This is the kind of post that you will save in your favorites to read in bits as it will help you to digest the content. You can also come back later and revisit it as you start and grow your business.

The content of this guide is the product of over 10,000 consultations and day-to-day operations with entrepreneurs in every stage of their businesses. So, without further do, let’s get to it.

Summary

1. Choose your accountant
2. Find a solicitor
3. Find other relevant professionals
4. Prepare a business plan
5. Choose the best legal structure for your business
6. Choose the company name
7. Register the company
8. Prepare a shareholder agreement
9. Buy business insurance
10. Buy the web domain
11. Set up the email system
12. Set up the hardware system (and don’t forget the back-up system)
13. Choose your telephone system
14. Buy furniture, equipment and vehicles
15. Open a business bank account
16. Payment system (merchant services and others)
17. Choose the company trading name
18. Prepare your company marketing plan
19. Design your logo and create your company identity (business cards, letterheads and so on)
20. Protect your logo – trademark
21. Contract employees or subcontractors
22. Choose your bookkeeping system
23. Prepare a customer registration form and choose a CRM system
24. Raise finance
25. Prepare your operation manual (responsibilities, tasks and departments)
26. Start networking
27. Contacts

1. Choose your accountant

Make sure you choose an accountant who specialises in start-ups. There are many accountants who work mainly with businesses already trading. You also need to choose an accountant who is always willing to help you. Some accountants are not patient enough to teach individuals who are getting involved in business for the first time.

Don’t only take price into consideration when you choose your company accountant. A couple of hundred pounds saved in accountancy fees could become thousands of pounds in penalties – and you’ll miss out on an opportunity to learn the best way to structure your business.

Make sure you request recommendation letters from other clients. Visit the accountant’s website to better understand what his company is doing. If the website was last updated 6 months ago, it means that the accountant is probably not up to date with the latest tax legislation either.

Make sure you choose an accountant who looks after his business as you would like him to look after yours. If you want to grow your business, choose an accountant who also grew his business. Someone who can give you business advice as your business grows.

You must make sure that you will be around people who have the same goal as you – your accountant is one individual who will be close to your business all the time. Visit your accountant’s YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn to get to know him better and to understand if he will definitely be able to help you.

2. Find a solicitor

Your company solicitor will be the second most important professional close to you and your business. Once again, you need to choose a solicitor who is a start-up specialist.

A solicitor can help you with employment and subcontractor agreements, commercial agreements, trading agreements, terms and conditions, intellectual property protection, rent agreements and lease agreements.

A solicitor can also help you with business licences. Talk to the solicitor before you agree to contract him. Try to contract a solicitor who charges you a fixed fee rather than paying per hour. You should not pay a solicitor to study your case. You should pay him to prepare a service for you.

Request recommendation letters from other clients as well. Make sure you agree with the solicitor when the final service will be delivered in order to avoid the job being delayed.

3. Find other relevant professionals

If you need to contract the services of other relevant professionals, such as business consultants and business mentors, make sure you study them very carefully to know if they really have start-up experience.

Look at what the relevant professional has achieved in his business. Does it match with what you are expecting from your start-up?

4. Prepare a business plan or at least a simple plan version

There is no right or wrong opinion here. There are many people who believe that business plan preparation is a waste of time. In my opinion it is very radical to think like this. In all the businesses I have been involved in, I have prepared a business plan, or at least a simple version.

A simple version is a business plan that does not need to have between 30 and 50 pages. It is a short version which covers the essentials.

The most important part of the business plan, for me, is the quantitative data. I am talking about sales forecasts, cost analysis, profit and loss forecasts, cash flow forecasts and balance sheet forecasts. These constitute my short version. Indeed, a business plan is very important for you because it helps you to clarify your business idea and avoid mistakes during the implementation phase.

If you want to raise finance externally, find an investor or raise other forms of finance, you will need a business plan anyway. It is not the objective of this article to teach you how to prepare a business plan, but to give you a basic introduction.

A business plan needs to have a description of who you are, which products or services you are looking to sell, an analysis and description of the market your business will be in, a description of the kind of potential clients your business is looking to target (customer target segmentation), market research, a marketing strategy, competition analysis, a description of the operations and logistics to distribute your product or service, the pricing strategy, a financial forecast, a personal survival budget, a cash flow forecast and a backup plan if everything does not go the way you planned.

5. Choose the best legal structure for your business

You must start your business with the right business structure. I have heard many accountants giving the wrong advice about how to choose the best legal structure for a business.

You cannot choose the legal structure based upon the total tax you will pay, or the accountant’s price to prepare the service for you. As a general rule, being self-employed means paying lower fees than forming a limited company.

There is a tax disadvantage to becoming a limited company in comparison to being self-employed, but in my opinion becoming a limited company has more advantages overall. In a limited company, the shareholders are protected by the limited liability of the company. This protection is priceless.

Trading via a limited company also looks more professional in the market place. If you are self-employed, even if you trade under a different name from your personal name, you always must use your personal name and trading name in all the official stationery, invoices, letterheads and similar documents.

Let’s say, for instance, that I am an accountant and I have an accountancy practice called Vertice Services. If I was self-employed, I would have to trade as Rodolfo Basilio trading as Vertice Services.

Tax-wise, in a limited company you have the option to cash the money out as dividends (if you are a shareholder). You can keep the business profit as retained profit. If you’re self-employed, you are obliged to cash all profit and pay tax on it. You can also bring in investors and sell shares as a limited company. When you’re self-employed, you don’t have the same flexibility.

6. Choose the company name

Your company name cannot be exactly the same as another registered company’s name in the Companies House.

Don’t try to change only one or two words from a company which is already registered. A too-similar name could be classified as being the same name.

Adding punctuation or special characters does not make your company name different from the one already registered. Your company name cannot contain sensitive words or expressions unless you get permission.

For example, Bank, Commission, co-operative, Council, Dental, Duke, Federation, Fund, Government, Insurance, King, Medical Centre, Police, Post office and Royal, are all legally protected terms that require special permissions before use. Your company name cannot suggest a connection with government or local authorities.

Don’t try to choose an offensive name, it is prohibited. Registering a company name does not mean it’s protected as a trademark. You may still need to check the trademark register before registering your name.

7. Register the company

Your accountant can help you to register the legal structure you choose. For example: self-employed, partnership or limited company.

You can try to register the company by yourself, but it does not come with business advice. If you want to become self-employed or form a partnership, HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) is the right place to register.

You will need to have your details such as your full name, full address, occupation, nationality, national insurance number and when you intend to start your self-employed activity.

If you choose to register as a limited company, Companies House is in charge of company registration. You will need details such as director details, shareholder details, total capital, kind of shares, total number of shares and registered address.

I always advise finding an accountant to help you with the set-up. A good accountant can also recommend a bank manager who will help your business.

8. Prepare a shareholder agreement

If you are looking to have a business partner it is very advisable for both of you to ask your accountant or solicitor to help both of you to prepare a shareholder agreement.

A shareholder agreement defines: how the company profits will be distributed between the business partners, when and how often it will be distributed, and what profit percentage will be kept as retained profits.

It could also say if the directors will have a salary and if there will be any special clause in the distribution of dividends. You can avoid many future problems by preparing a shareholder agreement.

9. Don’t forget to buy business insurance

Every business in the UK that employs one member of staff or more is required by law to have an active Employers Liability Insurance policy in place.

This insurance covers the business in the event that an employee who is injured at work, or who becomes ill as a result of their work, makes a claim for compensation.

The minimum level of cover for an Employer Liability Insurance policy is £5 million, but businesses usually take out a higher level of cover. £10 million is a more common figure.

When your business takes out an Employer Liability Insurance policy you will receive a certificate, which should be displayed to ensure that all the employees can read it if necessary.

The businesses which have vehicles must take out motor insurance. Many other businesses are also obliged to take out Professional Indemnity Insurance – such as lawyers and accountants.

All the businesses in the UK must have public liability insurance, which protects you if clients or members of the public suffer personal injury or property damage because of your business.

Other kinds of insurance include property insurance, equipment and furniture insurance, bad debt insurance, and distribution insurance, among others.

10. Buy the web domain

You must be careful about choosing your domain name. You need to bear in mind that your company domain name is your company identity on the web.

It must be easy to find and even easier to promote. You must make sure you choose a domain which is easy to type.

Avoid double words, slang and multiple spellings. Your domain cannot be too long. It should be as short and simple as possible.

Try to use keywords that describe what your business does. I have a few clients who also include the city they operate in.

Try to avoid numbers as much as you can. Your domain must be memorable, as there are millions of registered domain names on the web. Once you make a decision, share it with your close friends and request feedback before you start using it.

Make sure the name you have selected is not trademarked, copyrighted or being used by another company, even one in a jurisdiction far from where you are looking to operate.

Finally, use an appropriate domain name extension. The .com domain extension is still the most popular and memorable because it has been around for a long time. You can buy many domain extensions to protect your business. Please remember that domain names sell quickly.

11. Set up the email system

There are many options to choose from: Google and Microsoft cloud email services, Microsoft 365 (aka Outlook), and Google Apps for work (Gmail).

In my opinion, all of them offer a good email solution. Deciding between them and other hosted email providers is a big task.

You also need to understand the difference between webmail vs desktop email. You could try Rackspace.

Rackspace has both webmail and desktop email capabilities and Rackspace users are able to access their emails through Outlook and the Rackspace webmail application.

12. Set up the hardware system (and don’t forget the back-up system)

If you want to start small – just one computer, for example – then you don’t need a hardware system. Otherwise, as the business grows you will need to invest in one.

Having your company files well organised will save you time, and it will make sure employees always have access to up-to-date information, without having to ask where the latest version of a document is stored.

As the business grows, acquiring a server is a big decision. A server runs a specialised operating system designed to support many users. A server also makes it easy for your employees to share data and collaborate.

On top of that, a server can automatically back up your desktop and laptop system, so you will never lose critical data if one machine fails or is stolen.

You will need to decide which class of server will best fit your business needs, and you also need to avoid overspending or acquiring a server that’s insufficient for your needs.

You can also take into consideration the Cloud-based solution. A Cloud system does not involve a significant capital outlay, and you won’t need to worry about equipment or software becoming outdated.

You won’t need IT staff to manage the server – though I advise business owners to contract an IT specialist to look after their company’s IT systems.

13. Choose your telephone system

You don’t need a special telephone system if you want to start up a business by yourself. I always advise my clients to choose their telephone system carefully as their business grows.

You need to fully research the options before you buy them. You also need to make a decision to buy the system and own it, or lease the telephone system and pay the lease on a monthly basis.

I am not a specialist in telephone systems, but I know you have two options: Voice Over the Internet (VOIP) or a cable system. You can also have a system which supports both options.

14. Buying furniture, equipment and vehicles

Furniture: You need to make sure you choose the right furniture for your office space.

Please remember that the choice is not only about colour, shape and size. You must choose the most comfortable furniture, as you will use it many hours per day. I have seen employees injured because of a poor choice of furniture.


Equipment: The same concept also applies to your business equipment. You always need to take health and safety issues into consideration when you buy equipment. Consider buying second hand rather than new.


Vehicles: You can buy or lease them. Many companies offer vehicle leases in the UK.

15. Open a business bank account

If you are self-employed, you are not obliged to open a separate business bank account – though I always advise my clients to open a separate business bank account in order to keep their business income and expenses away from their personal savings.


If you are registering as a limited company, you are obliged to open a business bank account for that company.


Choosing the right business bank account is very important. Some banks charge higher banking fees than others. Some of them also offer a free introductory period. During this free introductory period (for example, 12 months) your business does not need to pay any bank fees.


You also need to ask the bank what kinds of business loans are available and how to apply for them. Some banks have a quicker loan application process than others.


In my opinion, the most important thing to consider when choosing a business banking provider is whether the bank offers a relationship manager to assist you when necessary.

Having a good relationship manager can help you a lot, especially when your business starts growing and you need introductions to insurance, invoice discounting, leases etc.

16. Payment system (merchant services and others)

There are many options available if you need to take payments from clients using debit and credit card. Some of them are: Wordpay, Elavon and First Data.

Apple Pay, Android Pay and others are a new system that’s growing exponentially worldwide. Make sure you get a quote from more than one and compare prices.

17. Choose the company trading name

You can have a trading name for your business if you wish.

If you will be trading as self-employed, you are obliged to use your name before the trading name. Example: Rodolfo Basilio trading as Vertice Services.

If you will be trading as a limited company, you can also use a trading name different from the name registered in Companies House. Example: ABC Accountancy trading as Vertice Services.

You can never use a trading name which is already being used by another individual or company. Make sure you apply for a trademark in order to protect your business brand.

18. Prepare your company marketing plan

I always advise giving special attention to the marketing plan, because when someone is looking to prepare a business plan, a marketing plan is often neglected.

Because business owners are often anxious to finish the business plan as soon as possible, they don’t really allocate enough time to prepare a good marketing plan. Obviously, not having one reduces the chances of acquiring clients.

A marketing plan is a document which outlines the company marketing activities for the coming year.

You could use a marketing plan as a formal or informal document. This document could help you decide which marketing resources you should be using to bring new clients to your business.

You need to describe and also quantify what you need to do to promote your business.

A long document could be used to explain in detail what a marketing plan is – but I would like to describe to you only what information is absolutely necessary when preparing a marketing plan.

The necessary components are: market research, competitor analysis, market plan strategies, marketing plan budgets, marketing goals, how the marketing plan will be monitored and who will be responsible for implementation.

19. Design your logo and create your company identity (business cards, letterheads and so on)

I am not a marketing designer. The only advice I can offer here is: Be as professional as you can.

I have seen many businesses without a business identity. I have seen business owners without business cards.

You must make sure your business has its own identity. Something to be proud of.

A well-designed logo will make you proud to sell your products and services. In the UK, we are surrounded by many companies.

The vast majority of business people in the UK are very professional and they only want to do business with people as professional as they are.

Don’t be stingy when it comes to designing a logo, preparing a website or printing business cards.

20. Protect your logo

You cannot use a company brand however you wish in the UK.

Indeed, you cannot use a brand to promote your business in any country without brand protection. Brand protection is also known as a trademark.

In the UK, you can protect your trademark, and you should check whether you can use this trademark in the marketplace before you launch your business idea and start showing people your business logo.

Having to rebrand the business logo at a later date could be seen as very unprofessional. I would never advise using a brand without that brand being protected. You can find out more at the IPO (Institute of Patent and Office).

Note that protecting a brand in the UK does not mean protecting it in Europe. If you also want to protect your logo in other European countries, you will need to apply for protection in those countries.

21. Contract employees and subcontractors

Without a very good team, the chances of your business succeeding will be very limited. Some companies will need a full-time employee.

For other companies, part time employees will suffice. Make sure you draw an employment contract for your new employee.

Not having an employment contract could mean legal trouble in the future when you want to end the employment relationship.

If you are looking to have subcontractors in your company, make sure they understand your company culture and that the subcontractor is welcomed by the other company employees.

As your business grows, you will feel that you need more and more out of your subcontractor and that having part time or full-time staff for the position would benefit you more.

Sometimes, subcontractors don’t really feel part of the team. I always say that people are in our bus or out of the bus.

Employees have a higher degree of responsibility than subcontractors. Make sure you have a subcontractor agreement in place which covers losses if the subcontractor does not undertake their role properly.

22. Choose your bookkeeping process and system

Bookkeeping is the process by which you record all the business’ financial transactions, such as sales, purchases, receipts and payments.

It is the financial engine of a business. I always advise my clients to keep their bookkeeping up to date. It is also compulsory by law to keep your business records for a certain time – in the UK, it’s 5 years.


You are not obliged to use any specific system. Businesses with few transactions usually use a very simple Excel spreadsheet, or even record their transactions manually. For businesses with more transactions, we always advise our clients to use software.

There are two software categories: offline and online. The online version is a software which you can access wherever you are via the internet.

We offer a personalised, online bookkeeping solution to our clients. It is called Vertice Plus.

It can be accessed via our website. Our solution is very simple to use and our clients can update their business records instantly.

Our software can connect with our client’s business bank account and all their business bank account transactions will be added to our system as they occur, which minimizes the number of entry errors in the system and allows our clients to keep track of their business’ financial performance daily.

Traditional accountants will be facing extinction very soon. We are in a new era of online technology and we need to use all online resources to our advantage.

Don’t hesitate to switch your traditional bookkeeping system to an online one. You have nothing to lose and you will fall in love with the new system once you start using it.

We also offer three other services to our clients: 24-hour online bank reconciliation, raising sales invoices and chasing client payments. We offer our clients a fully outsourced financial department.

23. Prepare customer registration form and choose a CRM system

A customer registration form is a document for clients to fill in when they get in touch with you for the first time. You might be thinking: why are you talking about what a customer registration form is? Everybody knows that.

I added this topic to my guide because I have seen many businesses using a poor customer registration form. You must make sure that in your customer registration form you collect as much information as you can, in order to provide the best possible customer service experience.

You can also collect information to apply in your marketing initiatives. Include questions such as: How did you hear about us? Make sure you collect enough information to figure out a typical client profile.

You should be developing an action plan alongside the customer registration form. You can describe all the actions you need to take to provide the services to your clients in the action plan.

As your number of clients increases, it will become complicated to handle all your clients manually in an Excel spreadsheet. You will need a better system to control your relationship with your clients more efficiently.

This is when you will need a CRM system. A CRM system is a system which enables you to manage your interaction with clients. This system will keep up-to-date client information, as well as your client data history, in order to help you make the right decisions when necessary.

With a CRM system, you can improve the business relationship with your customers – especially customer retention – and ultimately drive sales growth.

24. Raise finance

This is one of the most talked about business subjects. You have the business idea, you are very excited to start up the business – but you don’t have the money to invest.

What options are available? There are many options. The first one would be to invest your own money.


• Your own money: I learned a very hard lesson when I invested in some business initiatives where I was the only one investing the money.

My partner, who normally had the business idea, did not invest a penny. I don’t do this any longer. Why should I invest my hard-earned money when my partner does not want to invest theirs?

Does he really believe that his idea will work? And if the business idea does not succeed – why should I be the only one losing money?

I have met many individuals who have properties, assets and personal savings, yet they don’t want to invest their own money in their own business idea.

They start knocking on any door they can and trying to find someone to invest in their place. They want to spend your money rather than theirs, and if something gets wrong they will simply try their next business idea with someone else.

They don’t risk anything. If you are serious about your business idea and you are 100% committed to your business, you should be the first one to show to everybody else that you invested your money into it.

If you are not willing to risk losing your money, why should anyone else? Banks, investors and any other financiers will want to see that you have committed yourself to your business, and that you will also lose money if your business doesn’t get it right.

• Friends and Family: Your friends and family members know who you are. If you have a good reputation and good credit history with them, your chances increase.

You can have the best business idea ever, but if you are a bad repayer, they will not lend money to you. There are two options available: loan or business partner.

A loan from a friend or family member to an entrepreneur is very common, but you really need to treat the loan in the same way as you would a loan from a bank. You need to talk to your family member or friend to organise how the loan will be paid back to them, and what the interest rate will be.

Don’t assume that because they are not a bank that you won’t have to pay the loan interest to them. Be professional.

The main advantage to having a family member or friend as a lender is that they will likely give you a longer holiday period before starting repayments than a bank, and be understanding if you need extra time.

Having someone from your family or friend as a business partner is also an option. But please consider carefully whether you will be able to work with this individual as a business partner.

If the business does not succeed, make sure you have a loan repayment strategy to pay back your family members.

Don’t ever mix personal matters with business matters. I have seen many families destroyed and friendships broken up because the terms agreed were not guaranteed.

• Personal loan from a bank: Banks are willing to lend money to individuals. If you have a good personal history with your bank, you can apply for a personal bank loan. Some banks even have online loan applications.

You must bear in mind that most of the banks lend up to a certain amount with no guarantee. Obviously, you, as an individual, will be responsible for paying back the loan. The vast majority of banks lend up to £25,000 with no guarantee.

If you are looking to apply for an amount higher than £25,000 you will need to offer collateral, such as your house. Some banks also work with the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme. We will cover the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme later in this guide.

• Business partner: Having a business partner could help you to raise the money you need. Moreover, having a business partner is not only about having money available.

You also need to consider other factors: How will you divide responsibility? Will the business partners have a salary? How will the business profits be distributed to the business partners, and how often? Do the business partners have the same business objective?

• Investor: An investor is a company or individual willing to allocate capital to your business (money or equity) in exchange for a financial return.

There is a difference between amateur and professional investors. If you are looking to find an investor, make sure you take the professional investor route.

These are professional individuals who make a living out of investing in somebody else’s businesses, and they understand the rules of the game.

Having a professional investor who has experience in your industry can make a huge difference. Investors can bring you new business contacts, and recommend reliable professional services.

The vast majority of professional investors want to allocate capital by buying shares in your company. In some situations, the professional investor will want to keep the shares, growing the business to a new level, but the vast majority of investors want to sell their shares once their financial return objective is reached.

• Crowdfunding: Although the crowdfunding model has been in the market for many years in different forms, it has only come into its own relatively recently. Crowdfunding is the process of funding a venture by raising money from a large number of people.

There are advantages and disadvantages to raising money through a crowdfunding platform.

The main advantage is that if your project is very good, you can raise your personal business profile and improve your reputation. You can also collect free market research, as the potential funders will study your business idea and provide you with feedback.

It’s also an opportunity to engage your audience. Most of the crowdfunding platforms offer a free forum, where you can share feedback and receive comments from your audience.

Some useful crowdfunding websites:
http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk
https://www.crowdcube.com
https://www.kickstarter.com
https://www.seedrs.com

• Start-up loans: Start-up loans are an independent, government-backed scheme, supported by the British Business Bank and designed to support businesses who struggle to access other forms of finance. A start-up loan is a personal loan available to individuals looking to start or grow a business in the UK.

Each business partner can raise up to £25,000, with a maximum of £100,000 per business. The start-up loan company looks at 2 main factors: the individual affordability and the viability of your business plan. The interest rate is about 6% per annum.

The loan must be paid monthly and there is a loan repayment term of between one and five years. There is also up to 12 months of mentoring and business support.

It is an unsecured personal loan, which means you won’t need to worry about having any assets or guarantors to support your loan application. Please remember, a start-up loan is a loan and not a grant.

Website: www.startuploans.co.uk


• Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme: If your business operates in the UK, has a turnover of less than £41 million and is seeking between £1,000 and £1.2 million, it could be eligible for the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme (EFG).

The Enterprise Finance Guarantee is a loan guarantee scheme for good businesses which lack the security of a proven track record.

The delivery of the EFG is delegated to the lender. Most lenders are high street banks like Barclays, Natwest and RBS.

The Government acts as a partial guarantor on up to 75% of the bank loan but they have no role in the decision-making process.

There are many services available: new loans, refinancing existing loans, overdraft conversion, invoice finance guarantees and overdraft guarantees.

Please remember that you will be responsible for 100% of the EFG facility, not just the 25% not covered by government guarantee.

25. Prepare your operation manual (responsibilities, tasks and departments)

An operational manual should comprehend the workflow of your business. This means that you will describe how departments work, given every role in the company with their respective tasks and duties.

The manual will not only make everybody more productive, but it also facilitates training and ensures the standard of your products and/or services.

It is also a live document, which means that it must be kept updated as your company changes and as your business grows.

26. Start networking

In my opinion, business people should start networking as soon as they understand what a business network is.

Business networking is basically an activity which brings many business people together in order to share information, create business opportunities, find commercial associates, and find potential partners to develop a business together.

With that definition in mind, it becomes clear to us that we should participate in networking events only if we have an interest in or association with the event.

For example: it’s hard to think of a good reason to join a farmers’ networking event if you are a beautician. Always be clear that you are not participating in a business networking event to find customers.

You are there to share information, knowledge and contacts.

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