Doing business in New York city

More business capital than capital, we take a closer look at New York as part of our series on doing business abroad


While not strictly speaking a capital, New York is a business hub. GB looks at the opportunities for entrepreneurs in the city that never sleeps

The US is often eulogised as a place where entrepreneurship is valued and supported far more than in the UK. However, it’s also got a reputation for being somewhat litigious and, given the size of the market, a tough nut to crack for UK entrepreneurs looking to relocate or expand. That said, get it right and America holds many opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs. “It’s just a huge market,” says Marc Boyan (right), founder of media bartering company Miroma, which recently embarked on US expansion. “If we do a deal in the UK that’s worth a million dollars, you can at least add one zero onto that,” he says. “The scale is massive and there are no communication barriers. If you do a deal in the UK, you can’t necessarily do it across Europe from there because there are obvious communication barriers with different countries. It’s different here. For example, one of our clients is Clear Channel; Clear Channel will operate across the whole of the US; one country; one phone call; one deal.” New York itself holds a number of advantages for UK companies looking to make it in the US. For starters, Boyan was attracted by its location on the East Coast, which makes it a seven and a half hour flight from JFK, Newark or LaGuardia to London Heathrow (compared to 11 hours from LAX). Time-wise it’s just five hours behind (compared to an eight-hour difference on the West Coast). Its unofficial status as the “media centre” also made New York the natural choice for Boyan’s US expansion. He is currently  “setting up media deals and client relationships”, while residing with three other staff in a satellite office near the Empire State Building for two weeks of each month, until he gets the team and permanent premises in place. “We’re trying to hire more people; it’s just taking a very long time because we’re looking for key industry players,” he says. Ashley Ward, chairman of the European Leadership Programme, advises setting up a base as soon as possible, as Boyan has done. “You have to prove your commitment if you want to be taken seriously there,” he explains. “That might just mean a serviced office and a US phone number where people can connect to you. Americans don’t like dialling 011.” So far, Boyan has observed a more proactive approach to doing business in the Big Apple than in the UK. “It’s a very active networking environment – everyone wants to do business,” he says, adding he has found it refreshing. “They’re just a little bit more hungry, if anything. It’s not a bad thing; they just want to get things done. Business is done at a much faster pace. Deals get closed quicker. It’s very entrepreneurial, everything can be done.” While there are, of course, regulatory and compliance issues to bear in mind when doing business in the US, Boyan says  “as long as you have a good legal or accounting team they do it all for you”. “It’s better to spend money up front than to get involved in litigation,” agrees Scott James, an American lawyer at Faegre & Benson’s London office. Work permits for any UK nationals, intellectual property rights, and employment and tax regulations are just some of the areas you need to think about. Boyan’s advice to other UK entrepreneurs looking to expand into the US is to: “Make sure you have a local partner or employ some strong local people.” Susanna Simpson, founder of Limelight PR, agrees. After realising that 25% of her clients had offices in New York, she knew she needed a presence there. However, she also knew that success in the UK wouldn’t mean a guaranteed meal ticket in the US. She felt that working with someone who understood the business environment and already had a Rolodex full of contacts would help to protect her brand, and Simpson found this knowledge in a reliable US partner, found through a mutual client. “I built up in London with a big network, good clients and a personal reputation,” she says. “Starting from scratch in New York, where I knew no-one and no-one knew me, would have been insane, so I decided to form an alliance with an established agency there. I now have access to a team of people who know New York and the US very well.”

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