Starting your own small business can be all-consuming in terms of time and attention, leaving you unprepared for a faster-than-anticipated transition to stable growth. Here is some future-proofing advice so you don’t get caught short when business picks up.
The watchwords for this critical stage in your business expansion are planning, sticking to budget and drawing on all the free expertise and advice out there.
When business picks up, consider packing up and moving to business premises
Starting from a home office is a common tactic for a one-man business or an enterprise with little capital. When business picks up, however, you may find that this solution no longer works for you. Moving into business premises is a very visible marker that business is expanding, but make sure that your move is not just “for show”. If you need the credibility of a business address, consider a virtual office as an interim step. Typical reasons for moving include the need for additional equipment and extra space for more stock, but you could also have reached the stage where customers beating a path to your door is affecting your neighbours’ quality of life. Recognise that the practicalities of moving could put a temporary brake on things, so be prepared for a dip before things pick up again.
All together now: “location, location, location”
Consider location carefully: does your business need a high-street shop window, or will it be more suited to an industrial park or an out-of-town co-working complex? How convenient is your location for staff, customers and transport links? If you expect the business to continue to expand and staff numbers to increase, serviced offices could be a good option, allowing you to upgrade your space when the time comes without having to completely rethink communications, furnishing and space requirements.
Taking on staff: steps to becoming an employer
Becoming an employer, even if you’re only taking on one member of staff, is another major milestone. This has significant implications when it comes to insurance requirements – most notably employers’ liability insurance, which you should obtain through a reliable insurance broker.
Groundwork preparations also include things that you may think only affect large enterprises, but will soon become your concern as well: dealing with tax and national insurance, job descriptions, policies on holiday, sickness, and other leave arrangements etc. Giving time and attention to these issues now, and getting them right, will save you a lot of future hassle.
Think through the qualifications, experience and personal attributes your ideal employee will have, and set these out clearly in the job description. Advertising doesn’t need to be expensive; there are plenty of online and print opportunities, preferably in your specialist field. Check other advertisements to stay in line with the going rate for the job to attract the good candidates. Above all, make yourself familiar with the legal requirements of employment by checking the free advice available from government-linked bodies such as ACAS.
Gearing up your systems, equipment and status when business starts to grow
If you have been a sole trader, this could be the time to transition to a limited company. You will need legal advice about articles of association and you may want to consider hiring an accountant for your annual return to HMRC and Companies House. Depending on the volume and complexity of financial transactions, this could also be the opportunity to make the transition from a manual accounting system to one of the easily available bespoke accounts packages. Think about other office equipment and whether you need to change gear. This could mean anything from networking your computers, subscribing to an IT policy that takes good care of security and backups, a telephone system that allows for queueing, messaging and inter-office communication, to higher-end printers. Not all of these may be relevant, but some could help your business grow without cracking at the seams.
Adding another van to grow your fleet
If yours is the type of business that needs its own transport, you already have a van. Add another, and you have a fleet. There are some interesting economies of scale that start to kick in at this point. But, as with all your progressive steps into growing your business, the first sensible step is to gather all the freely available information out there. As far as the fleet goes, come in and talk to your nearest Renault Pro+ dealer. We’re always happy to help you on the path to a bigger business.