Keren’s note: You may already know that I have a soft spot for South Africans. My mom is South African!
And we’ve had a total of 4 South Africans working for TLD over the years, Our 2 designers are South African – Amy (who actually lives in SA) and Tamlyn (who lives in London)
Recently at a BNI breakfast meeting I met and got chatting to Kate Hayes, who helps people fix their injuries through training and physiotherapy. She mentioned how it’s been really different setting up her business here, compared to in South Africa. So interesting – so being the nosy person I am – I probed her for more info. Herewith the full details of her experience!
Starting my first business in South Africa at the age of 25 was a rather large and daunting step for me. As you can imagine the decision to go on my own meant sleepless nights, small panic attacks on will it work and often the desperate desire to press the Stop button.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would move to London and take this step all over again, five years later.
This time an even larger step as the support base I had in South Africa was non-existent in London.
Some say it is exciting and a new adventure…that is easy to say when you are not the one on the “exciting” adventure.
Don’t get me wrong – I love having my own business, deciding on my own hours and being my own boss – but it is not always as glamourous as it sounds.
So, moving to London, I thought, ok I know how to run a business, how to do month end, how to manage my time, manage my clients, what paperwork is needed, how to open a bank account and so the list goes on.
Small thing I did not consider…it’s a NEW country which means new systems, new rules, new Tax man, new terminology – new EVERYTHING!
Eeek I am back at square one! What have I done?!
This might sound completely over dramatic – I mean – how different can it be, really?
Let me enlighten you…
Step one: Opening a simple business bank account.
In South Africa, you go into the branch, wait in line and eventually it’s your turn to go to the desk. Where you explain what your business does and that you need a business bank account. Fill in a couple of forms and produce some paper work and wala…you have a business bank account!
So a fresh off the boat South African wanders into Barclays to open her business bank account (please bear in mind that the business officially opens in 2 weeks). With a huge smile on my face and a foreign accent, I inform the friendly Barclays branch assistant that I am here to open a business account. She ever so politely tells me that I need to make an appointment to open the account and that the earliest appointment is in 3 weeks’ time at this specific branch.
Sorry did I hear correctly? Make an appointment with a bank and the earliest appointment is in three weeks’ time?
Long story short I manage to find an appointment in 3 days on the other side of London.
The appointment went well, it took over an hour, I had to basically inform Barclays of my entire life, my 5 year Business plan, how much I will earn, what my business entails, how I will get clients etc.
Then I had to wait for APPROVAL…10 days later!
Good news I was approved and the account was open. TICK!
Step Two: Register for Tax
When one decides to work in South Africa, you apply for a job, and eventually you get a job and you start earning. Your company registers you for Tax.
In London one needs a National Insurance number, a sorry what?
You need this before you can work let alone get a Tax number. Thank goodness a friend had told me about this, so I search for their number, ring them up and good news – as I have applied for a Spousal visa, I can apply my National Insurance number over the phone, no need to get an interview – bonus!
I was told that in 10 days my national Insurance number would come in the post and will arrive at my house!
First thing I thought was “will it really reach me”?
This might sound bizarre as many countries have a postal service that works and you can trust. In South Africa we never go to our post boxes as the Post Office employees are permanently on strike so we never receive our post!
This is so refreshing for me.
Anyway, now I have a National Insurance number and I need to get a tax number.
Okay, where to from here? Oh yes…of course! Her Majesty Revenue and Customs, of course I knew this. So I find the website, as you cannot phone them it is just you and the big bad web, no one to help! After a lot of reading and bugging a few accountant friends I find out that I have to register on the Government gateway portal and then register as self-assessment/self-employed! So, I anxiously wait to be approved and for my secret code to arrive so I can activate my tax account!
TICK – I am registered for Tax here in the UK!
Step three: Letting people know I am open for business
Well in South Africa I already had a client base, Doctors, Physios, Chiropractors and massage therapist that I was working with so the feet were coming through the door and the referrals were all in action. Yes this took time and marketing efforts while I was working at a private practice but in my practice I had practitioners working with me and the team was ready to get going.
In South Africa, to market ourselves and our skills, we would simply phone the specific doctor’s receptionist and make an appointment!
Yes, in South Africa the doctors put appointment slots in their schedule for practitioners and marketing – can you believe it!
I would simply jump in my car, not spend 1 hours on the train, shoot down to the hospital or doctors room, chat to them and head home!
This sounds like a lovely little tea party – believe me it was not always a pleasant experience!
I had one doctor sit and open her post, raise an eye brow if something in the post interested her while I was dramatically talking to her and her post and trying my absolute best to attract a small amount of her attention – no such luck she was not in the least bit interested however some doctors are amazing and get the referrals going fast.
On average my practice would get 2 chiropractor referrals, 1 physio referrals and maybe 1 doctors referral a month along with the few referrals from word of mouth.
London, let me tell everyone I know…
Done! Told my husband!
Makes you realise how important business work support, referring practitioners and word of mouth is. OH, wow this could be quite an adventure.
So I had to put on a brave face, start talking to people I did not know, emailing people to make connections to possibly start working alongside with (please note , its soul destroying. In South Africa we depended on email, and the response was much better – maybe 5 out of 10), search Linked in for practitioners and people involved in wellness and improve my links.
I must say a huge thank you to everyone that did response and whom I am slowly starting to make connections with and starting to get the ball running.
Step four: A Biokinetic WHAT?
I have not mentioned yet but I am a qualified Biokineticist, I know what you’re thinking – a sorry what?
In South Africa Biokinetics is a very common term and many people know about it, I often got asked over dinner or a braai at a friend’s house if I could please help them as their knee is sore or that they had lower back pain etc. Here in London I get big eyes or a plank expression.
A response I am now so familiar with I have decided to re brand myself to a Physical Therapist/ personal trainer. This has been done in hope that people will know what I do and how I can help them. This is my Blurb:
What I do is I help individuals who suffer from pain or physical limitations. I use exercise as my form of medicine. This is done by ensuring that the correct muscles are activated and firing to get the body back into alignment and full strength. I treat people with sports injuries, post-operative rehabilitation and other medical conditions. I also help individuals get fit and healthy and reach personal physical goals.
Step Five: My first client
So my first client enquiry. Yippee! I may have a client!
Well the communication barrier may be something I never considered to be a challenge…big mistake. Let me explain a few words that are very different to back home in South Africa.
We (South Africans) call trainers “Takkies”
We (South Africans) call Trousers “Pants”, just to make it clear Londoners call Underpants pants. You can only imagine what strange looks I have received when I have told a client to come for session in gym pants.
And as for my accent, well I have received many a strange look or a completely confused face.
As my business here in London is only 3 months old it is hard to compared London stats to South African stats. So I have tried to give a London estimate based on these three months and then project it over a year. Please note cost wise, the current exchange rate is £1 = R17.90. In my field a client sees me every week and for at least two months, some prefer to continue year-round with me in order to ensure they exercise in a safe environment.
So yes, this exciting new adventure sure has been a rather exciting new adventure in many ways. I have learnt a lot, learnt to be a lot more patient, extended my business referral circle, stepped out of my comfort zone, adjusted my terminology, and adapted to the British words and started to grow what I hope will be a great business where I can use my passion for helping individuals live pain free and healthy lives.