When you make the decision to start your own business there are often lots of questions and uncertainty about how to get your plans off the ground.
At Enterprise and Business Gateway, we help around 2,000 businesses start up each year. We have expert advisers who can help, whether they are advising you on a particular aspect of business, or are the ear you need to share your excitement or concerns. We have developed this list of ten top things to do at the start of your business.
1. Pick up the phone and call business gateway
We would say that wouldn’t we. But really, much of the advice and guidance that Business Gateway can provide is best tapped into at the beginning of your plans. Our advice is free of charge so you should use as much of it as possible, it can only aid the planning and professional execution of your business plans. For instance, funding and advice is available specifically for bringing on your first employee - it can only be applied for before you take someone on, Business Plans will be required for bank loans and most other funding and we can provide you with a template and advice for completing these at the beginning. We can provide you with marketing and market research advice so that you can identify who your clients or customers will be and how to attract them before you spend a single penny on logos and leaflets to promote the business.
2. Write a Business Plan
A free business plan template is available on the gateway.com website here. This is not just a good tool for funding applications, this document works as a constant guide of your plans, tasks, goals, and then in time works as a measurement tool of how close you are to achieving these goals. Our advisers run a specific business planning workshop which goes through step by step how to complete your plan and how to get the most out of it.
3. Register your business legally.
It is important to register properly whether you decide to operate as a sole trader, partnership, limited company or charity. HMRC (the tax man) will need to know your plans so that you can be taxed correctly (avoiding bigger nastier bills down the line).
Our Start Up Awareness workshop goes through all of the different legal trading options and which might be the best fit for you. A Business Gateway adviser will be able to advice you on this over the phone, email or in person too. If you plan to be a Limited Company, you will have to register with Companies House and register the business for Company Tax at HMRC. An accountant or lawyer can be helpful at this point, to ensure that everything is correctly registered with the correct authorities.
4. Market research is an essential part of planning your business
It is essential to establish that there is a requirement for your product and service in the market place and to find out who your clients would be. Free resources like survey monkey.com will help you to find out valuable information when testing your market and you can use your professional network, family and friends to give their insight.
Market Research is covered significantly in our Marketing workshop - where you will find out not only how to identify your customers, but also how to attract them to your service or product.
You will also want to do a bit of research into your competitors, locally and nationally. This is the best time to establish your Unique Selling Point (USP), what makes you stand out from the crowd?
5. Business name
Have you thought about what you are going to call your business? it might be a name that ‘does what it says on the tin’ - 'Dundee Flooring Solutions’ for example or it might be something no one has ever heard of before, something abstract like ‘Google’.
It is important to bear in mind the availability of your hopeful name, it is a good idea to search for your possible name online, check if there are any businesses with similar names, check if there are Facebook Pages of the same name (you’ll perhaps want this for your business), check for URLs i.e. is yourbusinessname.com or .co.uk available? The Companies House website has a name check function so you can search for registered UK companies.
With your Business Gateway adviser you will be able to identify if you are applicable for any local or national funding initiatives.
7. Plan your finances, and decide how you want to run the business
You might have saved up a sum of money specifically for starting your business, you might have some star-up funds but need more funding from a bank, or you might be within the age limit for some Prince’s Trust funding.
Have you decided how you will operate the business, part time to begin with or full time? Will you work from home or invest in professional premises? This is a good time to write a list of all of the costs your business will have - from business cards and websites to light bulbs, printers and an accountant. Write up a shopping list of all of your one off and ongoing costs.
8. Establish if you will be VAT Registered or PAYE Registered
VAT Registration is essential if your sales are over £81,000 in a period of 12 months, otherwise you may register voluntarily. You might wish to join the Flat Rate VAT scheme which charges your business VAT based on the sector you operate in. Your Business adviser can talk through the options with you so you make the right decision.
You might decide to take on employees or to operate on your own in the beginning, if you are a Limited Company you will need to register for PAYE to run payroll for yourself and/or your staff.
9. Find an Accountant?
You might need an accountant to help you properly register your business or yourself as self-employed. Personal Tax Returns and Company Tax returns can be done by yourself or by an expert. Limited Company Accounts are usually done by a trained Accountant so it is often a good idea to engage one at the beginning of your business plans.
You will need to keep books throughout the year to monitor transactions going in and out of the business - online book keeping software is available through a variety of packages, you might wish to do your online book keeping or engage a book keeper or accountant, you can also keep these details on an excel spreadsheet. Business Gateway run a Start-up Book Keeping course which will help you learn about profit and loss and decide if your book keeping is something you would like to do yourself.
10. Business Insurance
The type and amount of insurance cover you’ll need will vary according to the risks your business is exposed to and how much risk you’re willing to bear. Your business is legally obliged to buy certain insurances, including employers' liability insurance cover - worth at least £5 million - for the majority of employees, motor insurance if your business uses vehicles on the road or other public places, professional indemnity insurance for businesses in professions such as law and accountancy. You may also want to get insurance to protect your business premises, equipment and stock. An independent insurance broker can help you select the right level of cover, assess which risks pose the greatest threat and find the best deal.
These are the basics of course, but there are lots of ways we can assist you whether you have a simple or complex query -
You can contact Enterprise and Business Gateway by calling 01224 289725
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can visit our website with specifically local business advice here: www.bgateway.com/aberdeen
We advice people over social media too – find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BGatewayCityandShire
Or on twitter @BGateway_ACS