Launching a new business is an exciting and rewarding experience, but nobody expects you to know everything about it right at the start. True, you're expected to know your own products and services, and the market in which you're operating. But there's much more to it than that
If you don't have lots of experience in running your accounts, arranging commercial insurance or marketing your services, for example, there are plenty of places where you can get help.
Your first start should be your local Business Link. This is a Government agency, organised regionally, that provides information and support for all small businesses - whether they are start-ups, established companies or firms looking to expand. It's particularly strong on the administrative side of running a SME, with guidance on taxation, employment, finance and regulations. But it also has plenty of useful tips on marketing, international trade and grants, and runs local events that provide advice and networking opportunities.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is a member organisation that campaigns on behalf of SMEs. It promotes the interests of small businesses in Parliament and in the media, but it also gives its members a range of benefits. Members are entitled to legal information, and can download templates of legal documents.
Members also get tax advice and there are a number of special deals you can access when it comes to banking, loans and credit cards. "Our purpose is supporting small businesses, and in addition to our lobbying work, we're always looking for ways to give our members more help," says a spokesman for the FSB.
Coverzones has plenty of useful and easy to understand information on specific insurance policies that small businesses need to consider, including public liability, employer liability insurance and professional indemnity (PI) insurance. It's also worth visiting the websites of the major banks; they all offer accounts and services to small businesses, and many of them have plenty of advice to companies, which is available whether you are a customer or not. Lloyds and HSBC have two of the better websites, but most will have something of interest.
As part of the Government's long-term strategy to get more of its services online, there is now a wealth of useful sources of information for small businesses, many of them available through Direct.gov. The site is generally set up for individuals, so if you're a sole trader then you can receive guidance on your rights and responsibilities, as well as information on tax and benefits. For larger companies, the taxman will be able to explain all about VAT, corporation tax, employers' tax and the like. It's particularly useful for companies undertaking new ventures, such as employing someone for the first time or selling products and services overseas - each of these come with potential liabilities so it's a good place to start if you're considering such a move.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills concentrates mainly on the regulatory side of running a small business and has plenty of useful information, as well as links to other Government resources.
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