When you’re running a business it seems that there are lots of things you need to have knowledge of: sales, marketing, office politics, budgeting, company law, tax regulations, social media, IT… to name but a few!
But whether you are a fledgling one man band or a small business employing twenty people, there are some areas where it is absolutely vital to know what regulations apply to you and to make double sure you’re adhering to them. I have picked 3 areas where ignorance is not bliss and will cost you money (if not finish your business):
1. Know your Health and Safety
It may be seen as the scourge of modern society and the butt of endless jokes but the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) is here for a reason: to make sure people don’t get hurt (or worse) at work. Unbelievably 173 people died from work related accidents last year – you do not want to be one of them or, possibly worse, responsible for one of them.
Even if you are self-employed you still have responsibilities for people affected by your work. Likewise even if you run a low-risk business you still have to make health and safety arrangements. The bottom line is that getting health and safety right will save money, time, stress, lives and your business!
The basic checklist below is a good starting point and there is a wealth of free information to help you on the HSE website:
- Decide who will help with your duties: you might need help, if so make sure you get the right help.
- Write a Health & Safety policy for your business: this is a must if you have more than 5 employees – there is a free template on the HSE website.
- Manage the risks in your business: risk assessments must be written if you have more than 5 employees but they are good practice even if your business is just you.
- Consult your employees: listen and talk to staff to allow them to raise their concerns.
- Provide training and information: clear health & safety information must be provided to staff and training must be provided in how to work safely.
- Provide the right workplace facilities: welfare issues, health issues and safety issues must all be covered.
- First-aid, accidents and ill-health: first-aid box, training, accident book and RIDDOR – are you covered?
- Display the health and safety law poster: if you employ anyone this is a must.
- Get insurance for your business: if you employ anyone you will probably need Employer’s liability insurance.
- Keep up to date: keep your risk assessments and policies up to date and make sure you are following current regulations relevant to your industry.
2. Know Your Debt:
Most businesses have cash flow crises at some time or another. This especially applies to new businesses that may have to invest heavily in stock or equipment before obtaining any revenue. One in three businesses fail in their first three years due to poor control of cash flow and financial mismanagement.
What are the basics of good financial management?
- Record keeping: from pen and paper to proper accounting software – have a system that shows you where your business is financially at a glance.
- Have a schedule: have time set aside every week to manage your invoices and make any payments.
- Invoicing: if you send invoices out promptly you’re more likely to get paid promptly, simple!
But what if things were to become more serious? Know what your options are before debt becomes a problem. In the simplest terms this can mean having an overdraft arranged in advance thereby avoiding an unauthorised overdraft charge. It may be as easy as asking a local bookkeeper to cast their eye over your accounts.
Get expert help before it’s too late, there are so many options available: from assistance with debt management to advice on IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement), that will help your business avoid failure.
3. Know Your Employment Law:
Employees can be your finest asset, but if you get employment wrong it can go very wrong. From placing an advert for a job vacancy to making someone redundant it is possible to inadvertently fall foul of the law. It is essential that you do it correctly or you could end up at a tribunal or being sued.
If you have your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed from the beginning then hopefully employment of staff will be a positive progression for your business. Employment law changes all the time so in this situation there is no substitute for expert advice. The checklist below is meant as a general guide to help get you started:
- Check the potential employee is eligible to work in the UK;
- Get employer’s liability insurance;
- Check references, qualifications and obtain written record;
- Provide an up-to-date contract of employment (get expert help);
- Provide a formal job description;
- Have policies for (and stick to them!): health and safety; probation; discipline; grievances; redundancy; flexible working; discrimination; annual, parental, maternity, adoption and emergency leave; young people; termination of employment; and harassment and bullying;
- Seek advice from a solicitor or employment law specialist if you need to terminate employment to ensure you do it correctly;
Your business’ financial affairs, the staff you employ and the way you look after them are the cornerstones to a successful business. Get it right, keep on the right side of the law and watch your business grow!