Starting a company in Belgium – the essential checklist

How to start a company in Belgium: A step-by-step guide; find everything you need to know about starting a company in Belgium.

With a population of about 11.7 million people, Belgium is a small country in Western Europe, boasting a GDP of about $550 billion and a GDP per capita of approximately $49,000. Belgium’s economic forecast is optimistic, with roughly 1.2% projected growth in 2023. Belgium is ranked 46th out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020. 

Anyone who is a citizen and is at least 18 years old can quickly launch a business in Belgium. Non-EU/EFTA nationals will require a visa to enter Belgium and obtain a Belgian residency permit. However, foreigners can establish businesses in Belgium.

If you want to successfully launch a company in Belgium, it is critical first to become aware of the Belgian system. The checklist below will walk you through some of the most critical procedures in handling a business in Belgium.

Here’s how you can start your company and fulfill your dream of being your boss in Belgium in these easy-to-follow steps:

Understand Belgium Culture

Belgium has a culture of its own that has been linked to its four components since the nation was divided in the 1960s. These are the Flemish region, the Walloon region, the Brussels capital region (a pretty neutral region among all), and the minor East Cantons region.

It is also important to be aware of the language differences in Belgium when doing business in the country. Belgium is a trilingual country with three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. However, the most commonly spoken languages in the workplace are Dutch and French.

Flemings: The Flemish are the majority population in Belgium and speak Dutch. Dutch is the most commonly spoken language in the workplace in Flanders, the northern region of Belgium.

Walloons: The Walloons are the minority population in Belgium and speak French. French is the most commonly spoken language in the workplace in Wallonia, the southern region of Belgium.

Brussels: Dutch and French are the official languages in the capital city of Brussels. However, English is also widely spoken in Brussels, especially in business.

If you need to improve in Dutch or French, learn some basic phrases. You should also be prepared to use a translator if necessary.

Know The Requirements

Are you interested in becoming your boss and starting a business in Belgium? You can do so if you meet these specific legal requirements for starting.

To meet these conditions, you should:

 

    • Be at least eighteen years old and legally capable.

    • Either be Belgian or a resident of a European Economic Area (EEA) country.

    • Show your business skills through a business management degree or practical experience.

You should also have your civil rights intact. This means you have not been convicted of serious offenses like fraud or bankruptcy due to significant mistakes.

Additionally, you may need specific licenses or proof of professional expertise for certain professions.

This is no longer obligatory in the Flemish region. However, it still applies in Brussels and the Walloon region.

Think of A Business Idea

Here are some ways to generate business ideas:

Ask family and friends. Talk to your family and friends about their problems and challenges. See if there’s anything you can do to help them. This could be a great way to develop a business idea that solves a real problem for people.

Consider problems in your everyday life. Think about the things that frustrate you or make your life difficult. Could there be a business opportunity there? For example, if you’re always running late, you could start a business that provides errand services.

Build on your hobbies and interests. What are you passionate about? Could you turn your hobby into a business? For example, if you love to cook, you could start a catering business or a food blog.

Consider products that turn into ease. What are the tasks that people find tedious or time-consuming? Could you create a product or service that makes them more manageable? For example, you could create a software program that helps people manage their finances or a website that helps people find the best deals on travel.

Capitalize on existing products or services. Look for ways to improve upon existing products or services. For example, you could start a business that provides same-day delivery for online orders or offers personalized customer service.

These are just a few ways to generate business ideas. The best way to develop a great idea is to be creative and persistent. Be bold and think outside the box, and experiment. The more ideas you come up with, the better your chances of finding one that’s successful.

Do Market Research for Your Idea

The first step in market analysis is finding your target audience. Do you want to sell your products to youth/ middle-aged or elderly generation? For example, if you’re offering kitchen utensils, your target audience would be middle-aged women in Belgium.

Once you’ve figured out your target audience, you’ll need to figure out who your competitor is. Competitive research is identifying and analyzing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to assess where your business idea stands (and where you may need to make changes) and provides valuable insights into current market conditions.

The first step is to find your company’s top competitors, which you can do by simply looking up your product or service category online. Once you’ve identified your primary competitors, examine their digital footprint by visiting their websites, blog posts, and social media accounts. 

Consider joining their email lists and monitoring their accounts on social media to get a sense of how they interact. Finally, keep track of the results and use the data to improve your business concept and its services.

Write A Viable Business Plan

The next step is to take your ideas and analysis to documented form, known as a Business plan. A business plan is a formal written document describing your business, its goals, and how you plan to achieve them. It is a roadmap for your business and can help you in many ways, such as:

Getting funding: A business plan can help you get funding from investors or lenders.

Attracting customers: A business plan can help attract customers by showing them that you have a well-thought-out plan for your business.

Managing your business: A business plan can help you manage your business by providing a framework to track your progress and make necessary adjustments.

The contents of a business plan can vary depending on the specific business but typically include the following sections:

Executive summary: This is a brief overview of your business plan.

Company description: This section provides information about your business, such as its products or services, target market, and competitive landscape.

Marketing plan: This section describes how you plan to reach your target market and sell your products or services.

Financial plan: This section provides financial projections for your business, such as revenue, expenses, and cash flow.

Management team: This section provides information about the people running your business.

Let’s discuss how you can set up your business in Belgium. Picking the proper legal structure is a crucial step. Things have evolved in recent times regarding this in Belgium. Here are the new options you have:

Private Limited Company (BV): This one’s quite popular, especially for entrepreneurs from other countries. It offers a good balance between limited liability and operational flexibility.

Public Limited Company (NV): If you’re looking for a more extensive setup, the NV might be your choice. It’s suited for larger businesses and can even be listed on the stock exchange.

Cooperative Company (CV): This structure is about collaboration. It’s a good fit when people come together to work towards a shared goal while still having some liability protection.

Limited Partnership (CommV): Here, you have a mix of partners with different roles. Some have more liability, others less. It’s a unique setup that can be useful in specific situations.

General Partnership (VOF): This one’s for those who want to work closely together, sharing profits and responsibilities. It’s less formal but requires careful consideration of liability.

Partnership (Without Legal Personality): This is more relaxed in terms of structure, suitable for smaller setups where individuals join hands without the need for a formal company.

Among these options, the BV, or Private Limited Company, is often the go-to choice for foreign entrepreneurs. It gives you a good mix of protection and flexibility. So, when starting a business in Belgium, think about the structure that fits your goals and plans the best.

After you decide between your company’s legal structures, it’s time to choose your company name accordingly. Your company name is like its identity card, so it’s crucial to choose wisely.

Start Registration Process

Registering your company in Belgium involves several steps that ensure your business is legally recognized and can operate smoothly. Here’s a simple breakdown of the process:

 

    • If you’re creating a limited company, you must prepare official documents called articles of incorporation. They must be written and authenticated by a notary.

    • Before you start doing business, it’s important to register with the Crossroad Bank for Companies. This central registry ensures your company’s details are correctly recorded. 

    • If your company deals with selling goods or services according to Belgian VAT regulations, you need to register for VAT. You can obtain the VAT registration form (form 604a) online. 

    • All self-employed entrepreneurs in Belgium must join a social insurance fund. This fund is responsible for collecting social security contributions. 

    • Remember to register with a Belgian health insurance fund.

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