Where do I start? Who must I contact? What help can I get? Once you have decided to go into business – whether as a sole trader, limited company or partnership – you must legally take certain steps to register your business with various agencies and organisations.
You should consider each of our top twenty points in turn and will need to register with at least some of the organisations listed. Use this checklist in conjunction with the free offers section on our websites and utilize complimentary consultations to get your business off to a cracking start without spending any money! For in-depth advice and information on each topic refer also to the Duport business advice and archive section of our website.
19 steps to start up success
1. Names and domains
Along with choosing your company name, buying a domain may be one of the most important steps you take. You are guaranteed a domain with your company name followed by .co.uk, but should consider additional options, especially if you are brand conscious. Snapping up a good domain quickly can literally save you thousands of pounds later. Without a domain you can’t have a website. When you choose a domain consider a company like Duport, which offers professional hosting and assistance. (You might want to adapt our free simple website template, or opt for a bespoke website design.)
2. Registering your company
Get your LTD or LLP registered at Companies House. Most registrations now occur through an agent like Duport Associates. Sole traders do not need to register. Once you have incorporated your company you will need to contact Companies House and file paperwork. Companies House www.companieshouse.gov.uk 0303 1234 500
By law you must open a separate business account a limited company. (Sole traders don’t need to have one, but it does make life simpler.) You will need your certificate of incorporation and other documentation. Shop around for a bank that suits your needs.
4. Write a business plan
This should include your main objectives, priorities and strategies for the next year or two. Keep it concise and include financial forecasts, how much money you are putting in and/or need to borrow. Include a SWOT analysis of Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats. Be honest.
5. Write a marketing plan
Explain what product or service you offer, the marketing advantages and challenges you face and what your competitors are up to. Describe your target audience (age, gender, income bracket etc). Set realistic marketing goals with specific targets and outline your strategies and tactics (e.g. advertising, direct mail). Include a breakdown of costs.
6. Register with HMRC
Sole traders, part-time businesses, limited companies and partnerships must contact HMRC to register for tax, national insurance etc. If you take on staff you will need to deduct payments from them and send on time to HMRC.
7. VAT registration
You don’t have to register unless taxable turnover is over £85,000 but you can register voluntarily to reclaim VAT on business expenses. This might be an advantage if you sell goods that are exempt or zero rated, otherwise you will have to charge VAT on sales. The taxable turnover threshold which determines whether a person may apply for deregistration will remain at £83,000.
8. Imports and exports
You must contact HMRC immediately if you deal in imports and exports. Also contact the Department for International Trade for expert free help or use their website: great.gov.uk
9. Business insurance
By law you will need employers liability insurance if you employ anyone else, even part-time. If you offer professional advice you should protect yourself with professional indemnity insurance. Some occupations have their own specialist insurance and you may also need public or product liability insurance.
If you work from home you must tell your domestic insurer or you might invalidate your policy. You may also need public or product liability.
10. Health and safety
Businesses with employees who work in an office, shop, warehouse or catering or leisure facility need to register with their local authority (usually the environmental health department). Most other businesses come under the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or a local authority inspector.
Businesses involved with food and drink are affected by environmental health regulations and food hygiene regulations. Find your local environmental health department at www.food.gov.uk
11. Contact your local authority
Local authorities deal with Trading Standards, Health and Safety Environmental Services, Food Safety, Planning and Building regulations, Business Support and much more.
If you take on premises you will have to register for business rates. For information and advice on business rates contact the Valuation Office Agency: gov.uk/government/organisations/valuation-office-agency
13. Find an accountant
Although you could do it yourself, most small businesses need to find a good accountant pretty quick. Take advantage of free advice sessions and shop around.
Set up bookkeeping basics and consider dedicated software to save time and effort.
Your business is responsible for any environmental damage it causes and is legally responsible for its waste. As well as contacting the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, contact your local council.
If you produce, import or export packaging, or have packaging waste for recycling you will be subject to special regulations. Makers, sellers and distributors of electrical and electronic equipment have to now recycle consumers’ disregarded goods. If your firm creates excessive levels of domestic waste water you must contact your local water company, Air emissions need to be checked by the local authority and the Environmental agency.
15. The Information Commissioner
If you keep data on individual people and hold it for more than day to day business operations you must register with ico.org.uk
16. Money laundering
If you run certain types of business for example accountancy, estate agents, casinos and insolvency firms amongst others you will have to register and comply with Money Laundering Regulations.
Taxi drivers, nightclubs, pet shops, scrap metal dealers and others need a licence from the local authority. Local authority environmental health departments issue licences for hotels, restaurants, abattoirs, hairdressers, those who work with asbestos, mobile shops and premises selling food, massage and skin piercing services such as acupuncturists and tattooists. You need a licence to sell alcohol. Childminders and day care nurseries must register and be licensed. Anyone who works with children has to undergo a police check.
18. Employing people
Once you have employed someone you need a valid reason to dismiss them (and follow certain procedures) so it is vital to get it right. Your interviews and advertisements must not be discriminatory; you can’t ask personal questions and must focus on the candidate’s ability to do the job. Interviewees can ask to see your interview notes about them. Once you offer someone a job an employment contract exists and you must provide written terms and conditions within two months. You must follow the law on working hours, leave and pay, maternity, paternity etc deduct tax and National Insurance and give pay slips. You must follow health and safety for all staff and protect them from discrimination (including from other employees).
How you deal with suppliers, whether you pay your bills on time, even how you pay will be used by credit agencies to build up a financial picture of your business. Pay bills on time and try to form relationships with companies that will establish credit for your business. Check your customers in the same way as they will check you. Use credit reports if you are at all uncertain of a customer’s ability to pay.
This list is not exhaustive but it a good place to start. There are, of course, many more things you may want to do. For example you may want to contact your trade body for free help, advice and networking opportunities. You might want to protect your copyright, design rights, patents and trade marks, set up a good IT system or reduce your company’s carbon footprint. Maybe you want to research grants and get some start- up or development money? Each business is different and there may be special circumstances to consider.
Useful sources of information
- Acas www.acas.org.uk
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants www.accaglobal.com
- Better Payment Practice Group www.payontime.co.uk
- British Chambers of Commerce for help and advice www.britishchambers.org.uk
- British Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply for best practice advice on managing your purchases and suppliers www.cips.org
- Chartered Institute of Marketing www.cim.co.uk
- Chartered Institute of Patent Agents for information on patents and agents www.cipa.org.uk
- Companies House www.gov.uk/government/organisations/companies-house
- Confederation of British Industry the UK’s leading employers’ organisation www.cbi.org.uk
- Federation of Small Businesses www.fsb.org.uk
- Health & Safety Executive excellent for information and advice www.hse.gov.uk
- HMRC for advice about tax, VAT and NI www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs
- Information Commissioner’s Office for data protection information www.ico.org.uk
- Institute of Directors www.iod.com
- Intellectual Property Office www.gov.uk/government/organisations/intellectual-property-office
- Law Society www.lawsociety.org.uk
- National Enterprise Network for help and advice www.nationalenterprisenetwork.org
- NESTA for information on innovation and funding www.nesta.org.uk
- The Prince’s Trust www.princes-trust.org.uk
- Trades Association Forum Find your trade association www.taforum.org
- Department for International Trade www.great.gov.uk
- Valuations Office Agency for information and advice about business rates gov.uk/government/organisations/valuation-office-agency