Everything you need to know to
get your idea off the ground

For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Employees

The success or failure of a business rests in the hands of its most valuable asset - its people. No matter how great the products or services, a business' wellbeing is often shaped by the day-to-day actions and decisions of its employees.

Recruiting staff

Success hinges on finding the right people. These are the ones whose knowledge, skills, experience and personal qualities match your business needs. Ideally, they'll be hardworking, enthusiastic and committed. Small businesses can't afford to carry dead weight.

You might need advice when recruiting your first employee. The first step is recognising what contribution the role must make to your business. Drawing up a job specification can help you identify what it is that you need doing, and the skills and knowledge required for your new employee to be able to carry out the job.

Your recruitment procedures must be spot on, but this needn't be expensive. Once you know what the role is, and the skills and knowledge needed to do it, you can draw up a person specification and a job advertisement.

The options for advertising your job are many and varied - from local shop windows, job centres or newspapers to specialist online job sites and recruitment agencies. Think about where you are most likely to reach potential, quality candidates, and concentrate your resources there.

You need to be clear what it is you are looking for and what you are offering. Can you provide competitive wages, a stimulating job with prospects and a good working environment? Is the job an entry level role, or are you looking for an established professional?

Ensuring a level playing field for all potential job applicants is a legal requirement, while enabling you to recruit from as wide a talent pool as possible. Interviews must also be free from discrimination.

Knowing you have made a good addition to the team brings immense satisfaction - and many other benefits. Getting it wrong, on the other hand, can be a very costly mistake.

Employment law basics

There are many employment laws, applying to (note that this is not an exhaustive list):

  • employment contracts and statements of employment;
  • wages;
  • workplace pensions;
  • working hours and time off;
  • rights for employees with family responsibilities;
  • workplace health and safety;
  • discipline and grievance procedures;
  • firing employees.

Get it wrong and you could end up at an employment tribunal, which can be expensive if you lose, because there are no ceilings on awards. Reckless employer negligence could even lead to a prison term.

To lessen the likelihood of problems, you're advised to get to grips with employment law basics before you take on your first employee. Much of it is simple, common-sense stuff. If you're ever in any doubt, seek professional advice.

Implementing employment policies

Having effective employment policies and a written employment contract (a legal requirement) removes uncertainty. No matter what the circumstance, employees must know what's expected of them and their employer. They must also know what behaviour is unacceptable - and what will happen if they overstep the mark.

You should have employment policies covering:

  • maternity/paternity/adoption;
  • leave/absence;
  • working hours and overtime;
  • health and safety;
  • pay/benefits/expenses;
  • harassment/victimisation and bullying;
  • conduct/discipline;
  • use of company property and facilities;
  • equal opportunities.

It's also advisable to have policies on:

  • email, internet and phone use;
  • training;
  • 'moonlighting';
  • confidentiality;
  • drugs and alcohol abuse;
  • if relevant, your dress code.

If your policies are effective, you could have a happy (as well as a very profitable) ship.

Management challenge

Even seasoned business people can find managing employees a challenge. Managing people is complex because people are complex. No two employees are the same: what motivates one employee might not motivate another. While you'll be able to leave some employees to their own devices and be able to trust them and their choices, others will be much more 'high maintenance'.

Schedule regular formal and informal reviews with employees to keep on top of any concerns or complaints, and give positive, constructive feedback.

Being firm but fair is a good starting point, and a quiet word of encouragement or support can work wonders. Good employees need to believe their contribution is valued if they are to stick around.

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