Some would have you believe that registering a company (“incorporation” – as opposed to simply starting a sole trader business) is an unnecessarily drawn-out ordeal in the UK. But, in fact, you can form a company in a day if you use the Companies House fast-track service. Otherwise, it should take 10-12 days.
As it’s Global Entrepreneurship Week I thought it’d be interesting to find out how the UK compares to other countries when it comes to incorporation. A quick Google search brought me to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2012 report, which compares regulatory conditions for “domestic firms in 183 economies”. It makes for fascinating reading, if you have the time. If not, the organisation’s website provides a convenient data summary of “the bureaucratic and legal hurdles an entrepreneur must overcome to incorporate and register [sic] a new [sic] firm.”
So what does it reveal? Well, things move much slower in South America and the Caribbean. In (socialist president) Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela it takes 141 days to register a company. In Brazil you’ll wait 119 days and in Haiti 105 days.
In Africa things can be similarly sluggish and Equatorial Guinea (137), Zimbabwe (90) and Togo (84) are stand-out examples. Intriguingly, in Republic of Congo it takes 160 days, yet only 65 days in the Democratic Republic of Congo (yes, democracy truly is a wonderful thing, folks). Incorporation takes a mere three days in Rwanda, the same time as in Singapore, but not as much as in the USA and Canada (both six).
In Afghanistan you can register a company in just seven days (apparently, there is a growing textiles sector). In Iraq it takes 77 days – ten times longer than in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
And what of communist regimes past and present? Despite massive entrepreneurial strides in recent years, in China it still takes 38 days to register a company. That’s eight more than in the Russian Federation, yet in Georgia it can be done and dusted in just two days. In Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea there are only about 200 private companies, each of which is heavily state-regulated. No data is available for how long it takes to form a company in North Korea or how much it costs…
In (the Socialist Republic of) Vietnam you can register a company in 44 days, while in the People's Democratic Republic of Lao it takes about twice as long. In Cuba there is estimated to be only 100,000 or so “cuentapropistas” (private business owners) out of a population of about 11.2m.
How does the UK compare to other European countries? Pretty good as regards Austria (28 days), Switzerland (18), Sweden (15) and Germany (15); not so good as regards Hungary (four), Belgium (four) Portugal (five), Norway (seven), France (seven) and the Netherlands (eight).
For the type of incorporation entrepreneurs might dream of you’re best heading off “Down Under”. In Australia it takes just two days and in New Zealand – less than one (it can all be done very quickly online).
During Global Entrepreneurship Week I urge you to spare a thought for would-be entrepreneurs in the Republic of Suriname, on South America’s north east coast. Here, according to the World Bank – astonishingly – it takes a mind-boggling 694 days to register a company. During that time there are 13 bureaucratic steps to negotiate (unlucky for some, indeed). Suddenly the prospect of having to register a company in the UK doesn’t seem so bad at all now, does it?
- Find out how to set up a limited company.