Starting a Small Business: The Things They Don’t Tell You

The UK has a relatively supportive culture for small business starting up, but despite a lot of encouragement and information, there are plenty of things that aren’t clear or they just don’t tell you about!

If you run a small business, check you have these things covered:

Registering Your Business: Names & Legal Structures

One of the first things you’ll want to do is decide on a business name and register under the correct legal framework for you.

Generally there are three options:

  1. Sole Trader Business
  2. Limited Company
  3. Partnership

An accountant will best advise you on the right structure for your enterprise, and can help you to register with HMRC or Companies House, as appropriate.

However, choosing a name may not be that simple.  It’s important to be careful not to infringe on someone else’s intellectual property by using the same name.

If your chosen business name and website address (Domain Name) is available, it’s also worth checking for similar registered Trademarks with the IPO.

Start Here:

Register your Business:

Choose a Domain Name:

Check for a Registered TradeMark:

Data Protection: Notify the ICO

If you control or process personal data you need to notify [register] with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Personal information means anything that can relate back to a “Natural Living Person”, and includes names, addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, data of birth, health data, political data, even images captured on CCTV.

With that in mind, almost every organisation needs to pay their fee (£35 for small business) and notify.

Start Here:

Notify the ICO:

Data Protection Advice from Assent:

Health & Safety: Policy, Risk Assessments & more!

All organisations must provide a safe working environment, however, if you have less than 5 employees the amount of documentation you need to produce is less.

We recommend you start with a Health & Safety Policy, regardless of your size, this not only sets out your commitments but is also useful to provide to potential customers.

Risk Assessments must also be completed to address any hazardous activities within your business that could impact your staff, customers, the public and other parties.  However, “If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down”.

Start Here:

Guidance for Small Businesses:

HSE’s Toolbox:

Safety Advice from Assent:

Environment: Trade Waste

You might be surprised how strict some local authorities are when it comes to trade waste.  This isn’t just the by-products of a manufacturing process.

Business cards, paperwork, even desktop lamps can be considered trade waste if purchased and used for business purposes.

So make sure you have a means of disposal for your business waste.

Start Here

Managing your Waste:

Managing Environmental Aspects & Impacts with ISO 14001:

Working from Home: Business Rates

There’s no clear answer on this one, but if you employ others to work from your home, have customers regularly visiting your property or who are generally impacting the area, you may need to pay business rates on some or all of the property.

Check the guidance and talk to your local council.

Start Here: Guidance:

Transport: Driving on Business

For company owned and operated vehicles, there are clear safety and insurance rules to follow, but many small businesses will use their own personal vehicles and this is sometimes called the “Grey Fleet”.

If you use your own car to service customers, or even for the occasional client visit, you should check your current insurance covers you for business use.

Start Here:

HSE Guidance:

ROSPA Using Own Vehicles:

Small Businesses: Some Uplifting Facts.

Finally, with all the of the legal and practical requirements of starting and maintaining a small business, it can be easy to forget the good things; so here are some positive facts about Small-Medium enterprises in the UK, courtesy of the Federation of Small Businesses (

  • Total employment in SMEs was 16.1 million; 60% of all private sector employment in the UK.
  • The combined annual turnover of SMEs was £1.9 trillion, 51% of all private sector turnover in the UK.
  • The 4.8 million UK SMEs in 2012 meant the economy was made up of 99 per cent of small businesses.

For more help with Data Protection, Health and Safety, Environmental and Quality matters, get in touch.

Kaidee Clark
Kaidee Clark
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