When my plane touched down in Melbourne on New Year’s Day, 2014, my sights firmly set on setting up an Australian branch of global digital marketing firm, Digital Next, most of my knowledge of the country had come from the endless hours I had spent watching telecasts of the sport from the MCG.
With family, friends and lifelong social networks a 24-hour flight away in Manchester, UK, and a visa limit which allowed me only six months to successfully establish the branch of the digital marketing company, the pressure was on from the first day.
Starting from scratch, I managed to grow the business to achieve a turnover of $700,000 in its first year, and one million dollars in 2015.
While I was still back in the UK, I had engaged a lawyer to set up the ABN number, register a trade name, a business name and a holding company.
However, visa requirements, insurance regulations and dealing with high Australian pay rates were among the many regulatory aspects of establishing a new Australian branch of Digital Next that had to be dealt with along the way.
For business owners looking to do the same thing and set up in a new country, I think it’s worth getting professional help so you know you have covered all the boxes.
Like many visitors who come to Australia to work, I found visa requirements were a major issue.
You can only work six months on the visa that we were on. So I landed with no office, a handful of clients, a place to live for two weeks before that ran out, and then the prospect of only having six months before we would be left working illegally. So we had to be grounded and sponsored within six months.
Fortunately, I have been lucky to be able to see how Justin, our global CEO, had grown the business in the UK, so when we came over, we hit the phones and we won some clients. As we took in more money, we looked at getting an office in South Melbourne, brought on more employees and slowly started offering more services.
Coming to an English speaking country did make setting up the new branch easier, and so did the cultural similarities between Australia and the UK.
The laws in Australia and the UK seem pretty similar, but at the time (and because I was so young) I didn’t have much business experience to draw upon. For business owners looking to do the same thing and set up in a new country, I think it’s worth getting professional help so you know you have covered all the boxes.
Despite the similarities, there are some differences between Australia and the UK.
In Australia it is a little bit stricter with regulation, and is a little bit more intensely monitored than in the UK. So there’s always that in the back of your mind, as well.
My three major points for people looking to set up shop in a new country would be: Do your legal research and engage in professional advice; make sure that your back end is set up to deal with an increase in numbers; and don’t underestimate how big a move it is to move away from your friends and family.
Nathan Elly is a part owner of Digital-Next, and came over from the UK in 2014 to set up an Australian branch of the business.