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As soon as you’ve got your ideas together you will need to get a framework from which to start your business.

These are the main areas that you need to consider when starting your business:

o Naming your business.

o Deciding where to base your business.

o Complying with the law.

o Deciding on a trading identity for your business.

o Deciding whether or not to register for VAT.

Later we look at what’s involved in deciding which trading identity would be suitable for your business and also look at what’s involved in VAT. My advice is for you to read Chapter 10 when you feel ready for it. For now though, let’s look at some things you’ll need to consider when christening your new business and where your new venture is going to live.

Deciding on a name for your business

Choosing the right name for your business is important and is something you need to really think about because whatever name you give to your business will need to create the right image for potential customers.

Let’s say you’re planning to organise painting holidays in Cornwall. You could call your business simply ‘Painting Holidays in Cornwall’, but the obvious problem here is that it doesn’t give any more information than the obvious.

Before you go any further you need to ask yourself more questions about your proposed business:

o Are your holidays aimed at the budget-conscious artist looking for cheap hostel- type accommodation with arranged visits to local beauty sites. Or at would-be artists looking for a luxury break, which includes painting tuition and pampering?

o Where in Cornwall are your holidays based?

o What’s your own painting expertise?

o Are painting holidays the only holidays you’re intending to run or will you include other holidays at some future date, such as creative writing courses?

Obviously you are never going to be able to answer all of these questions with the name of your business, but you can improve on the initial name by making it less restrictive and more imaginative.

One of the problems with the original name is that it concentrates on two words – ‘painting’ and ‘holiday’.

The difficulty here is that anyone interested in learning how to paint might get the impression that this business runs holidays for seasoned painters and not beginners, while experienced painters might find the word ‘holiday’ a turn off.

But by far the greatest difficulty is that it limits your business from offering anything other than painting holidays.

So what’s the alternative? You could go for something like ‘Creative Breaks Cornwall’.

The advantage with this name is that it conjures up a number of intriguing possibilities without taking away from the core business – painting holidays.

You could also include a strap line on your business advertisements, websites etc:

Creative Breaks Cornwall

Discovering the artist within

If and when you decide to offer other types of holidays your business name is not going to hold you back.


Your business name doesn’t have to describe or even suggest what your business offers.

Take Amazon as an example. Here we have the world’s largest retailer of books with no mention of books anywhere in the company name. Yet everyone knows they retail books. Although originally marketed as an online book retailer, Amazon now sells a whole range of non-book products including software and games.

The advantage of choosing a name like Amazon is that not only is it easy to remember and intriguing, but the name doesn’t restrict the future growth or diversity of the business. Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is similar.


It’s also a good idea to avoid choosing a cliche´ business name. By this I mean something like Green Fingers Gardening Company or Joe’s Bloomers, or Harriet’s Heavenly Pastries etc.

While names like these might seem like a good idea at the time just wait until you discover there’s already more than one of them in the country and suddenly your business isn’t unique after all.


The exception to the rule is when you’re absolutely certain that what you’re offering is going to be cheaper than offered by most other retailers, you should include this information somewhere in your title.

Let’s say you’re planning to open an online fishing tackle shop where offering rock bottom prices is the basis of your marketing strategy.

The Fisherman’s Warehouse

Cheapest tackle online

Choosing to use a word like ‘warehouse’ as opposed to ‘shop’ suggests large quantities at low prices.


You could also personalise your business name and call it something like Joe’s Fisherman’s Warehouse.

Some businesses are ideal for this sort of personalisation, particularly if they involve looking after something that your customer treasures, like children, pets, gardens etc.

While John Browne’s Dog Walking Service might seem boring and unimaginative, it does suggest to potential customers that John Browne and not someone unknown to them will be looking after their dog. Including your own name in your business name can under the right circumstances create a feeling of trust, which brings credibility. So don’t be afraid to include your own name particularly if the business you’re planning to run involves looking after other people’s treasures.


Is the business name you want actually available?

There is no absolute right to a business name unless of course that name is the name of a company or another business trading in the same area as you’re intending to.

So if there’s already a Flo’s Dog Walking Service or Martin’s Organic Vegetables in your area then obviously were you to start up a similar business using the same name they would have a legal argument to say that you are trading using their name.


One of the easiest ways to check whether anyone is already using your name is to surf the Internet, which is a good idea anyway because when it comes to creating a website for your business you want to be sure that the domain name you want is available.

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Of course it would also be silly to knowingly use another business name as not only are you bound for legal conflict, you are also denying your business any opportunity of being unique.

Search through as many search engines as you can, including, Yahoo!, Google, Ask Jeeves and any web directories relating to your chosen field.

Don’t get too despondent if you find your name is already being used by another business. Better to find this out now than when you’ve ordered all your stationery, brochures and the like.

When you’ve decided on your name, ask yourself:

o Will it fit comfortably on your stationery. For example if you’re planning to have labels printed for your products, will the name fit on a small label?

o Will it create the right image for your business?

o Will it build trust and credibility?

o Can you get a website domain name to fit in with your business name?

o If your business expands, diversifies or changes completely, can you keep this name or will another be needed?

o If you abbreviate your name, what do you get. For example, my gardening business is called Paul Power Landscapes, which abbreviates to PPL. Can your name be abbreviated, and if so are you comfortable with the abbreviation?

There is no legal requirement that I am aware of that says you must have a business bank account. However, there are banking terms and conditions, which if you ever have the time and patience to read will tell you that you cannot use your personal account for business banking.


If you’re planning to run a small hobby business where all of your customers can pay you in cash then you don’t necessarily have to open a bank account.

You could manage your money by simply paying it into a cash till, which you then record as business income. You keep a float in your till to pay your business bills etc, and then finally you pay yourself using cash.

Because this money has now effectively gone from being business cash to personal drawings, I can’t see why any bank can object when you lodge this money as it is after all your wages. Not business income!

Obviously there’ll only be a limited amount of businesses that will want to operate on this sort of basis and with credit card usage becoming more and more popular it looks like cash will become a thing of the past.


At the time of writing there are four main high street banks and I believe all of them offer more or less the same thing. Certainly their charges are similar and once you get past any initial period of free banking, there’s not much difference.


The bank our businesses are with gives us free banking provided we operate our account within certain restrictions, which include a limit to how many lodgements we can make.

I’ve found the ‘limits’ to be more than generous and if you do exceed your limit you then only pay to lodge those items over the pre-agreed quota.

But there’s a drawback: cash. Our free banking account is basically a postal bank where the only way to lodge monies is either via the post using their prepaid envelopes or in an envelope using one of their branch’s cash dispensers, which means lodging cash is pretty impossible.

However this suits our business as most of our payments are either made by cheque or credit card and the small amount of cash we do get we can use as petty cash.

These arrangements suit us but might not suit your business. Shop around and get the best package for your business.

Ask yourself:

1. Are you looking for a bank account to simply lodge and withdraw money, or are you looking for a bank where you will need to apply for overdrafts, loans etc?

2. Are you planning to take credit cards?

3. Will you be taking large amounts of cash?

4. Will you buying your products from abroad?

5. Will you be hiring staff?

If you answer yes to most or all of the above questions then you’re going to need a business bank as opposed to simply a business bank account.

Anyone who is considering future borrowings for their business, employing staff and taking large amounts of cash will need a bank where they can actually speak to a business bank advisor who will be sympathetic to the sort of problems you face.


The owner of a small cleaning business lodged a number of cheques into her business bank account. Unfortunately she failed to make sure the cheques had actually cleared before writing cheques for her employees’ wages. She believed she’d left plenty time before writing her salary cheques.

The results were disastrous. The cheques bounced, which meant her employees hadn’t been paid. This started a panic with staff telling her customers that they thought her business had gone bankrupt. It might as well have done because staff were now unwilling to work and customers’ offices not cleaned.

It was difficult for her to rebuild her business but she did. The bank, as you would expect, dismissed her complaint telling her that it was her responsibility to ensure she had sufficient funds in her account prior to writing her cheques. Her argument was that her cheques had taken an extraordinarily long time to clear.

Situations like this can arise when you run your own business so it’s important that you choose a bank that you are comfortable with, and most importantly that you have a named contact in that bank who you can speak to and is familiar with your business.

Ask your bank manager some questions

Someone once described a bank manager as being: ‘someone who loans you an umbrella when it’s sunny, then asks for it back when it rains.’ This bears out my own personal experiences!

Before committing yourself to opening your business account you should ask prospective banks as many questions as you can. The list below is by no means exhaustive:

1. Will you have your own personal contact within their bank who you can call on for help and advice?

2. What is their criteria for granting business overdrafts? Some banks will insist you have an established track record with them for a period before they will consider your application.

3. Ask them to explain their bank charges, particularly in relation to free banking offers. Most banks only offer free banking on the basis that you manage your account within certain parameters. If you exceed those limits will you have to pay charges on all your transactions or just those that exceed their limits?

4. Ask them how they can help your business. This is where you’ll find out if you’re talking to a member of staff in a call centre reading from a crib sheet or someone who is actually interested in working with your business.

Finally, remember that banks exist to make profit for their shareholders.

While it might seem like a good idea to keep your personal bank account and business bank account with the same bank, I’d advise against it.

The reason I recommend you keep your accounts at separate banks or building societies is that in the event that you have a problem with one account, the bank may, at its discretion, enforce its power and put a freeze on your other accounts thus rendering you completely impotent.

Let’s say, for example, that you find yourself in the same situation as the proprietor of the cleaning company I told you about earlier. Were you to find yourself in this unfortunate situation it’s quite probable that the bank would freeze your personal account as well as your business bank account, which as you can imagine would even be more disastrous.

Believe me, in business things can always get worse!

Despite your best efforts there may be times when either your customers let you down or an unforeseen bill presents itself and suddenly you find yourself overdrawn beyond your limits. Before you know it everything is frozen.

Creating a business identity


Do you need another line? Yes, I believe you do. Nothing will put potential customers off more than a badly answered telephone. In the past I’ve phoned businesses where children have answered the phone and I’ve given up trying to get them to put mum or dad on so I can order something. Instead I’ve done what most people would do – moved on.

A separate business line will not only give your business credibility, but also make life easier for you. When the phone rings you know it’s business.

The disadvantage to having a separate business line is, of course, cost. Telephone providers charge more for a business line than they do a domestic, but I believe that this cost is a relatively small price to pay to give your business an enhanced professional image. By using a domestic line as opposed to a business line you miss out on free listings in the business section of the phone book and of course when anyone searches directory enquiries you will only be listed if you have a business line. Also, were your line to go down for any reason repairs to business lines get priority over domestic ones.

Freephone numbers

When deciding on a business number you could also consider introducing a freephone number or a number where your customers only pay the cost of local call to contact you. Incentives like these can be useful if you’re operating in a competitive environment where potential customers are faced with lots of different companies to choose from.

The fact that your number will cost either nothing to call or the cost of a local call will give them an added incentive to call your business first.


Now that you have decided on your trading identity and chosen a suitable name you are ready to create your business identity, which will include things like deciding on a logo for your business and ordering company stationery.

When it comes to publishing stationery you have a number of choices:

o Put together your own simple letterhead without a logo and print your own stationery using your PC.

o Design your own logos and letterheads either freehand or using a software programme then either print your own stationery or give it to a printer.

o Employ a graphic designer to create your logos and letterhead and then either print it yourself or have a printer do it for you.

Your choice of methods will obviously depend on how much money you have available to spend on this. By far the simplest and cheapest way is to do everything yourself. Not every business will need a logo or fancy letterhead and many hobby businesses can get by having their business name, address and telephone number printed somewhere on the page as the example below.

Nothing fancy is needed

The important thing when deciding on how to approach your stationery is to remember that nothing fancy is needed. A clean, crisp letterhead is far easier to read than a multi-coloured splurge of print complete with clip art.

Clip art is the image/cartoon graphics you receive free with most software publishing programmes. It should be avoided. If you use it when creating your identity, the chances are that other similar businesses will too.

If you really believe that artwork is crucial to your business success then commission a graphic designer to come up with something brilliant and unique. While clip art is fine for party invitations and birthday announcements, the image of your business will undoubtedly suffer if you use it.


For many businesses, brochures are an important marketing tool. Although it’s relatively expensive to employ a specialist company to design your brochure, letterhead and so on, it can pay enormous dividends especially if what you’re going to be selling is high value and the buyer needs to be assured of your credability.

Before employing a designer to work on your behalf make sure you:

o See examples of their work. Not just online; ask them to send you samples so you can determine the quality of the print, paper and get an overall impression of what they’re offering.

o Ask for a written quotation. Designer’s bills are a bit like solicitor’s – if left unchecked they can run wildly over your initial budget. Before you enter into any commitment make sure you know exactly what you are getting for your money.

o Insist on copy-ready proofs. Hopefully this won’t be necessary as professional design companies will always send what is known as ‘copy-ready proofs’ to you for approval. A CRP is basically a mock-up of how your finished brochure, letterhead or compliment slip will look. It’s vital you check these thoroughly for mistakes as once you have given your approval the proofs will be printed and you will have to pay for any amendments or alterations.

o Ask for a credit account. Some businesses will insist you pay upfront. I don’t agree with this as I like to be sure that I’m getting what I pay for. In the event that you’re not happy with the quality or you don’t get what was originally agreed you will have far more influence if you haven’t already settled the bill. The problem you might find is that if you are a new business, designers may be reluctant to undertake the work unless they are convinced they stand a good chance of getting paid for it. If this is the case, offer to pay a deposit on order with the balance falling due when you collect your work. It’s also worth asking for an account facility, particularly if you intend using the company for all your future printing requirements.

Before printing anything make sure you check the proofs for errors and omissions. Pay particular attention to things like telephone and fax numbers, website addresses, postcodes and email addresses.

Remember, if you are operating as a sole trader and trading under a different name then by law you must include something like ‘Paul Power trading as Walking Holidays Cornwall’ on your letterhead. You can do this discreetly by adding it somewhere in the lower header in small print. (See Chapter 10 for more information.)


Many printers now offer an all-in stationery package for new businesses, which usually includes: 250 letterheads, envelopes, business cards and compliments slips.

Provided the quality of print and paper is of an acceptable standard these packages can offer great value for money and in my experience printers are generally happy to include some free artwork and layout.

Prior to confirming your order make sure you ask your printer to show you samples of the type of paper you will be getting and samples of the printing.


When it comes to posting out your letters, brochures, direct sales materials etc, you’re going to need to think about envelopes. My advice is that you go with window envelopes. These are the ones where all you have to do is fold your letter in the correct place and the address is automatically displayed through the window. They are particularly useful when you’re sending out a mail-shot etc.

You could also consider hand-writing your envelopes, although depending on your handwriting this can give an amateurish back-bedroom sort of feel to it.

Whatever you decide on make sure everything is consistent.

Which means that you should make sure that:

o the colour of the paper matches the colour of the envelope;

o the quality of the paper matches the quality of the envelope;

o the colour scheme and logos are similar throughout your business – letterheads, website, company vehicles, staff uniforms, business cards etc.

If you’re unsure don’t commit yourself.

Getting it wrong can be expensive. I’ve known of small businesses who’ve rushed their stationery order through only to find something as simple as the telephone number was incorrect. Remember that once you approve the proofs and give your go ahead you have no recourse. The fact that you haven’t checked your telephone number, business name or postcode is not the fault of the printers and therefore not only will you end up with the most expensive scrap paper money can buy, but also have to have everything redone.

Always work to a budget.

Starting a business is a bit like organising a wedding. It’s so easy for costs to spiral out of control. An extra colour here and little embellishment there, and let’s just go for that satin finished paper and suddenly your costs have quadrupled.

During your first meeting with your printer let him know what your budget is and make it clear that you will not be spending more than this figure. Provided you’ve picked a professional printer this won’t be a problem. Our printer has been extremely helpful in coming up with novel ways of getting the printing we want done to our budget.

Choosing a printer

It’s important to choose a printer that you are comfortable with and someone that you can build up a relationship with. Because I run a number of small businesses, my natural instinct is to choose a similar business to mine to undertake our printing requirements. Once I went to one of those high street printing franchises, and I knew as soon as I walked in the door that the young, disinterested shop assistant who couldn’t understand that my surname was Power and not Powers was not going to work out.

Personally I prefer the smaller independent who understands and appreciate the problems that come with running a small business.

Your insurance company

The fact that most entrepreneurs will have at sometime worked from home will have an impact on their home insurance policies. It’s important therefore to check with your insurance company that you are covered in the event that someone burgles your home office and steals your computer, printer etc that your cover includes you running your business from home.

Obviously if you’re going to be holding stock at home you will also need to ensure that your stock is covered in the event of theft, fire or damage.

Unfortunately the relatively high cost of insurance cover means it’s usually one of those things to ignore when starting your own business from home, but you do need to ensure that by running your business from home you don’t invalidate your ordinary home contents and buildings insurances.

Local authority

Planning regulations generally do not allow private residences to be used for business. So if you’re planning to turn your garage into a workshop, you should check with your local planning office to see whether or not you will need planning permission.

However if running your business from home involves little more than working from your kitchen table or spare room then the chances are that nobody will object. But be aware that if you are running a limited company from home the law requires you to display somewhere outside your office the name of your business. You doing this may bring you into conflict with neighbours who may then complain to the local planning officer.

Where to base your business

It may seem odd that a book promoting the home based entrepreneur advises you to consider working from somewhere other than your home, but there will be times when this will make sense.

Take for example our businesses, which include a general gardening business and cycle hire business.

Our gardening business includes trailers, machinery, vans and all that goes with that. I don’t believe that it would be fair on our neighbours to base this sort of thing either outside our home or in our garden. The other problem we’d face is that there is now so much of it we wouldn’t be able to fit it all in.

Similarly our cycle business includes bikes and accessories with a need for a small workshop area from where we can service and maintain the bikes. We then have a large showroom area where customers can browse a large selection of Dutch bikes, we offer free parking and customer toilets.

But our office is still home based.

The reason for this is that I prefer working from home, and the additional cost of hiring an office on top of workshop/storage space was astronomical. In addition to the costs of hiring office space you also have to pay for water rates, lighting, heating, building insurance, contents insurance, burglar alarms, business rates – which in my mind makes it more sense to be home based.

Of course this arrangement may not suit every business, particularly those employing office-based staff.

If you are planning to rent office space, make sure that you shop around for the best deal and avoid if you can having to agree to a lengthy lease period. Although you may find you get a better rent figure if you agree to a longer let, you might find that after a year the property is no longer suitable for your business and the costs terminating the lease may be so great as to make it impossible.

Just like I’ve done with my businesses you may find that you’re better off sourcing some form of cheap storage/workshop area where you can keep stock, machinery etc, and then base your office at home.

Again make sure you work to a budget. Estate agents are paid commission on rent and in my experience will always be pushing towards that ‘ideal property’, which costs just little bit more than the one you’re looking at. Before you know it you’ve taken on a monthly rent commitment the size of the national debt.


It’s also worth considering sharing a unit with another business. Obviously you’ve got be careful who you decide to share with and make sure they’re able, and willing, to pay their share of the rent, but doing this can substantially reduce the costs of renting premises.

If you are going to do this make sure you:

o get the permission of your landlord. Do this before you agree to rent the property as it’s unlikely they’ll agree to your sub-letting it once you’ve moved in;

o draw up an agreement detailing who is responsible for what and what happens if one you wants to terminate the agreement;

o set up separate standing orders to pay your rent (if your landlord agrees) so that in the event your sharer doesn’t pay, your landlord will pursue him and not you.

Although useful for reducing the costs of renting somewhere, you really do need to be sure about whoever you share with.


Gone are the days when renting a storage unit meant you had to take on something the size of a small house. There are now companies who specialise in renting a variety of sizes and who offer easy in-and-out terms, which usually mean that you can rent these units on a weekly or monthly basis. Useful when you’re starting out and not sure about how much space you actually need.

Even if it seems the most idyllic property for your business you should always:

o stop and think about it before rushing in and signing on the dotted line;

o ask for a copy of the lease agreement, which you then take away with you and read thoroughly before committing. The best place to read lease agreements is away from wherever it is you’re planning to rent;

o get a solicitor to read the lease for you if the property is anything other than a self-storage type unit.

Complying with the law

Unfortunately, small businesses are facing an ever-increasing barrage of legislation and it would be impossible within the scope of this book to cover all possible legalities that you will need to consider. Not every business will be subject to the same laws. For example a business involving food will be subject to different legislation than a business organising water sports.

Important legislation you should be aware of if you’re planning to open business involving food:

o The Food Safety Act 1990

o Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995

o Food Safety (Temperature Control) Regulations 1995

You can find full details of the requirements of these acts at The Foods Standards Agency Website:

You should also be aware of the legislation covering the following areas:

o employing staff

o health and safety legislation

o Data Protection Act.


The most important thing to know is that all your employees are entitled by law to be given a Written Statement of Employment setting out the main particulars of their employment.

You are also required to undertake a number of checks on anyone you intend employing. These will include things such as:

o The prospective employee’s age. Their age will affect the types of work they are allowed to do; the hours they are allowed to work; rates you must pay them.

o Whether or not they are allowed to work in the UK. You must be sure that their status in the UK allows them to work. If you employ someone who is not allowed to work in UK, you commit an offence and risk being penalised.

o Their skills and aptitude for the job. You will have to take up references, background checks etc.

Visit the government’s Business Link website

You can use their free software tool to create a Written Statement of Employment for all your employees and use their interactive tool to check your legal responsibilities when taking on staff. There is a whole wealth of information on this site concerning all aspects of employment legislation.

Health and safety

As a business owner you have a legal responsibility for the health and safety of your employees and anyone that may be affected by your business and its activities. You also have a legal responsibility for the impact your business has on the environment.

It’s essential you have in place a properly written health and safety policy for your business.

You can get all the answers to your questions by phoning the Health and Safety Information Line on 0870 1545 500, or visiting the website

Data Protection Act

The provisions of the Data Protection Act 1988 will affect most business owners. It works in two ways:

1. By governing the way personal information is used and stored. Personal information would include your customer’s addresses, dates of births, telephone numbers etc.

The Act requires you to follows the eight data protection principles, which state that all data must be:

– fairly and lawfully processed

– processed for limited purposes

– adequate, relevant and not excessive

– accurate

– not kept for longer than is necessary

– processed in line with the data subject’s rights

– secure

– not transferred to countries outside the EU without adequate protection.

2. By giving all individuals certain rights.

These rights, which are known as ‘right of subject access’, give everyone the right to see the information that is being held about them on a computer, and some paper records. This means that if in the course of your business you record details about your customers, they can request that you provide them with all the information you hold about them.

The information must also be accurate and up to date. For example if you run a walking holidays business where you regularly send information to customers on your mailing list, periodically you would have to make sure that the details you have are correct and up to date. So it’s good practice to include a slip with your mailings asking customers to tell you whether or not they still want to receive your information and inform you of any change in their details.

(There are some exceptions to this, for example when the information stored is being used in the detection and prevention of crime.)


The commissioner maintains a public register of data controllers. Notification is the way in which a data controller’s processing details are added to this register.

The data controller could be you, as business owner, or an employee of your business.

Unless you are exempt from Notification, you must notify the commissioner and pay a fee, currently £35, to be added to the register. This is an annual fee. Failure to notify when you are not exempt is a criminal offence.

To find out whether your business will have to Notify telephone the DPR on 01625 545740 or visit their website at


Because individuals have a right to see the information that is being held about them

– the right of subject access – you need to know what to do if an individual makes a request to your business.

If you receive a request you must:

o send them the information you hold on them;

o tell them why this information is processed and anyone it may be passed to or seen by;

o explain the logic in any automated decisions;

o deal with their request within 40 days from the date you receive it.

You may charge an administration fee of no more than £10.


Be aware that individuals may seek compensation through the courts if they have suffered damage, or damage and distress, because of any contravention of the Act.

As I said earlier, there is a whole raft of legislation that can affect your business and you must be familiar with it all. I really recommend a visit to the Business Link site, which is an invaluable tool for small business owners and entrepreneurs.


1. Give plenty of thought to the name you’re going to give your business. Your business name creates the first impression of your business, therefore it’s important to get it right.

2. Choose a base for your business that suits you in terms of affordability and adaptability. There’s nothing wrong with the kitchen table.

3. A successful business is impossible without creating credibility. Therefore it’s important that you get it right from day one.

4. Get a dedicated business line for your business and make sure it’s answered in a business-like way.

5. Research all legislation that might affect your business and be sure to register where appropriate.

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