There are a lot of things that can help small businesses succeed, but what do they really need? This article will outline the essentials for small business owners, covering:

  • Company name and title
  • Business plan
  • Business licenses
  • Insurance
  • Business loan
  • Tech stack 
  • Business current account

Name and title

Your business name is an important decision, but it can be anything you want. For small businesses and sole traders, you can even use your own name if you like. 

If you choose to turn your business into a company, you’ll have to register that company with Companies House before you can legally trade. Registering a company name is simple to do through the online portal or by post. When you register, you’ll need to provide some personal information of any shareholders your company has, along with some key financial and operational details.

Alongside your company, you’ll have to give yourself a title too. As a business owner, you can call yourself any of these:

  • Owner
  • CEO
  • Chief (title)
  • Director (creative director, director of operations, technical director)
  • Founder
  • Chairperson
  • President
  • GM (General Manager)
  • Managing Title (Managing Director, Managing Partner, Managing Member)
  • Principal
  • Proprietor

The choice is yours, but they all have slightly different meanings. For more information about titles, What to Call Yourself as a Business Owner.

A business plan

Setting off without a business plan is like starting an expedition without a map; you might get there, but it’ll be a difficult journey.

Your business plan should consist of 3 main parts:

  • Market research
  • SWOT analysis
  • Budget

Market research

Market research involves gathering information about your industry.

Consider any competitors your business has. Find out why they work the way they do and if your business could operate more efficiently.

Market research is also about your customers. Find out more about what sort of people buy your products already; who might purchase them if you market them differently? 

‘SWOT’ analysis

After your market research, split your findings into 4 sections::

  • Strength: your brand is well developed and your online presence is strong
  • Weakness: your business might have a lot of debt and a low sales record
  • Opportunity: your supply chain is robust to changes or delays
  • Threat: customer interest is seasonal and weather-dependent

The SWOT analysis clearly shows you what’s working for you and where you need to improve.

Budget

Generally, your budget should cover things like: 

  • Workspace furniture and equipment
  • Broadband and phone services to accommodate your business’ needs
  • Business cards or initial marketing materials
  • A dedicated website and email address
  • Software subscriptions or updates

For a more detailed explanation of business planning, you might want to read our article, How to Write a Business Plan.

Business licenses

We’ve broken various types of business licences into three categories to make navigating the requirements of your business easier:

  • Industry-Specfic licences
  • Business licences for your home
  • Licences to do things on your premises

Industry-specific licences

These sorts of licences are in place to protect customers and ensure standards across the industry. Some examples include:

Business licences for your home

At a minimum, you’ll need to get approval from your mortgage provider or landlord. You may also need to contact your local council authority if you plan to receive deliveries or have customers visit your home. 

You may also need to acquire building permits for any developments or renovation as you set up dedicated storage or office space. If you’re setting up a business from your home, read our guide for more advice. 

Licences to do things on your premises

Business licences also apply to certain activities that happen on business premises. If you plan to do any of the following, you’ll need a special licence:

If you’d like more information on business licences and how to get them, check out our article, How to Get a Business Licence

Insurance

The insurance policies you buy will vary depending on your business. The only insurance you’re legally required to have is Employer’s Liability insurance if you have employees. 

That said, it’s a good idea to protect your business anyway. Some of the most common insurance policies for small businesses are:

  • Public liability insurance – if your business comes into contact with members of the public.
  • Professional indemnity insurance – if your business gives advice or offers a professional service to other businesses, or if you deal with client data or intellectual property.
  • Employers’ liability insurance – If your business employs staff.
  • Business buildings insurance 
  • Business contents insurance – protect the contents of your business premises, your business equipment and tools.
  • Stock insurance – If you hold any stock, whether on your premises or in storage.
  • Product liability insurance – protects you should a customer of yours suffer damage as a result of a faulty product you provide
  • Personal accident insurance 
  • Business interruption insurance – If your business is disrupted by material damage caused by an event such as a flood or fire.
  • Business legal protection insurance – covers your commercial legal expenses and protects against the potential costs of legal action brought by or against your business.

A business loan

Whether you’re just starting out or you need a little boost to take your business to the next level, you might need a business loan. There are a lot of different kinds of loans on offer for small businesses. For example:

  • Merchant cash advance
  • Term loans
  • Revolving credit facilities
  • Invoice financing
  • Business credit card
  • Start-up loan

Before applying for a loan, you should review your credit and risk and get financial proof in order. 

Review your credit and risk

Credit can be affected by personal or company credit cards, loans, or contracts you’ve taken out. Tools like Experian or ClearScore will help you tidy up your credit file. 

Review your business’ current cash flow and any outstanding debts to ensure that you’ll be able to manage the loan repayments as well as existing debts. 

Lenders will also look at your business assets and experience. They will be more favourable to a business that has been trading for several years, has established assets, and has a stable place in the market.

Get your financial proof in order

Generally, your business plan will be the first thing an investor will ask to see when securing funding. 

You’ll probably need to provide:

  • A balance sheet
  • Income and loss accounts 
  • Cash flow records and projections
  • Profit and margin reports

This is just a general overview of business loans. For a more detailed guide, read our article, How to Get a Small Business Loan.

Tech stack

A tech stack is just a fancy term used to describe any software you use in your business. Most businesses use at least a few to make their lives easier. 

Some software businesses use are:

  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software
  • Accounting Software
  • Automation software
  • CMS (Content Management System) software
  • Integration software

Deciding what to include depends on you and your business needs. If you need some help deciding, read our article, What is a Tech Stack?

Business current account 

When you’re starting your own business, it’s important to keep your personal and business finances separate from day one – to save yourself from time-consuming admin further down the line. 

When you sign up for a Countingup business current account, you’ll receive free accounting software with a range of time-saving tools. 

Simply log into the app to create and send invoices, get financial insights, and confidently manage your new business finances. Trusted by thousands of business owners and rated ‘Excellent’ on TrustPilot, you can find out more here.

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