Essential guide to getting help setting up and running a business

Two young entrepreneurs are coached by a small business mentor

There is a huge range of help available to help you deal with the challenges of starting your own business and make the most of your opportunities. Making sure you have the right skills, finance and practical support reduces the financial stress and the pressure of having to make all the decisions yourself.

Business support organisations, professional advisers and your own network of contacts can all help.

Identify the support you want

Use business support organisations

Find financing and financial support

Get the right advisers

Build your network

Find practical support

1. Identify the support you want

Assess your financial resources and requirements

  • Be realistic about the financing you can expect to raise (see Find financing and financial support).
  • Allow for the costs of setting up your business and continuing to meet your existing financial commitments. Be realistic about the likely delay before your business starts producing significant income.
  • Keep costs down - for example, by working from home rather than taking on business premises. This is often essential during the early stages of launching a new business.

Identify the weaknesses in your own skills and experiences

  • Unless you have experience of running a business, you may need help in areas such as business planning.
  • Sales and marketing are vital for most new businesses. You may want support to build your self-confidence and credibility, as well as advice on sales and marketing techniques.
  • Other areas to consider may include financial management, purchasing and production, information technology, and dealing with any employees and advisers.
  • You are likely to need professional advice in areas such as accounting, taxes and legal issues.

Consider the practical impact of starting a business on your personal life

  • You may need help with domestic tasks such as caring for any dependants.
  • Starting a business can be very stressful. You may need emotional as well as practical support.

Take advice early, before starting your business

  • Early advice helps ensure that you set up your business in the right way, before making any potentially expensive mistakes. Putting time and effort into planning pays dividends.
  • Business support organisations can help you develop your business plan. Planning helps you to think through all the activities you will be involved in, anticipate potential problems and identify the extra support you need.
  • You can take advantage of free information and advice before deciding whether additional support is worth paying for.

Think about how training could help you

  • Start-up training can develop your confidence as well as your business skills.
  • Continuing training in specific areas can reduce the need to pay others to provide services (such as bookkeeping) and increase your effectiveness as a business manager.

2. Use business support organisations

Get start-up training and advice from your local Enterprise Agency

  • Enterprise Agencies focus on supporting pre-start, newly launched and very small businesses. Services tend to be free or heavily subsidised.
  • Pre-start training services include training and advice on business planning and raising finance.

Find government advice for businesses

  • The GOV.UK website offers a wide range of support, advice and information for both start-ups and existing businesses.

Consider joining a trade association

  • Trade associations often provide information and advice specifically tailored to businesses in your industry, and opportunities to network with similar businesses, suppliers and other useful contacts.
  • Membership of a trade association can help boost your credibility with potential customers.
  • Many trade associations offer additional member benefits, such as insurance deals, legal services, discounted attendance at exhibitions and so on.
  • Subscription costs vary widely, and may be discounted for smaller businesses.

Look for other business support organisations for your particular circumstances

For example:

3. Find financing and financial support

Be realistic about whether banks and other investors will finance you

  • They are unlikely to be interested unless you have a credible business plan and ideally previous business experience. Many new businesses rely on savings, family and friends.
  • Even if you have worked in a similar business, you may find it difficult to raise money unless you have a track record of successful management.
  • Banks will usually want you to make a significant personal financial commitment before agreeing to back you.

Identify any sources of 'soft' loans or grants

  • The availability of easy financing depends on factors such as where you are, what industry you are in and how you plan to use the money. Finance is more likely to be available in deprived areas, for activities such as innovation and training.
  • The GOV.UK Business finance and support finder can help you identify any support schemes you might qualify for.

Make the most of advice and support offered by sources of finance

Check what tax credits or benefits you are entitled to receive

  • If you have been receiving benefits, you may be able to get help with moving from benefits to work.
  • If your earnings are low, you may be entitled to Universal Credit.
  • If you currently receive Child Tax Credit, you may also be able to claim Working Tax Credit.

4. Get the right advisers

Find an accountant

  • An accountant can give you advice on the best way to set up your business, how to organise your bookkeeping, and tax issues. Many businesses also use their accountant for broader business advice, personal financial planning and so on.
  • Ideally, you want an accountant with experience of your kind of business. Business friends and contacts such as your bank manager may be able to recommend a qualified accountant.

Get any legal advice you need

Consider what other business advisers you might want

  • You can use business advisers to fill any gaps in the support you are getting from the business support organisations you are working with.
  • You may want to build a relationship with an individual business adviser. Regular meetings allow the adviser to build a deeper understanding of you and your business.
  • You may want to find specialist advisers. For example, to help you with information technology.
  • A business adviser can also act as a mentor. Rather than providing direct advice, the adviser helps you talk through your ideas and work out the best way forward.

5. Build your network

Make the most of existing contacts

  • Friends, colleagues, customers and suppliers from previous jobs can all be useful sources of help. Many new businesses make their first sales to existing contacts that know and trust them.

Consider joining your local chamber of commerce

  • Meeting with other business owners lets you share experiences and helps overcome the feeling of being on your own.
  • Membership of your local chamber of commerce brings you new business contacts. They may end up as customers or suppliers.
  • Subscription rates vary, and depend on the number of employees you have. A small business might pay around £200 per year, which includes access to business advice and other services.

Identify other local and national networking opportunities

Ask friends, business contacts and advisers which groups they belong to. Opportunities can include:

  • business networking organisations
  • charitable groups, such as the Rotary Club
  • social groups and networks, such as a local sports club or parents' support group
  • online groups, which make it easier to network outside the local area (and may also have local sections)
  • networking events or online discussion groups organised by the business support organisations you work with

6. Find practical support

Look for ways to get cut-price products and services

  • The Federation of Small Businesses and the Forum of Private Business both offer members money-saving opportunities as well as business advice and other services.
  • Business support organisations or your local council may provide low-cost business premises (eg serviced offices). Some business centres include free or subsidised support services such as advice and training.
  • Local business colleges may offer subsidised training, or students who will work on projects for low or no cost.

Get any domestic support you need


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