Most working professionals in the UAE want to start their own business, according to a new survey by and YouGov, called Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa 2017.

The survey revealed that 78 per cent of employees in the country are thinking of becoming, or have already attempted to start up as, entrepreneurs. The figure for MENA overall is even higher, with 82 per cent of employees wanting to go it alone in business. In Oman, 86 per cent of those currently employed are thinking of setting up a business.

Jenny Hunt, deputy chairman of Business Group Abu Dhabi and founding partner and chief executive of the Gateway Group of Companies, helps people set up business in the UAE. While it may be an appealing idea to go it alone, she said individuals generally get caught out by two issues: “One is being sold a company formation by a salesperson earning commission and therefore not necessarily getting the advice that is right for their personal situation and their plans for their business,” she said. “The other key mistake is seeking out the cheapest license option rather than understanding which is most suitable for their plan.”

In her opinion, the five biggest license pitfalls are: “assuming – and sometimes being wrongly advised – that licenses cover the whole of the UAE rather than the Emirate or jurisdiction they are issued in; assuming free zone licenses are quicker and cheaper to establish – often they aren’t when all of the fees are taken into consideration; assuming that the 51 per cent local partner requirement for an onshore LLC means they lose control of their business and profits, while there are ways to safeguard themselves; trying to manage the incorporation process themselves when their time could be better spent on developing their business; and assuming that they will start earning immediately and not giving enough consideration to cash flow”.

The reasons why people in the MENA region want to start their own businesses include personal fulfilment; freedom to choose work-life balance; higher monetary gains; the ability to give back to the community, and the ability to ‘be their own bosses’, according to the survey.

Those who had already started their own business said they chose to do so in order to attain greater independence in what they want to achieve, increase their income, and have a better work-life balance.

Hunt said that in terms of the types of businesses people want to set up, she mostly received enquiries about consultancies. “Consultancy is always popular with expats leaving the corporate world and venturing out on their own. So enquiries relating to management consultancy, marketing and IT services are always popular. Increasingly, there is an interest in e-commerce opportunities too,” she added.

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