It all began with some wishy-washy ideas about 46.55 full moons ago. Wistfully gazing at one such beaming orb, watching the hair grow on the back of my hand, the possibilities were bouncing off the walls of my cranium. But how to turn ideas into a reality? Well, thankfully the only restriction known to any small business start up, that of cost, is not really an issue here in Vietnam (for westerners lucky enough to come here and earn well above the GDP and therefore enjoy a very low cost of living). Although of course, the business isn't mine. It's my wife's. She is the Managing Director. I am just Sales and Marketing.
Unsurprisingly, paperwork is a big part of the process of getting licensed in Nam. My wife may have prepared all the documents for the marriage certificate, but the business stuff was a step too far. We had a company arrange everything for us. First, you must apply online with the Investment Project Department. Once they reply with an approval of the name and nature of business, then you have the privilege of waiting for a really long time in a unbearably crowded, unorganised and unairconditioned office on Le Thanh Ton. If you're lucky, as my wife was, you'll be asked to come back the next day after an entire afternoons jostling for attention. Apparently, they change the staff every few months at the office to avoid business agents (those helping people to start up) becoming too 'friendly' with the government staff. Our agents 'man' was no longer working there, hence the long wait. When you finally emerge from the bowels of the building, looking like a businessman who just survived a plane crash and subsequent mauling from a leopard before emerging from the jungle, at least clasped in one hand is the legal document that made it all worth it, a business license.
Now, it's a jolly saunter down to the local police station, whistling 'Always Look On The Bright Side of Life' as you go, double skipping past cheery mechanics as they wave their oily hands in a toothless greeting, nodding approval at screeching schoolchildren, and finally laughing off the twisted ankle from the pothole in the road (better take the motorbike next time). Mr policeman will make a stamp for you. This is very important. You need it to stamp things, so now you can make paperwork too!
After this, get yourself over to the exhilarating tax department and get issued (as if you don't want to) with a tax code. Now dealings are handed over to your local tax center. From here, paperwork is needed to apply and pay tax for the first year, and also the first quarter, totaling 1,800,000 VND. Then, the jovial tax lady pays a visit to your office, just to make sure you're not fibbing, and you really have a company. Best to hide the choccies before she comes over, she likes them she does! Finally you can buy the mythical (but actually real) book of red invoices, the VAT book.
Now, that's all the boring stuff.
Our company is yet to start operating, but is oh so nearly ready.
First, you need an idea. I know! Tourism...let's jump on that gravy train. I know about traveling. I know about backpackers. I know about Vietnam. Makes sense doesn't it? Tourists need something a little different from what's on offer. So first, come up with some ideas and a name. We toyed for a while. I liked 'Kims Tours', but it was already taken (for the slow ones, that was a JOKE). Eventually we went with 'Connections' (Kết Nối). Next, ask a nifty friend to design a logo. I wanted some hands shaking with the Viet Nam flag incorporated into the design. My designer just kind of snorted in an effort to control himself, which was better than laughing in my face, but he used his talent to work with my idea and draw me up our logo.
Next, you need some publicity shots (luckily, the designer is a photographer as well.....)
An office helps, why not use your house. If you buy a fax machine, you officially have an office (I think it's in the dictionary).
Then, you need some business cards. Sounds easy doesn't it?
Then, get a website done. Here's where you can find out what the hell a company does, that is, if they just seems to waffle on in some unofficial blog without ever really saying what they do. http://www.connectionsvietnam.com/ (you are the first to see it and it isn't even out of testing you lucky sods! - so excuse some minor errors for the time being, most of it is done now).
Lastly, get a cheapo sign printed and blu-tac it to the door. Now you are definitely a certified company ready for customers. All you have to do now is find some. Hello? Hellooooooo......?