Despite government initiatives to boost diversity in UK boardrooms – a survey conducted recently for accountancy giant Ernst & Young suggests that the number of women wanting to start their own businesses remains disappointingly low, whilst another report by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) suggests that men were more likely to show entrepreneurial attitudes than their female counterparts.
The news is surprising as it comes at a time when almost 20% of working age adults in the UK are either working for themselves or think they may start their own business in the next few years.
The survey has prompted an angry response from female entrepreneurs, but some do acknowledge that women may be deterred from starting a business by a lack of credible role models.
Other experienced female entrepreneurs believe that it is education that is deterring women from believing that they have what it takes to run their own business, and that it is only a matter of time before this issue is addressed.
Starting your business
Starting your own business can seem somewhat daunting, especially if you have never done anything like that before. As with anything however, the scale of the task appears more manageable once it is broken down. In fact, getting started is probably as simple as having an idea. Of course, it needs to be tested and refined and must ultimately fit into a credible business plan, especially if you wish to secure external funding, but the essence of any good business is in the working concept.
Once an idea is fleshed out, the practicalities set in – the structure of the business, the division of equity in a company, the formalities of registration and the more creative side of producing a corporate identity and marketing materials for your proposition. The internet and the proliferation of advice available now means that much of this can be done alone, or with a minimal amount of legal and technical advice.
Business issues to consider
The complexities of any business will vary hugely depending on the type of organisation being run. For example, a small business selling products online from home will have a very different make up to a restaurant or a services company that requires an office. For starters, securing a premises is one tricky hurdle to negotiate, and saddles a business with considerable cost. Getting this right from a legal point of view is absolutely crucial, and any small business considering renting commercial premises must take expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
Small businesses must also consider the protection of the business name, identity and products with appropriate copyright, trademarks and patents, and should ensure that their terms and conditions of service or sale are well drafted and legally accurate to avoid costly litigation further down the line.
A watershed moment for any business comes when it must employ its first members of staff. This is difficult because for any entrepreneur it involves inviting someone else into your world, transferring some degree of control or influence on the outcome of your project, often into the hands of a relative unknown.
Getting employment decisions right is one thing, but ensuring that employment runs smoothly is quite another. Small business owners and directors are advised to do their homework when it comes to employing staff for the first time. Understand your legal obligations straight off – for example you must provide an employee with a contract of employment and a pay slip. Ensure that your contract for employment is well drafted, and take legal advice to get the right result, this is a cost but it can be reused on future employees and will save your business time and money later on.
As well as getting the right staff in, your small business will need processes and procedure to ensure that staff are managed properly, understand the company and know the procedure for dealing with disciplinary matters. Employee issues affect many small businesses and employment law costs often pale into insignificance when compared to the cost of losing an employment tribunal for not having robust employment practices.
One of the most important adages for any small business is to hope for the best but to plan for the worst. Being well prepared is the best situation for any budding small business owner, whether it be in terms of financial planning, employment planning or even sales and marketing, thinking ahead will allow you the flexibility to adapt to changing business circumstances without the feeling that as a small business you are being tossed and turned by the ever changing economic climate.
How did you prepare to start your business? Let us know in the comments below. What were some of the surprises you hadn’t planned for?