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