According to doingbusiness.org, Germany ranks 111th for ease of starting a business. A quick scan of the charts will tell you that Germany is a bureaucratic outlier that compares un-favourably with the UK, which is ranked 28, or indeed that chart-topping, red-tapeless nirvana of a country, New Zealand. Having just started a part-time business here, this doesn't surprise me. Take for instance our latest escapade — acquiring a licence to run a food truck, or, in our own very specific case, a converted ex-London taxi. Now I’d imagine in England if you planned on rocking around to your local park with a taxi full of hot pasties and cold drinks someone official might want to have a quick shuffle though your paperwork.
Germany takes it to a whole new level though. The quest starts at the ‘Amt für öffentliche Ordnung’ (quite literally office for public order) where, after some well-meaning advice as to the likelihood of your application being rejected, you are handed a list of the documents you need to acquire. It runs to two double-sided A4 pages and involves personal visits to four different public offices around the city. Only one document is available online. Not to forget, they need to be acquired for all the business’s registered owners plus the business as an entity in itself.
But don’t think it is all done with that. It isn’t. The taxi still needs to be signed off by the health inspector, and we still need official permission to take to the streets and offer hapless bystanders our wares. The licence I just described only grants permission to run a mobile business and, without further approvals, only entitles us to stop on private land.
But the real challenge in all of this is not so much jumping through the offical hoops, but in knowing which ones to jump through in the first place. Information is bity, heavy on jargon, and doesn’t seem to come from any one comprehensible single source. As someone who works in a comms team that’s constantly looking for ways to simplify the message and get it across as effectively as possible, this kind of foggy messaging has me gasping.
Nevertheless, with perseverance, our cab should be leaving the mists for the sunny uplands soon. Our next challenge: to design a set of decals for the cab that entice people, in a land devoid of pasties or close equivalents, to walk over to an old London taxi to try a pasty. Hmmm……….