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duport's essential start-up checklist

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.

  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, 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 0303 1234 500

  3. bank

    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 – 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. 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 UK Trade and Investment department for expert free help. International Trade Teams are located in 40 offices around the country and each region has dedicated sector specialists to provide tailored support. Use the online test to assess your export capabilities, read FAQs for potential exporters and get assistance with your international ambitions.

  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.

  11. Businesses involved with food and drink are affected by environmental health regulations and food hygiene regulations. Find your local environmental health department at

  12. 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. Use business link to find your local authority and contact in your area

  13. register with business link

    The website ( is great for information, advice and support, showing you where to get further information. Find out what help is available to you, from skills training to introductions to experts. The interactive tools are excellent; (for example check who you can employ from other countries what paperwork you need, get your licences online) and get automatic updated advice on the latest changes in legislation. An absolute "must do".

  14. premises

    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 020 7506 1700

  15. 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 book keeping basics and consider a simple PC based system to save time and effort. Write a business plan and consider your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

  16. environment

    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.

  17. 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.

  18. the information commissioner

    If you keep data on individual people and hold for more than day to day business operations you must register.

  19. 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.

  20. licences

    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.

  21. 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).

  22. credit

    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 08457 47 47 47

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants 0141 582 2000

Better Payment Practice Group

British Chambers of Commerce for help and advice 020 7654 5800

British Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply for best practice advice on managing your purchases and suppliers

Chartered Institute of Marketing 01628 427500

Chartered Institute of Patent Agents for information on patents and agents 020 7405 9450

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Best practice tips on human resources and employment legislation www 020 8612 6200

Companies House 0303 1234 500

Confederation of British Industry the UK's leading employers' organisation 020 7379 7400

Employment Tribunal Service 0845 795 9755

Federation of Small Businesses 0808 2020 888

Health & Safety Executive excellent for information and advice

HMRC for advice about tax, VAT and NI

Information Commissioner's Office. Data protection information 01625 545 745

Insolvency Services for best practice advice about dealing with bankruptcy and insolvency 020 7291 6895

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales 020 7920 8100

Institute of Directors 020 7839 1233

Intellectual Property Office 0845 9500 505

Law Society

National Federation of Enterprise Agencies for help and advice 01234 831623

NESTA for information on innovation and funding

Office of Fair Trading 08457 22 44 99

The Prince's Trust

Trading Standards Institute 0870 872 9008

Trades Association Forum. Find your trade association 0207 395 8283

UK Trade & Investment Official guidance for businesses that are involved in exporting 020 7215 80000

Valuations Office Agency for information and advice about business rates 020 7506 1700