Advice for New Small Business Owners

October 31, 2023

Starting and running a small business is both exciting and demanding. It requires hard work, careful planning, attention to detail, with a continued commitment to your vision through good times and bad.

You’ll need to stay focused on serving your target audience and solving their specific problems, while navigating legal and financial requirements. Perhaps you might also look after a team and manage a physical workspace. Whatever your enterprise looks like, it never hurts to seek advice for small businesses, so don’t be afraid to enlist the help of others however you can.

If you’ve been wondering how to maximise your chances of success, we’ve put together a full guide containing valuable small business advice for UK owners.

What are 10 tips for starting your own business?

If you’re looking to start with the basics when it comes to small business start-up advice, these 10 tips will give you a strong foundation for success.

Remember that every business is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Adapt these tips to your specific circumstances and industry.

1. Spend time researching your business idea

You’ll spend a lot of time working on your business, so identify an idea that fits your passions and skills. This not only helps you fulfil your potential and stay the distance, it maximises your enjoyment of the process. Conduct thorough market research to understand the demand for your product or service in the UK market and identify viable business opportunities. Understand your target market’s needs and preferences.

Consider local and national market trends, customer demographics, and competition. Review what’s already out there, identifying your closest competitors and then refining your point of differentiation, with your unique selling points.

Establish long-term and short-term goals for your business, defining a clear vision that guides your decisions and actions. Create a brand guide, containing often overlooked but powerful elements like your tone of voice and design guidelines.

Making an impact from the start will help to grab people’s attention; remember that this can change over time, so don’t worry too much about settling on branding ideas you think should stay in place forever. This can unnecessarily delay many people, holding them back from launching their business as they try to get it perfect, rather than just getting started and finding out sooner than later what does and doesn’t work.

2. Build out your business plan

If you want to secure investment for your business, you’ll need to create a business plan. Create a comprehensive, detailed document that outlines your mission and vision. Your executive summary can explain why your company will be successful. Give detail about your product or services, discussing the strategies you intend to employ. You can also identify any potential problems and barriers to success.

Define your target audience and market, then include details on management, pricing, and marketing strategies. Also include a competitive analysis, any funding requirements and your financial projections for the short-term and long-term.

There are plenty of online business plan templates you can use so that you don’t miss anything out, entering your own information as appropriate.

3. Register your business and address the legalities

Choose a suitable legal structure for your business. These include setting up as a sole trader, a limited company, or a partnership, if you’re going into business with at least one other person. Many people begin as a sole trader for ease when starting out, before considering whether to become a limited company further down the line. There are various advantages and disadvantages to both, so it pays to do your research and find out what best suits your business.

Register your business with the appropriate UK authorities, such as Companies House and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Ensure that your business complies with UK tax laws, regulations, and industry-specific standards.

Man showing some papers to his female coworker.

4. Explore funding and financing options

It’s important to know how you’ll finance your business from the outset. Assess your funding options, including personal savings, business loans, grants, and investment opportunities.

Investors could be found in a range of places. The more you get out there and talk about your product or service, networking with other business owners, entrepreneurs and potential customers, the more interest you’ll generate in what you have to offer.

Look into government initiatives and grants designed to support small businesses in the UK. The official website will show you what’s available to apply for in your industry.

5. Establish thorough accounting processes

Keep accurate financial records and consider hiring an accountant to help with this area of your business. Work with an established professional who understands UK tax laws and can help you to get the most out of your finances. If you keep track of all expenses, accountants can help you to claim eligible deductions.

Even if you bring someone in for support, it will help you to have a good understanding of UK tax laws, including value added tax (VAT), income tax, and National Insurance contributions.

Keep accurate financial records and budgets from the start, to avoid anything going missing and creating problems when it comes to filing at the end of the tax year. Separate personal and business finances to avoid complications, and plan for both short-term and long-term financial needs.

6. Know your options for expansion

Whether you’re ready to expand soon or it’s something to consider further down the line, it’s good to lay the groundwork for what may be ahead. Having a clear awareness of your future goals will keep you aligned with your purpose at all times. Strategically planning for business expansion, when the time is right, means you’re always ready to meet new opportunities.

Consider scaling your operations, entering new markets, or diversifying your offerings. If it’s relevant for your product and industry, you could consider the potential for international expansion, including the European market. This depends on what you want for your business and how much you want to grow it.

7. Build your online presence

Create a professional website and establish a strong online presence. Research and implement digital marketing strategies through various online and offline channels, such as search engine optimisation (SEO), social media, pay-per-click advertising (PPC), posters, brochures and events. Experiment with different marketing tactics to see what works best.

Develop a marketing strategy that makes sense for your audience. Leverage e-commerce to reach a wider customer base, while tailoring your marketing efforts to your most active, engaged audience and biggest customers, considering cultural and regional differences.

Engaging with customers through local events, promotions, and community involvement can be a powerful way to build brand loyalty and establish your brand identity.

8. Familiarise yourself with compliance and regulations

Educate yourself on local, national, and industry-specific regulations. Your business will need to comply with health and safety standards, licensing requirements, and GDPR for data protection. Consult with legal and financial professionals when necessary.

It also makes good business sense to embrace sustainability and social responsibility practices, which are increasingly important to a large number of modern consumers. If you are going down this path and highlighting your commitment to environmental and ethical concerns, you’ll need to be aware of the specific legal requirements for sustainable businesses. If you don’t meet these regulations, you can’t mislead customers and market yourself as a green company.

9. Unlock the power of networking

Join local business associations, such as the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) or local Chambers of Commerce. Attending industry events will help you to connect with potential customers, partners, and mentors. You can then build a supportive network, seeking advice and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs, business advisors, or local business development outfits.

Listen to and learn from those who have already had both success and failures, as they can provide valuable insights and teach you what to look out for.

10. Hire and train the right team

If you’re creating a team, or at least using freelancers and contractors, it will pay dividends to hire employees who share your vision and values. Provide ongoing training and support, as you

delegate tasks effectively to optimise productivity. Give people a chance to grow and develop by trusting them with more responsibilities over time.

Make sure you comply with small business advice for UK employment laws and regulations. HR advice for small businesses can be found in various online resources, with outsourced support available from consultancy companies who specialise in startups and SMEs.

Employee wellbeing is highly important, so prioritise the satisfaction, safety and health of your team and maintain an inclusive, supportive workplace.

What is the key to a successful small business?

The key to a successful small business will completely vary for everyone. There are a range of things you can do to help your company’s performance, to suit various KPIs.

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to improve your existing offering, continue reading for small business advice to help make your company a success.

Prioritise the customer experience

Always put your customer first and keep them firmly in your focus as you grow. Keeping your target audience at the centre of your business strategy helps you to be specific in your actions. You’ll have to continue adapting to customer needs as they change.

Prioritise the customer experience, offering high-quality products or services. Solve problems promptly and effectively, and always aim to exceed their expectations. Deliver exceptional customer service to build loyalty.

Show customers that you value their opinions. Gather feedback and and make improvements based on their input. Use surveys, reviews, and feedback forms to collect insights.

Build resilience and be adaptable

Building a successful small business takes time and effort, so work on personal and professional resilience. If you’re always ready for change, you’ll be better equipped to deal with the unexpected, whatever happens.

Be flexible and willing to adapt your business model with shifting market conditions. Monitor market changes, staying updated on developments and adjusting your business strategies accordingly. Continuously seek opportunities for improvement.

You should also build resilience into your business model to weather economic fluctuations and uncertainties, such as those created by Brexit.

Innovate and differentiate

Continue innovating in your business as you evolve. You’ll want to avoid going stale, keeping customers excited and remaining relevant over time. It takes an open mind and a willingness to try new things to stand out in the competitive UK market. If you have a strong brand and have established your core values and mission, you can still always your business identity and avoid alienating your customers.

Get excited about adopting new technologies and methodologies, and make use of new software, tools, platforms and channels. Stay informed on technology trends relevant to your industry.

Manage your time wisely

You’ll see plenty of online time management advice to entrepreneurs on starting a small business. It all starts with organising your tasks effectively, with clear objectives for each day. Assess your most important priorities according to what will deliver the most value at that time, while also keeping you on track for your bigger goals.

Breaking your bigger aims down into incremental goals helps to keep you focused on what you can achieve in the short term, rather than trying to do too much and getting overwhelmed. Small, actionable steps will keep you motivated and moving towards your long-term targets, for gradual, sustainable growth.

Using time management techniques will help you to stay productive; follow whichever method works best for you. Calendars are invaluable, weather you’re keeping your week organised, sharing them with teams, or making appointments with yourself to block out time for different kinds of tasks (and breaks).

How can I be a better small business owner?

There are things you can do to ensure you personally enjoy the journey. Your business will reap the benefits of this, as your own happiness and satisfaction will inevitably influence what you put out into the world.

Celebrate your achievements, acknowledging your successes and milestones. If you’re always striving to hit your next target and never taking stock, your confidence won’t grow and you can’t properly assess or appreciate what works for your business.

Learn from your failures, adopting a growth mindset and using them as opportunities for learning. There’s no point letting setbacks get you down, as they’re all part of the journey – nobody ever grows by getting things right all the time.

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is absolutely crucial, in order to prevent burnout and maintain your wellbeing. This directly impacts how well equipped you are to continue building your business, helping your customers and looking after your employees.

Get small business insurance with Protectivity

Growing a small business is rewarding in many ways. It also comes with a range of challenges, so it makes sense to prepare for the unexpected and have added peace of mind. As you work on growing your business, having the right insurance in place will give you all the assurance you need to be able to focus on what’s important.

Protectivity’s specialist Small Business Insurance offers Public Liability cover, up to a total of £5 million in financial support if a client suffers injury or property damage. You can also choose Employers’ Liability, designed to cover you up to the sum of £10m if an employee is injured. Our Products Liability extension is for claims that arise from third-party products.

Take a look at our Small Business Insurance and get a personalised quote that meets your needs.