Although according to the Belgians it only takes three days to set up a business here in actual fact most of the people that we speak to end up spending weeks if not several months on the formal start up process. It pays therefore to be prepared, to understand what is required at the various stages of the procedure and to make sure you have all the bits of paper that will be asked of you along the way.

1. Paper work – there is a lot of it so be prepared and make sure you have everything that you need. For example, digging out your degree certificate will be essential and it must come from a “recognized establishment” otherwise you will lose three or four months. To save you time we’ve created a list of key documents that you will need to set up a business in Belgium.

2. If you will be a very small business, think about the level of risk that you may incur and therefore your potential liability. There are around 10 types of legal entity in Belgium and although most people set up an SPRL/BVBA, there may be another structure that is more appropriate for you.

3. If you are in a partnership, think carefully about how that is going to work. Many people subsequently regret their choice of business partner or have no plan if one partner wants to leave the business (new business structures in Belgium require at least two partners or a higher level of initial investment) so you need to be prepared.

4. You must develop a formal and realistic financial plan. Local Knowledge can help you develop it.

5. Interview several accountants before you select one – if you aren’t sure what you should be asking, see our list of questions to ask an accountant.

6. Check out the free advice and support available in the different Belgian regions (Brussels, Flanders, Wallonia). They all provide some kind of support to new businesses ranging from subsidized office space to grant financing and you may be eligible.

7. There is also support for expanding businesses in Belgium in the form of Government contributions to your social security bill.

8. Talk to as many people as you can before you take the plunge. You can learn something from every single person’s experience and it won’t cost you a penny.

9. Whatever you have estimated, it will cost more and take longer, especially if you are a non-European Economic Area national and you need a work permit.

10. Buy the Local Knowledge guide to setting up and running your business in Belgium.