There’s so much to think about when you’re starting a new business and it’s easy to overlook something important if you don’t use a to-do list. This is why we’ve put together a business checklist of the essentials – it’ll help you start strong, and build a resilient foundation for the future.
1. Choose a business name
Choosing a good business name is crucial, as the name is a major element of your branding. On a practical note, you need to make sure the name you’re considering isn’t already in use – if you’re setting up a limited company you won’t be able to register a name with Companies House if it already exists.
2. Choose a business structure
Setting up as a sole trader is the most straightforward way to start a business and isn’t as admin-heavy as forming a limited company. However, there are benefits to trading as a limited company, namely being able to take advantage of the protection afforded by limited liability. Whichever structure you choose to operate under, however, it’s advisable to ask an accountant for guidance, and to help you set up and deal with your tax and National Insurance obligations.
3. Develop a business plan
Business plans don’t need to be long and complicated but you do need to be sure there’s a market for your product or service, and understand how the business will make a profit. A solid business plan is vital for obtaining funding which you may need to kick-start your business. Again, a good accountant can help you generate sales and profit projections to support your ideas.
4. Find business premises
It can be extremely cost-effective to set up your business from home, at least initially; otherwise, finding a suitable base for your business needs to be a priority. Be aware that finding premises may take longer than you think, and wherever you base your start-up you’ll need to consider your IT needs and office equipment costs.
5. Build a website
Developing a website can be expensive on a start-up budget, but there are lower-cost options available. WordPress and Squarespace are just two website builders designed for ease of use, or you could outsource this task to an independent web development company or freelancer.
6. Find an accountant
Finance is the backbone of your business, and one of the most important steps when starting-up is to find a qualified accountant you can trust. You need somebody who understands your sector and who can be relied upon to provide accurate advice – clearly a crucial role. Handpicked Accountants operates a nationwide database of fully qualified accountants, and can put you in touch with a shortlist of reliable professionals in your area.
7. Register with HMRC (and Companies House if necessary)
If you’re setting up as a sole trader you need to register with HMRC for tax and National Insurance; limited companies must also register with HMRC as well as Companies House. Dealing with HMRC can be a little daunting for new business owners, but your accountant will be able to communicate with them on your behalf if you wish, acting as an agent of the business.
8. Get to grips with tax and National Insurance
HMRC runs online and in-person workshops to help new business owners understand their legal obligations around tax and National Insurance. You can learn about the PAYE system if you intend to employ staff, and also the penalty regime that comes into play when mistakes are made or returns submitted late.
9. Open a business bank account
A limited company must operate its own bank account due to the fact that it is classed as a separate legal entity from its owner, but it’s also highly advisable for sole traders to open a separate account too. Doing so simplifies the bookkeeping, as there’s no need to separate your personal transactions from business activities.
10. Business finance
If you’ve completed a business plan you’ll have already identified whether you need funding at this stage. If you do, your bank overdraft may suffice for short-term financing. For longer terms – to finance equipment or a vehicle, for example – hire purchase or leasing, or perhaps a long-term loan from the bank, may be more suitable depending on your business type.
11. Take out business insurance
The type of business you’re setting up also dictates your needs around business insurance, but if you’re going to hire staff, employers’ liability insurance is mandatory. Other policies that may be worth considering include professional indemnity insurance (PII), product liability insurance, and public liability insurance. If you’re unsure which policies you need, speak to an insurance broker or your accountant.
12. Set up technology and software
The choice of business software can be overwhelming, particularly when it comes to business finances. Seek advice from an accountant about the best software for you – they’ll be able to guide you on this and also the important matter of keeping your customers’ data safe under GDPR.
13. Start using social media
Social media can extend your ‘reach’ and help you build a cohesive brand alongside your website and other intellectual property. Depending on your business and where your customers are found online, a Facebook page may be useful, or perhaps the more visual Instagram platform would be better suited.
14. Hire staff
Hiring employees can be one of the most daunting areas of business for start-up owners, and you certainly need to understand your HR obligations in terms of interviewing, pay levels, and employee rights before you begin the recruitment process. Finding and retaining talented employees is a key area, so take your time, and ask for professional help if you need it.
15. Start networking
Networking is a powerful way to get your business known, and although results won’t be immediate, the contacts you make whilst networking can make a significant difference to your business over time. Try a mix of in-person networking events as well as online networking, particularly if you serve a local customer base.
A trustworthy accountant can provide valuable advice on many aspects of setting up a business, but finding a good local accountant can sometimes be difficult. This is where Handpicked Accountants can help.
We provide referrals for accountants and accountancy practices throughout the UK, based on longstanding professional relationships, and our knowledge of service levels and working practices. Please call one of the team to find out more about how we can help you with this crucial aspect of establishing your start-up.