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Starting a Business: A Complete Guide

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Starting a Business: A Complete Guide
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If you're planning to start a business in the UK, chances are you have tons of questions and concerns on your mind. You’re probably reading lots of blog posts and watching loads of videos to make sure you don’t miss anything.

 

From creating a business plan, to finding investors and registering with HMRC, launching a business can feel overwhelming, but with some guidance and practical advice, it doesn't have to feel like hard work

In this guide, we'll take you through the process of starting up a successful new venture from scratch – no matter what sector or niche you're looking to tap into.

 

Planning a business idea

 

The idea forms the foundation of your venture and sets the stage for its future success. But how do you generate that brilliant concept that will drive your business forward?  You can solve a problem, identify a market gap, make something cheaper, or leverage your personal interests or hobbies into something new. For example, busy people crave healthy, tasty, home-cooked meals but struggle to find the time to make them. You could offer a subscription-based meal delivery service for them and solve their everyday problems. 

 

If you're looking for more inspiration and want to dive deeper into business ideas, we've put together a guide to motivate you on starting a business.

 

Researching your business idea and market

 

So, you've got an amazing business idea, and you may want to register right away and build your website and branding. But before you jump in, it's time to do some research. Trust us, it's a crucial step that is often overlooked, but doing so will provide you with certainty and confidence. Here’s how to do it:

 

  • Understand your target audience: To make your business shine, you need to know who you're serving. Dive into the minds of your potential customers. Learn their needs, desires, and pain points. This knowledge will guide you in creating products and services that truly resonate with them. Remember, happy customers are the fuel that keeps your business running.

  • Spot market opportunities: The market is like a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Research unveils hidden gems and untapped niches. Keep an eye out for gaps in the market where you can swoop in and shine. Find those opportunities where others might have missed the mark. It's your chance to bring something fresh and exciting to the table.

  • Check market viability: Will your business idea fly or flop? Research helps you find out. Peek into the market and gauge the demand for your offerings. Look at trends, conduct surveys, and gather feedback. This way, you can ensure that there's a hungry crowd waiting for what you're about to serve. 

  • Keep an eye on competitors: Hey, it's good to know who you're up against. Look at what your competitors are doing, how they're pricing their products, and what customers are saying about them. Learn from their successes and mistakes. This knowledge empowers you to stand out in the crowd and offer something truly unique.

  • Find your market hotspots: Location, location, location. Research helps you find the sweet spots where your target market is hanging out. Understand the geographical nuances, cultural preferences, and local regulations that might affect your business. This way, you can tailor your approach and ensure you're hitting the bullseye with your marketing efforts.

 

Remember, research is an ongoing adventure. Keep your finger on the pulse of your industry, especially your customers. Stay curious and adapt as needed.

 

Writing your business plan

 

Having a well-crafted business plan is like having a business blueprint by your side. It's not just a document to satisfy potential investors or lenders; it's a tool that guides your every move and sets you up for success. We’ve got a complete guide on how to write a business plan here, but here is a quick summary:  


  • Executive summary: This is a short summary of your business, including what it does and what makes it special. It's like a snapshot of your business that grabs people's attention.

  • About your business: Here, you'll provide more details about your company, its structure, and what it offers. Think of it as introducing your business to someone new.

  • Market analysis: This section is all about understanding your market and competition. You'll explore who your customers are, what they want, and how your business can stand out.

  • Organisational structure: Here, you'll explain how your business is organised and who's in charge. It's like introducing the team behind your business.

  • Products or services: Describe what you're selling and why people should buy it. Share the features and benefits that make your offerings unique.

  • Marketing and sales strategies: Explain how you plan to promote and sell your products or services. It's like sharing your game plan for getting customers interested.

  • Financial projections: This part is all about the numbers. You'll forecast your sales, expenses, and profits. It helps you see if your business can make money.

  • Funding request: If you need money to start or grow your business, you'll explain how much you need and what you'll use it for. It's like asking for support to make your dreams a reality.

  • Appendix: This is where you include any extra documents that support your business plan, like resumes, research data, or legal agreements.

 

Keep in mind that although you might need to present a business plan for investors or lenders, it doesn't need to be long or complicated. It’s for yourself and it can even be in the form of bullet points. Don’t worry about simplifying your business plan. In fact, a shorter, more focused business plan can be much more effective. Regularly review and update it as your business evolves and market conditions change.

 

Financing your business

 

Whether we like it or not, money will always be a factor. However, you won't need to worry because of these options for raising money for your business:

 

  • Bootstrapping: Use your own savings or resources to fund your business. It lets you stay in control and keep costs low, like starting a garden from seeds you already have.

  • Friends and family: Turn to your loved ones who believe in your business idea. They can provide the initial capital and support, like a friendly hand to give you a boost.

  • Business loans: Seek loans to start a business from banks or financial institutions. Present them with a solid business plan and show them your repayment ability.

  • Crowdfunding: Engage with a community of backers through online platforms. They can contribute funds in exchange for rewards or a stake in your business, like a group of friends chipping in to help you achieve your goals.

  • Angel investors: Attract investors who believe in your vision and are willing to invest their own money. They can provide not only capital but also guidance and connections, like having a wise mentor by your side.

  • Venture capital: Tap into the world of venture capital firms that invest in high-growth startups. They can provide substantial funding and industry expertise to fuel your growth, like having a rocket booster for your business.

  • Government grants: Explore grants to start a business, subsidies, or tax incentives offered by governments to support entrepreneurs. These programs can provide financial assistance and encouragement, like getting a special grant to kick-start your business.

  • Speak to us: Here at Startup A-Z (SUAZ), we understand the challenges faced by startups when it comes to financing their dreams. That's why we offer our startup finance service, designed to help entrepreneurs navigate the complex world of financing a business.

 

Consider important financial aspects such as break-even analysis and running costs when deciding on your financial decisions. In that way, you will have a rough idea how much capital you will need for your dream business.

 

Setting up a business bank account

 

To trade as a business, you’ll need to set up a business bank account. Plus, it adds a professional touch to your brand and enhances credibility when dealing with clients, suppliers, and investors. Let's explore some popular banking providers known for their features and benefits:

 

  • Barclays: Barclays offers comprehensive business banking services, including online banking, mobile apps, and access to business loans and credit cards. They are a trusted choice for entrepreneurs seeking a wide range of banking solutions.

  • Trilogy: Trilogy specialises in digital banking for startups and small businesses, offering streamlined account opening processes and efficient financial management tools. They focus on simplicity and ease of use, making it a breeze for entrepreneurs to handle their finances.

  • NatWest: NatWest provides business banking solutions with a wide range of features, including online banking, international payments, and business planning tools. They have a wealth of banking expertise and tailored services to meet your business needs.

  • Mettle: Mettle, backed by NatWest, offers a digital bank account designed specifically for small businesses. Their real-time bookkeeping, invoicing, and expense tracking features simplify financial management, helping you stay on top of your business finances.

  • Tide: Tide is a digital banking platform catering to small businesses, with easy account opening, seamless integration with accounting software, and efficient expense management tools. They focus on simplicity and convenience, perfect for entrepreneurs on the move.

  • Cashplus: Cashplus is a popular alternative banking provider offering business accounts with features like online banking, prepaid cards, and expense management tools. They provide accessible banking solutions for businesses of all sizes.

  • Anna: Anna is a digital business account designed for freelancers and small businesses, providing features like invoicing, expense categorisation, and tax calculations. Their user-friendly interface and time-saving features are a great fit for self-employed professionals.

  • Monzo: While primarily a personal banking provider, Monzo offers business accounts with intuitive budgeting tools, real-time notifications, and integrations with popular accounting software. They focus on user-centric features, making financial management straightforward.

 

Remember to consider the fees, customer support, and additional services offered by each provider before deciding. Choose the one that aligns with your business's financial needs and long-term goals.

 

Do I need an accountant?

 

It depends on your circumstances. For most UK startups, hiring an accountant right away may not be necessary. In the early stages, when your business is still small and simple, you can handle basic financial tasks yourself or with the help of accounting software. This allows you to keep costs down and maintain control over your finances.

 

However, as your startup grows and becomes more complex, it's advisable to consider bringing in an accountant. They can provide expert advice, ensure compliance with tax laws, and help you navigate the financial intricacies of scaling your business. An accountant can also help you make informed financial decisions and assist with strategic planning.

 

Ultimately, it is highly recommended but the decision of when to hire an accountant depends on your specific circumstances. Assess the complexity of your finances, your knowledge of accounting, and your comfort level in managing financial tasks. Consulting with an accountant can provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to your startup's needs.

 

Remember, even if you don't hire an accountant right away, it's crucial to research, keep accurate records, stay organised, and familiarise yourself with basic financial management principles. As your startup progresses, you can reassess your needs and determine the optimal time to bring in professional accounting assistance.


Choosing your legal structure

 

Choosing the right legal structure for your business is like finding the perfect fit for a pair of shoes. You want something that suits your needs and provides the right level of comfort and protection. Let's look at some common options and how they could work for you:

 

  • Sole Trader: Being a sole trader is a popular choice for one-person businesses like freelance artists and photographers. It's straightforward – you have complete control over your business, and everything you earn is yours to keep. Just remember, as a sole trader, you're personally responsible for any debts or legal issues that may come up. So, it's important to stay on top of your finances and be aware of potential risks.

  • Private Limited Company (LTD): If you're thinking of starting a limited company, you're stepping up your game! With a LTD, your business becomes its own separate legal entity. That means your personal assets are generally protected if your business faces any financial or legal troubles or what we call limited liability. But keep in mind, running an LTD involves more paperwork and formalities. You'll have to deal with things like annual financial statements and filing requirements. Taking care of these responsibilities ensures your company stays compliant and ready for success.

  • Partnership: Partnerships are formed when two or more individuals come together to run a business. Partnerships allow for shared responsibilities, decision-making, and the combination of different skills. But here's the catch – partners have unlimited liability. That means you're personally responsible for the partnership's debts and legal obligations. The key is to establish clear partnership agreements and maintain open communication to tackle challenges together.

  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP): LLPs are a great choice for professional service firms like law or accounting practices. They give you the best of both worlds – the flexibility of a partnership and the limited liability protection of a company. While LLPs shield partners from personal liability for the actions of other partners, you still need to be responsible for your own mistakes. So, it's important to maintain professionalism and follow best practices to manage any potential risks.

  • Public Limited Company (PLC): PLCs are large companies that are allowed to sell shares to the public. They are for the big players and aren’t realistic for most startups. Going down the PLC route can give you access to public fundraising and opportunities for expansion. However, be ready for more legal requirements, regulatory oversight, and higher compliance costs compared to other structures.

 

For non-profit organisations:

 

Unincorporated association: Unincorporated associations are like informal groups of individuals with a common goal. They're easy to set up and operate, but here's the thing – members have unlimited personal liability, and there's no legal separation between the association and its members. To navigate this, it's important to have clear governance structures and communication channels to ensure accountability and manage any potential risks effectively.

 

  • Charitable trust: If you're all about doing good and managing charitable assets, a charitable trust might be the way to go. Trustees have legal responsibilities, and funds must be used solely for charitable purposes. So, working closely with trustees and following best practices is key to making a positive impact and maintaining transparency.

  • Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO): CIOs are like the superheroes of the nonprofit world. They provide limited liability protection for their members while focusing on charitable activities. It's like having the best of both worlds – a company structure with a strong focus on doing good. Just remember to stick to governance requirements and manage your resources wisely to navigate the charitable landscape successfully.

  • Company limited by guarantee: Companies limited by guarantee are commonly used by non-profit organisations, including charities. Members guarantee a specific amount in case the company winds up, providing a level of protection. By ensuring everyone understands their commitments and adopting solid financial practices, you can confidently carry out your mission.

  • Charitable company: Charitable companies are formed for charitable purposes and come with compliance obligations and reporting requirements. By dedicating resources to meet these requirements and fostering transparency, you can effectively carry out your noble objectives.

  • Community Interest Company (CIC): CICs are all about making a positive impact on the community. They aim to benefit society and reinvest their profits for community purposes. With a CIC, you're combining social objectives with the entrepreneurial spirit. It's like doing well by doing good! Just remember to keep your community-focused vision alive and make a difference.

 

Remember, it's important to seek professional advice and carefully consider your specific circumstances before deciding on a legal structure. Each has its own pros and cons, and it's crucial to consider your specific situation and seek professional advice to make an informed decision.

 

Registering your company

 

  • Selecting a legal structure: First things first, let's figure out the best legal structure for your business. Whether you're leaning towards being a sole trader, forming a partnership, or setting up a limited company, each option comes with its own set of benefits and things to consider. At SUAZ, we specialise in helping entrepreneurs like you register limited companies. It's a simple process that we're well-versed in. For other legal structures, we recommend checking out the relevant government websites for specific guidance.

  • Choosing a company name: Now comes the fun part - choosing a name that captures the essence of your business. A great name can make a lasting impression. We'll gladly assist you in checking if your desired name is available and guide you through the registration process.

  • Handling the paperwork: We know paperwork can feel daunting, but don't worry, we're here to help. Our team will provide guidance on the necessary documents, such as articles of incorporation or partnership agreements, ensuring everything is in order and saving you from any last-minute headaches.

  • Registering with Companies House: Companies House is the go-to place for officially registering your company in the UK. We'll help you prepare and submit the required documents, making sure everything is in tip-top shape. Consider it one less thing on your plate.

  • Additional registrations: Depending on the business nature, there may be additional registrations to take care of, like VAT or PAYE for payroll purposes. We'll inform you about any additional registrations that apply to your specific situation and guide you through the process, step by step.

 

For detailed guidance on how to register a limited company, we've put together a handy step-by-step guide on how to register a company. For other legal structures, we suggest checking out the relevant government websites, as they provide comprehensive guidance tailored to each structure.

 

Here at SUAZ, our expertise lies in helping entrepreneurs like you with the registration of limited companies, and the best part? Our services are completely free. While we may not have all the answers for forming other types of companies, we're here to provide the support and guidance you need throughout the limited company formation process.

 

Understanding your legal responsibilities

 

When you run a limited company, it's important to know your financial and legal responsibilities to keep things running smoothly and stay on the right side of the law. Here's what you need to keep in mind:

 

  • Record Your Financial Transactions: It's a legal requirement to keep track of your business's money matters. That means jotting down your income, expenses, and other financial transactions. By keeping your records up to date, you'll be ready to file your accounts and hand them over to your accountant without any last-minute stress.

  • Prepare & File Annual Accounts: As a limited company, you'll need to submit your annual accounts. These accounts show how your business performed financially during the year, including all the ins and outs of your transactions. They're also used to calculate your corporation tax. If you're organised and your records are in good shape, preparing these accounts can be a breeze with the help of your accountant.

  • File a Confirmation Statement: Once a year, you'll need to send a confirmation statement to Companies House. This statement is like a little check-up to ensure all the information they have about your business is accurate. If anything needs updating, make sure to let them know.

  • Register for Self-Assessment: If you're a sole trader, company director, or part of a limited liability partnership, you'll need to register for self-assessment. It's a way for the tax authorities to assess the tax you personally need to pay based on your business's income. Don't worry, it's not as scary as it sounds! Just make sure you understand the ins and outs of PAYE and dividends if you're a company director.

  • Register for VAT (Value Added Tax): If your business is going to hit the annual VAT threshold (£85,000) you'll need to register for VAT. This means adding a little extra tax on top of your goods or services and filing VAT returns. On the bright side, once you're VAT registered, you can claim back VAT on business purchases.

  • Register for Corporation Tax: If your limited company is up and running, you'll need to register for corporation tax within three months of starting or trading. This tax is based on your business's profits, as reflected in your annual accounts. It's a flat rate tax, and the amount you pay depends on your profits.

  • Understand Business Rates: Business rates are taxes imposed on commercial properties by the government through local authorities. If you own or rent a shop, office, or warehouse, you'll likely need to register for and pay business rates. But if you're running your business from a small part of your home, you can breathe a sigh of relief as you might not have to worry about business rates.

  • Keep Companies House and HMRC in the Loop: If something important changes in your business, like your registered address, it's crucial to let Companies House and HMRC know as soon as possible.

Remember, while this gives you a solid overview of your financial and legal responsibilities, it's always wise to seek professional advice or check out Company House’s website for the nitty-gritty details. Staying in the know and fulfilling your obligations will keep you on the right track and away from any unnecessary fines or penalties. 


Business Insurance

 

Business insurance is like a safety net for your business, offering protection and peace of mind. It's there to shield you from potential risks and liabilities that could arise during your operations. Whether it's covering damages to your property, compensating for legal claims, or safeguarding against accidents, having the right insurance is crucial.

 

Do I need business insurance?

 

Yes, but the type depends on what you do. In the UK, common types of business insurance include public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance, employer's liability insurance, and property insurance. Each type serves specific purposes and helps businesses navigate potential challenges.


  1. Public liability insurance: Covers you against claims made by third parties for injury or damage caused by your business.

  2. Employer's liability insurance: Required by law if you have employees, it provides coverage for workplace-related injuries or illnesses.

  3. Professional indemnity insurance: Protects you from claims of professional negligence or errors in your services.

  4. Property insurance: Safeguards your physical assets, such as buildings, equipment, and inventory, against damage or loss.

 

It's important to assess your business's unique risks and consult with an insurance professional to determine the most suitable coverage for your specific needs. 

 

How much does business insurance cost?

 

Business insurance is a must-have for your business. It helps protect you from unexpected risks and provides financial support when you need it most. The cost of business insurance can vary depending on factors like the size of your business, the type of coverage you need, and the industry you operate in. For small businesses in the UK, the cost typically falls in the range of £100 to £1,000 per year, but this can vary. When considering insurance for a limited company, keep in mind the added liability protection it offers. 


To get an accurate cost estimate, it's best to reach out to insurance providers who specialise in small business coverage and request personalised quotes. They can give you a better idea of the specific costs based on your unique needs and circumstances. 

 

Choosing your business brand

 

Having a professional brand is crucial for your business. It creates a strong and memorable identity that builds trust and credibility with your target audience. A well-established brand sets you apart from competitors and effectively communicates your values and unique selling points. Your brand includes your company name, logo, tagline, visual elements, and messaging. Consistency in branding across all touchpoints is key for a cohesive and recognisable brand identity.

 

Designing a logo and brand identity

 

You can either hire professional design services, hire a freelancer, buy stock logos, or create a logo yourself. A professionally designed logo represents your brand effectively and becomes the face of your brand. It is highly recommended to hire a professional for this but if you have design skills, you can use vector-based tools to create your own logo. Don't forget the brand strategy and brand identity which includes the colour schemes and assets as they are what make up your visual brand.

 

Creating a Website

 

Most businesses today have a website to establish credibility with their customers. An online presence can help your business to reach a wider audience. Define your website's purpose, target audience, and desired functionalities.

 

Choose a relevant domain name and a reliable web hosting provider. Design your website with a user-friendly interface and compelling content. You can use website builders or content management systems if you're comfortable or hire a web developer/designer for a more professional touch. Optimise your website for search engines and ensure it's mobile-friendly.

 

Ensure your business can be contacted

 

Set up a dedicated business phone and email address to establish professionalism and facilitate customer communication. Use social media platforms that align with your business to further connect with customers. Being accessible through multiple channels enhances your brand's visibility and engagement. Remember to choose phone numbers, email addresses, and social media handles that reflect your business name and brand.


Strategising your growth

 

Now it's time to plan your sales and marketing efforts to fuel your growth. The approach you take will depend on the nature of your business and target audience.

 

Have a sales and marketing plan

 

Running a business is an ongoing adventure, and your work has just begun. It's crucial to have a solid sales and marketing plan in place to ensure your success. This plan will help you attract customers and fulfill their needs through effective sales techniques and promotional strategies.

 

Your sales plan should focus on understanding your target market, meeting customer demands, and finding creative ways to generate sales. Meanwhile, your marketing plan should outline how you'll spread the word about your products or services, whether it's through digital advertising, social media engagement, content creation, partnerships, or good old-fashioned networking.

 

Keep in mind that creating and implementing a sales and marketing plan is a continuous process. Stay alert to market trends, listen to customer feedback, and keep an eye on your competition. By adapting and optimising your strategies along the way, you'll drive ongoing growth for your business.

 

Need support? We can help

 

Now, here's the secret ingredient: balance thinking with action. While brainstorming and dreaming up your business idea is exciting, it's crucial to put your plans into motion. Take those calculated risks, validate your ideas through market research, and adapt along the way.

 

Here at SUAZ, we understand that starting a new business can be overwhelming. That's why we're here to support you every step of the way. Whether you need assistance with registering your company, developing a sales and marketing plan, or accessing valuable resources, we've got you covered.

 

Our team specialises in limited company formations, making the process simple and hassle-free. Register a limited company with us for free and you'll benefit from our expertise and guidance to ensure you meet all the legal requirements and set a solid foundation for your business.

 

But that's not all. We also partnered with an online small business platform where you can access a wealth of tools, resources, and support to help you navigate the challenges of running a business. From business planning and accounting software to legal documents and expert advice, the Business Support Club (BSC) platform is designed to empower you on your entrepreneurial journey.

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