12 September 2017

There's nothing small about small business owners...

I was recently contacted by a woman who owns her own consulting company here in Neuchâtel, to talk about how the services we each offer could be complimentary.

We ended up discussing the challenges of being a female business owner in this country. She told me that even after 10 years of running a successful business, she still comes across people who treat her as if her work is a hobby. We both laughed, but not at the hilarity of it, rather at the absurdity.

Male or female, I have yet to meet someone who has started up their own small business out of boredom or need for a hobby.

Every single one of them have started what they do out of passion, a need for independence and quite often, to fill a need or void they have identified in the current market.

Setting up a small business takes conviction, cash and ALOT of tenacity.

As a small business owner, every mistake is yours to assume and every success is personal. It is not a challenge to be taken lightly. The ups and downs are constant and inevitable.

Perhaps that’s why, as time goes by, I find myself surrounded more and more by other small business owners. It’s the shared understanding of this rollercoaster ride that brings us together. We can celebrate with each other and more importantly, remind each other of why we chose to do this in the first place. Not to mention the collective knowledge and experience we are all willing to share in order to help each other thrive.

All this to say, next time you are looking for a service or a product, look around you, at the small business that need your support. Trust me, these people believe in what they do and will provide you an unrivalled service because their business is part of who they are.

12 June 2017

That little red book

I recently saw an article on www.news.ch about how more than half the kids under 6 in Switzerland have at least one foreign parent. In 2015, of the 8.3 million inhabitants, 2 million of them were foreigners and 9% of the population have duel nationalities. Being an expat and having lived here for over 17 years, this is hardly news to me, although the figures are interesting.

This brings me to the next subject, applying for Swiss citizenship. A rather news-worthy topic it seems. For example the story of the woman in Canton Aargau who had her application rejected by the commune due to her “annoying” animal-welfare campaigning. The story was covered worldwide.

The more local news focuses on the changes to the requirements for citizenship application, such the reduction from 12 to 10 years’ residence required, the costing in Geneva (being no longer income-based as of 1 June 2017) or the cantons that want to make the application process more stringent. The subject of citizenship seems to be un-ending.

Investopedia.com names Switzerland among the top 5 countries who make it especially difficult to obtain citizenship, along with Germany, Austria, Japan and the US.

The reason behind the so-called difficulties? All have requirements of time spent living in that particular country, ranging anywhere between 5-30 years. Applicant must be integrated into society, speak the national language and contribute to society, economically, socially and culturally.

I don’t know about you, but to me, these seem like fairly reasonable requirements for obtaining a citizenship.

Can I point out though that as “difficult” as the requirements for citizenship are, these 5 countries all rank between 1 and 4 on the Global Passport Power Rank Index and individually all sit in the top 20 (www.passportindex.org ). Not to mention that Switzerland has been placed 5 in the Global Peace Index for 2017 (http://economicsandpeace.org) and regularly ranks in the top 10 places to live in the world.

Now let me get to my point; once you qualify, I don’t believe that the application for obtaining Swiss citizenship is overly difficult. That said, it can be overwhelming.

The official documents required (birth/marriage certificates) can be tedious to obtain from overseas embassies and the time constraints to get everything together puts even more pressure on the process.

The cost can also be a deciding factor, at a minimum CHF 850 per application depending on the canton. This excludes translation of documents, embassy fees etc. Not to mention that it can take a minimum of 18 months from application to consent as each goes through three stages of approval; Federal, Cantonal and Communal. No wonder some people seem not to bother at all.

I have to say though, having personally been through the process a few years ago, and having helped others with theirs, holding that little red book in your hand is a proud moment.

25 April 2017

Competition – a nasty word?

One of our competitors in the region was recently acquired by Packimpex, who are one of the largest relocation companies in Switzerland. An exciting move for both parties.

A few weeks ago I was discussing our social media strategy with a friend, and in our talks about Ekhaya’s competitors, we took a few minutes to check out their website and services. That which left me slightly deflated. They have and do it all. Their offerings are impressive. They have a client portal and all the bells and whistles.

My friend suggested I investigate their postings and strategy more closely and see what I could do to mirror them and their success, suggesting improvements to help us grow. All of which had crossed my mind in the past.

However, I quickly realised, that is not who we are, and that is not who we aim to be.

You can see from our website and social media pages, Ekhaya is a small family owned business aimed at helping people settle into Neuchatel and the surrounding areas. We pride ourselves on providing bespoke, friendly and tailor-made solutions to all your relocation and/or PA needs. We don’t need a client portal on our website, we are your client portal.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not by any means attempting to slander our competitor, their work, clients or any part of their company, they provide an impressive array of solutions that we cannot.

I am simply reminding myself, and hopefully you, that we are personal, small and different, and if that’s what you want from an administrative or relocation service, well, you know where to find us…

Small is beautiful

23 April 2017:

New Promotion:

Until the end of May, we will be offering a buy one, get one free on our PA hours.