April 17, 2014, by Malvika Johal
My Guide to starting your own business – Part 10
Written by: R L (Bob) Hall (BSc, PhD; University of Nottingham) Owner and MD of Top and Jeffries Limited; Co – owner & Chairman of Fuel Additive Science Technologies Limited, Shropshire, UK
Business support professionals such as accountants and lawyers are critical to support a business of any size including start-ups. They can only make a decent living by having several clients on their books and supporting many of them simultaneously. This means that there will be peak demands on their time at certain times of the year and you will need to manage your relationship carefully to get the support or advice you need at the time you really need it. You will also find that you need to inject more of the creative input with “what if?” type questions. Part of an accountant’s professional qualification is to pro-actively suggest different approaches and ideas to assist growing businesses. In my experience, however, the accountant is so busy doing the standard compliance type work for all their clients that you will have to tease this kind of support out of them. Most are certainly capable.
To start up I definitely advise using an accountant to provide practical technical business advice. Minimise costs by buying your own “ready-made” company on line and reading up on the business technical aspects in order to ask your accountant focused questions. A good accountant will save you money, help you avoid making obvious mistakes and more importantly help you comply with applicable rules and regulations. Never owe income tax, corporation tax, national insurance or any other payments to HMRC. Ignorance of the rules is not a defense. Sell or borrow whatever you have to in order to pay these bills on time and in full. If you do not, their investigations will at best chew up your time away from managing the money making machine. At worst they could either fine the business or close you down.
I have worked with many different types of lawyers over the years in different countries. Choose ones in a medium sized firm that have real world practical experience. Before you either start employing people or signing contracts consult an employee lawyer or company lawyer specialist respectively. They are expensive, but the investment will be well worth it.
Learn from others that have done it. Have you ever noticed most people that hang around the bar of a pub seem to know all there is to know about growing business in the pub trade? They are all experts despite never having done it themselves. The situation is quite similar for the business world, many understand the theory and are “experts” in rationalising what went wrong when a business fails. My advice is to listen more to people that have actually started or are still running their own successful business.
One of my university lecturers once said “an Engineer is a thief with his eyes!” and I think successful business people are that way too. If they come across a good business (e.g. full, successful restaurant) they are naturally curious and want to figure out what makes it so. Learning the best practices from others in different industries and translating them to your business situation is a good way to leap ahead of your competition. You can also sometimes learn more from failures than you can from success stories. Are you ready to start up your own business, our penultimate blog in this series discusses actually taking the step and starting up your dream business.