One month ago I landed with my family at the Hong Kong airport. I expect we’ll live here for three or four years, perhaps more. While here I am opening a branch office of my online marketing firm, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. I do not speak Cantonese. I have never lived in Hong Kong or Asia before. The first time I ever came to Hong Kong was in March of this year. And now I own a business here. Where it will end up I can’t exactly predict, but here’s how I got it started.
Opening a business in Hong Kong was a piece of cake. I’d like to say it’s because the government has a quick, easy, and affordable online process that caters to Americans, but it doesn’t. I found the Hong Kong business registration website quite confusing. But there are many companies happy to take care of the entire process for you. Through Startups HK, a networking group for entrepreneurs and investors, I connected with HK Commons and they took care of everything for around $400 USD. I found that a modest fee to pay to avoid 20 hours figuring it out myself and to obtain the peace of mind of knowing it would be done correctly. This was all completed prior to my stepping foot in the country.
Getting a virtual office is the fastest and most affordable way to get a business address in Hong Kong. Whereas in the U.S. the term “virtual office” often means renting an actual office, here you can start out renting no space at all, but receiving the services of a business address, phone and fax numbers, and staff to answer calls in English, Cantonese, or Mandarin. Since I’m starting out with a home-based office, this is all I need, and with a promotion it cost me $400 USD for the first year. These virtual office businesses, including HK Commons, Compass (my provider), and Centre O, also provide co-working space, conference rooms, individual private offices, and full service large offices. If I need a conference room for a meeting or am ready to upgrade, they’re ready to meet my needs. Linkedin’s Hong Kong office is housed at the same address I use for my business.
HSBC holds a near monopoly on business and personal banking in Hong Kong. There are other options, but don’t expect to see any American banks here. Citibank and Wells Fargo have a limited presence in Hong Kong, but one Citibank customer we met here says the U.S. and Hong Kong branches of the bank don’t communicate well with each other. I went with HSBC primarily because everyone else uses it, and since payments for business services here are made primarily via electronic transfers rather than paper checks, it seems most convenient to go with the flow.
Although it’s all fine now, opening an account at HSBC was the most challenging aspect of getting my business up and running here, due to the fact I could not open an account without being here in Hong Kong in person. This introduced a significant delay in our visa process, as I’ll explain below.
Read the full article at Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshsteimle/2013/07/12/how-i-opened-a-branch-office-of-my-business-in-hong-kong/