There's Life In The Old Dog Yet: Here's What You Can Do After You Sell Your Company
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It is easy sometimes to be sucked into the pessimistic and somewhat unfounded grumblings regarding the economic and political outlook for certain sectors in the UAE, but when it comes to UAE startups, and tech startups in particular, the future is bright. Since the region’s first major tech acquisition of Maktoob back in 2009, we have seen significant transactions in the last decade, including the Amazon acquisition of Souq.com in 2017, and more recently, the acquisition of Careem by Uber for US$3.1 billion.
In the wake of the region’s largest-ever tech acquisition, the UAE’s startup sector is finally under the spotlight, and it is rightfully claiming its place as one of the top international startup cities in the world as venture capitalists look for the next "unicorn." There has never been a more exciting time for the Dubai entrepreneurial ecosystem, and international investors are recognizing Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, as a hub of untapped, entrepreneurial talent.
However, what happens to the owner of an enterprise after they have decided to sell their business? After the sale of a business, the ex-company owner usually has two options: the first being to stay at the company as an employee to assist with the transition and knowledge transfer within the company, while the second being them contracted to the company as an independent consultant or an advisor for a designated period of time.
With the first, and usually most common, option, the ex-owner typically stays with the company for a period of two or more years, and spends their time making the transition as seamless as possible. With the second option, the ex-owner now operates as an independent consultant, assisting and advising the new owners on the operation of the company, with the individual in question themselves dictating the terms of the contract. If the individual does decide to remain at the company as an employee for a fixed period, ultimately their involvement with the company will end, which therefore makes the option of establishing themselves an independent consultant from the start extremely attractive, if a little daunting.
Globally, the demand for independent consultants is on the rise, as companies look for external expert advice on how to implement strategic growth strategies, increase revenue, and perfect internal corporate governance, in order to become more attractive for acquisition themselves. As individuals with experience of the company sale process, who become known as experts in their field and have an abundance of high-quality contacts, ex-company owners are in a perfect position to take the leap from the corporate office into the world of independent consulting- but they must also realize that preparation for this new venture is essential.
In the UAE, the first task for any independent consultant should be to ascertain how they can operate legally in the region, and license themselves correctly. For some consultants, a free zone entity may be a good option, but for others who are looking to contract with government entities or onshore companies, then it would be more appropriate to operate as an onshore entity, or under an existing onshore trade license. It is also important to decide what business model the consultant feels most comfortable with. Do you want to handle all compliance matters yourself (including accounting, invoicing, and VAT submissions). or would you rather outsource these functions so that you can fully concentrate on the operational side of the business? Another consideration is the business network: do you know enough qualified people operating in the sectors you are interested in, do you have access to the incoming stream of fresh talent to the country, do you have trusted peers and advisors, and would you benefit from becoming part of a larger business ecosystem to extend your reach and work with other independent professionals to utilize collective intelligence?
There are of course many more things to take into consideration when deciding whether to operate as an independent consultant after the sale of your company. However, one thing is for certain- with the increase of co-working spaces, the quality of networking groups and business councils, the support networks that are available to all independent workers and the availability of private, flexible working space, the UAE is an ideal place to operate independently, and to start the next chapter of a successful career.