Establishing a business presence in Germany isn't as hard as you might think, especially if you let a business center do most of the heavy lifting.
The Frankfurt skyline.
Looking at a map, it's obvious to understand why Germany is an economic giant. Its geographic position in the middle of Europe has made it a crossroads for trade and commerce for hundreds of years. Its rivers were and continue to be an important means of moving products from the south to the north, east to west and vice versa. In these modern times the highly developed rail and highway systems allow for the fast and efficient movement of products.
For centuries Germany has been a center for trade fairs. In fact, it wouldn't be an understatement to say that the modern trade fair concept was originated and refined by the tradesmen of the patchwork of states, principalities and kingdoms that were finally united to make what is now the Federal Republic of Germany.
It is no surprise that many major multinational companies have not only their German market headquarters in Germany, but also their European operations centers. Again, a quick look at the map tells the story. The major cities of Germany are the gateways to all of Europe - Hamburg in the north, Munich in the south, Berlin in the east, and the cities of Frankfurt, Köln and Düsseldorf in the west.
Small and medium-size companies looking to establish themselves in the German and European markets will discover a highly educated, skilled and efficient workforce, as well as a government that is very friendly to outside companies and investments.
There are also a number of companies in Germany that offer those very necessary start-up services and can help guide a company through the process of setting up an office and establishing an address and legal entity. They can make the first steps easier and help in many ways.
To find out more about how to establish a business presence in Germany, How to Germany talked with Ute Vogler, director of the business center mainoffice in Frankfurt.
Q: What specific services can you provide to those interested in getting a foothold in the German and European markets?
A: The services of a business center can be tailored to very specific needs. As an alternative to the full-service office, they provide a business address, a telephone service, or a combination of these two features. In addition, they offer a variety of standard services: Copier and fax machine, access to meeting rooms with state-of-the-art conference technology, etc. Professional staff answers calls with the name of the respective company; welcomes visitors and handles any clerical or secretarial work. The advantage to the clients: All services are offered on a pay-as-you-go basis. In other words, they only pay for services and facilities they are actually using.
Q: What are the advantages of the services that you and similar companies provide?
A: Especially for smaller companies, a location within a modern international business center is an extremely cost-effective alternative to renting a standard office.
It offers a perfect base from which to get their operations off to a running start. Within days, companies can establish a foothold with all the technical facilities and secretarial amenities of a professional office infrastructure without the initial investment - and the hassles - of finding and renting office space and recruting staff. And without making a long-term commitment. From the cost point of view, companies may save up to 60 percent compared to the set-up of a standard office.
Both domestic and international firms make use of this alternative to explore the various regional markets for their respective services and/or products. More and more companies, start-ups or trade representatives take advantage of the different services offered by a business center for branch offices, project work, or short-term representation.
Q: Do companies such as yours provide more than a "physical" presence? Do you involve yourself in areas other than offering "business" services? Do you help in finding staff, marketing or any other areas?
A: The broad spectrum of services offered by a business center enables clients to build their business right from the start. Using the mainoffice Business Center as an example, our permanent staff and specialists can support them with secretarial services, translations, market research, travel management, mailings and sales promotion activities
Q: You're based in Frankfurt. We'll give you a chance to plug the city. Why would Frankfurt be a good place to start out?
A: Frankfurt is considered the hub of the dynamic Rhein-Main business region and the "Gateway to Europe." Business people appreciate its central location and the excellent infrastructure and have awarded it the title of "top location in Germany." Frankfurt is at the crossroads of the European transportation system by road, air and rail. Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport is the number two European airport in number of passengers and the number one in the volume of cargo handled! For more than 100 global players from the U.S., the city is the prime address in Europe.
Frankfurt has a forward-looking business infrastructure. While it has a reputation as an international financial center and seat of the European Central Bank, it is rapidly gaining importance in the high-tech sector, particularly in the areas of information and communication industry as well as biotechnology. Frankfurt International Fair has gained worldwide prestige and attracts more than 40,000 exhibitors annually to do business transactions.
Last but not least, the city has a high quality of life, with internationally renowned theaters, museums, and art collections and a remarkable range of leisure activities.
Q: OK, now that you've told us a bit about Frankfurt, let us know what you think about Germany in general. Why Germany instead of France, England, or any other country?
A: Over the past 50 years, Germany has widely adopted the American way of life. With tremendous investments into both the national and the European unification, Germany developed into the driving force behind the European economy. Investors can draw on all relevant resources. There is a broad potential of human resources, from highly qualified technical and professional individuals to unskilled workers. And traditionally Germany has been a receptive market for U.S. products.
Its central location in the heart of Europe, in conjunction with a transportation infrastructure at the highest level, provides investors easy access not only to the entire EU market but also to the growing markets of Central and Eastern Europe with a population of over 850 million.