The Swiss economy thrives on free trade and industry. Their constitution guarantees both. Limited surface area and the dearth of natural resources have pushed Switzerland to take up foreign trade to build its wealth. Hence trade restrictions are low – there are only a limited number of import quotas and the import duty is quite low also. The socio –economic and cultural environment is conducive to setting up new businesses. It is one of the friendliest countries in the world as far as entrepreneurs are concerned and contrary to popular belief that it needs a lot of capital to set up a business in Switzerland due to the presence of so many global players in the country; it is actually quite possible for canny entrepreneurs to ride the wave with an affordable business.
1. What Business Opportunities to Look for
To earn a living in Switzerland by way of your own business you need to do what you can do best and “stick to what you know”; since the business environment is ultra-competitive. It is advisable to look in to businesses with which you are familiar, while you also need to ensure that there is a friendly environment for that business to thrive in Switzerland. That will ensure you are not jumping on to an unfamiliar business and risking your capital outlay on something that is doomed to fail. Try choosing a business that is more or less in line with what you know or where you can use the skill sets and experience that you have gathered in your career.
Location is quite important. Once you have selected the area where you want to start your business, you need to do a bit of a survey to figure out what will run well in the locality. Talk to the people in the neighbourhood. Find out what they like and what they don’t. What they eat, where they spend most of their time, what they do for relaxation, local tradition and culture, all these pieces of information can give you a pretty good idea about which line of business would thrive well in the area. If it is your first business and you’re the lone investor, choose a business where initial investment is low and something in which you can draw on your own experience in order to make the business tick. Employ a few locals to help you with the setting up of the business. That will also take care of the language barrier, unless of course you are adept at French, German, Italian or Romansh. It is essential for foreign employees to have work permits. These are granted at the cantonal level and approved at the federal level. It is easier to hire Swiss residents. While there is no minimum wage requirement, yet the company hiring people must provide for a range of benefits and compensations, spanning across pension plan contributions to accident and medical insurance.
You can get information on business in Switzerland from the following commercial and government websites:
2. Procedures to Start a Business
It goes without saying that the procedures involved in setting up a new business will depend upon the particular line of business that you choose. Switzerland ranks 5 in the Index of Economic Freedom, with an overall score of 80.5. It is, therefore, quite easy to form a company here. A company set up in Switzerland does not need a license to do business in the country. The only exceptions are circumstances where certain licenses such as in case of Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights, are required by the business to operate. The shareholders of a Swiss company do not need to be Swiss citizens or Swiss companies.
- Choose a line of business
- Choose a location
- Prepare a business plan
- Arrange for finances
- Place the paid-up capital in an escrow account with a bank
- Draft the articles of association in the presence of a notary public, who notarizes the personal and corporate signatures on the application form and authenticate the articles of association and the public deed of incorporation.
- File the deed certifying the articles of association to the local commercial register to obtain a legal entity
- Pay stamp tax at post office or bank after receiving an assessment by mail
- Register for VAT
- Enroll employees in the social insurance system (federal and cantonal authorities)
If you are allowed to be self-employed, the cheapest form of "incorporation" is a Gmbh (Company with limited liability) which requires an initial investment of 20,000 CHF (Swiss Franc), which can be parked partly as cash and partly in assets. If you do not want to get into the hassle of starting a company, work as a freelancer. That also gives a lot of flexibility to your work. Doing a trade just as an unregistered entity (i.e. yourself) or if completely necessary as an einzelfirma (sole proprietorship) is often the better way to get into a business.
3. A Couple of Affordable Opportunities
Teach Your Native Language – This is easy and attractive. If you are Spanish, English or Russian or belong to any other country, teaching your native language in Switzerland can be a great way to make some money. This is more likely to be the most obvious choice of an affordable business. The Swiss people are great learners and they love to learn new things. You don’t need much experience, neither a whole lot of money to start language classes.
Start a Café – You can think about opening a small café where people can spend some leisurely time sipping from a cup of hot beverage in a cozy atmosphere. Start small. Keep the number of variety in both food and beverages restricted to five or six. Keep the menu small and simple. Choose easy to make and serve items that are tasty. There is strong demand for quality service and products that come for a reasonable price. So you need to make sure that what you serve is of good quality and not too pricey. Also keep the ambiance cozy and inviting. In short, keep it small, keep it simple but elegant.
People from regions other than EU face a bit of challenge while working in Switzerland. A person with a permit B cannot set up his / her own business. They also cannot be self-employed or work as freelancers.
Switzerland has a stable, modern economy and welcomes anyone setting up a business there. The Country is among the most evolved capitalist economies in the world. It has the 2nd highest European rating in the Index of Economic Freedom (2008), preceded only by Ireland. The regions unique cultural blend provides a welcoming environment to all those who want to settle in the country.
Business culture in Switzerland is unwaveringly formal. It is quite important that you focus on building long-term relationships with your clients. The Swiss people value competence, performance, quality and efficiency. So make sure that you maintain a high quality of product or service that you offer. And remember, there is no alternative to hard work and there is no short-cut to success. Good luck with whatever you choose to do.