Background to Business in Spain

Describing approaches to business in Spain is no easy task. Spain, probably more than any other European country, is going through a very far-reaching period of structural and organisational change – and added urgency has been added to this task as a result of the post 2008 financial crisis.

After the Franco era, Spanish industry saw radical economic restructuring with the dismantling of many of the state-run businesses which fell under the umbrella of the INI (Instituto Nacional de Indistria). INI ran many of the traditional industries in Spain and was characterised by inefficiency and over-bureaucracy. Indeed, many of the misconceptions historically held about Spain in northern Europe and the States stem from an acquaintance with INI subsidiaries.

However, the post-Franco years saw the emergence of new indigenous Spanish organisations, managed by a new, younger breed of management – many of who were partly educated outside of Spain. These new companies have brought different attitudes and approaches to Spanish industry, which are often at odds with more traditional Spanish work styles. This clash is usually described as a generational issue but can also be seen as a result of the movement from a nationalised economy to a more modern economy.

Despite these tensions, it is still possible to draw some conclusions with regard to what the non-Spaniard can expect to encounter when conducting business in Spain or with Spaniards and this country overview attempts to pull together some of those commonalities.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Spain

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

Spain has had a rollercoaster ride over the past twenty years from an economic perspective. The country went through a classic boom and bust scenario. The Spanish population felt the highs and lows of a rapid growth in living standards only to be then battered by a massive downturn leading to wage stagnation and record levels of unemployment – especially amongst the younger generation.

Things seem to be picking up however and the hope is that Spain has weathered the economic storm and is poised for a period of solid, manageable GDP growth which can help to drive the country into a more prosperous and sustainable future. Some painful lessons have been learnt the hard way and future economic consolidation will be built on stronger foundations going forward.
If you are thinking of doing business in Spain, the economic signals are positive and now is probably a good time to approach the market. The country has a highly educated workforce and a strong middle-class consumer base. As a key member of the European Union, Spain has well established trading links throughout Europe. Add this to its position as ‘the gateway to South America’ and its geographic proximity to North Africa and Spain starts to look like a highly attractive market.

However, if you are thinking of doing business with Spain it is extremely important that you do some homework before diving into any initial relationship-building activities. What are the key motivators of potential partners or clients in Spain? How are decisions arrived at and what is the best approach in terms of communication? Studying Spanish business culture will help you make the right impressions from the outset.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Spanish business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips