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NOW CLOSED: Are you a Business Owner or thinking about starting one? Please share your top tips & advice - you could win a £250 Amazon voucher

(101 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 12-Oct-12 12:15:30

We've been asked by the team at Barclays to put the call out for all of you who own your own business or who are thinking about starting one - your business could be still a dream, in its infancy or all grown up and thriving.

Barclays would like to know:

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)
~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others
~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do

Please share your thoughts on this thread (it doesn't need to have a financial angle) and you'll be entered into a prize draw where one MNer will win a £250 Amazon voucher.

Please note your tips and advice (without MN name) may well be used on the Barclays pages on Mumsnet or in an email out to members.

thanks and good luck

ICutMyFootOnOccamsRazor Sun 14-Oct-12 16:20:20

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)

I wish I'd had more of a step by step guide. E.g. in what order to do things like bank accounts, incorporation, premesis etc. I very much felt like I was muddling through at the beginning. A checklist of things to consider would have been great.

~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others

I wish I'd really understood that it makes a massive difference to have formalised company accounting systems from the start. It gets very messy if money is coming out of personal accounts and reciepts and invoices are kept in a drawer.

~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do

I'd say try to treat your business from the start as if it will one day be large and potentially complex. You'll save so many headaches later on if the basic systems have been in place from the start. In terms of operating procedures, ad hoc is not your friend.

APombearsPicnic Sun 14-Oct-12 18:00:48

I have a small business that I run from home along with my job. My top tip would be to don't assume anything! If you do, you may find money coming in late and bills arriving early! It is worth having money set aside in case anything like this does happen. Also, as a PP has commented, don't be too cliche about who will benefit from your product or service. The best lines of interest may come from the most unusual of places! Another tip would be to make bridges with buisnesses of a similar area of yours. They may be able to offer relevant info about the Area of business you are going into that people from outside might not know. My final point is to look after yourself - you are the heart of the Buisness. Don't be afraid to ask for help and take time out if you need too! Good Luck - it is Fab once everything is up and running! smile

Shakey1500 Sun 14-Oct-12 20:22:06

Going to post a negative (of sorts)

My tip would be know when to give up. Whilst it's true that many successful entrepeneurs (Richard Branson, Peter Jones to name two) lost everything in the early days yet still went on to be highly successful, it's not true for every business.

DH and I were passionate about our idea (still are), we ploughed a lot of money into it. But we quite simply didn't have the right/enough business skills for it to be successful. When it came down to either remortgaging the house or giving up the business, we realised that it still wouldn't be enough and let it go. It was absolutely the right descision. It's easy to get swept away and think that your idea is THE one that will revolutionise the industry, that it's a sure fire winner. Most of the time it isn't. And realising when to get out before going under is important.

Lavenderhoney Sun 14-Oct-12 20:38:21

Advice- realise people at hmrc and business link are very helpful and want you to well and understand your issues. You don't need an accountant. Go on a book keeping course. try to do it from home to keep costs down at first. Pick a bank with no charges in the first year.
Known- everyone knows someone who might be a client. Say you are at home with the kids and you will get back later, people are fine as long as you do! Get involved in new technology fast, like social media. Totally keep an eye on your competitors.
Top tips. Spend as little as possible. Think outside the box. Get back to customers ASAP. Love what you do.
Don't treat the company as a bran tub. Strategise the next few months always. Ignore people who say you can't do it. If its a mistake, roll it up fast, and move on.

prettybird Sun 14-Oct-12 20:47:49

Some good tips here.

My question (so not really a tip per se) is how do you bilious the confidence to take the jump and do it ?

Or is it a case of JUST DO IT?!

I know all the theory of how to put together business plans and put together marketing strategies (product, price, place, promotion), have an idea of what I could do (and enjoy) even though it would only be small scale, but am just scared to take that final step.

Further to Shakey - if you go for finance, the bank will be most interested in your exit strategy. It is THE most important part of your business plan...

skyebluesapphire Sun 14-Oct-12 22:50:15

speaking as an accountant, with regard to the advice above that you dont need an accountant........ if you dont use one, then make sure that you know all the rules on what you can claim and what you cant. If you dont claim your capital allowances correctly, it could actually cost you more in tax than you would pay your accountant. Doing a bookkeeping course does not make you an accountant.

Also, another tip, if you are in business and struggling to pay vat or tax, please do ring HMRC. They are very helpful and prefer it if you are honest with them, rather than stick your head in the sand and hope it will all go away.

Get business cards printed cheaply and hand them out to as many people as possible. Its a very good way of cheap advertising. Vista print are cheap, but ensure that you do not tick any boxes for "special offers" as they will take money from you each month.....

One question I have been wondering is:
At what point does a business idea turn into a business?
My new business is in that in-between stage. I have a FB following, email, business phone, web domain, logo, business cards are being printed, all sounding very businessy so far, but I have no paid bookings yet, so with no paying customers, can I be said to be "in business"?
I need to register with HMRC as self employed, but I'm not sure how to answer when they ask the start date of the business.

PurpleGeekyGirl Mon 15-Oct-12 07:10:08

I am in the throes of setting up my own business (a cafe). We are modeling what we think we will sell and the outcomes are sobering. The coffee boys books are fab for advice and making you think about the hard bits as well as the exciting bits. The hardest decision I have to make is location... I simply have no idea where would be best (we can relocate anywhere in the uk). So, where would you like a child friendly, exceptionally good, exquisite cake selling cafe to be located?!

purple if you're after the middle class, SAHM set, I'd say Cheshire, or Edinburgh suburbs if you want the "ladies wot lunch", but you'll need a good USP as the coffee shop idea is well exploited, certainly near me.

ChippingInLovesAutumn Mon 15-Oct-12 09:45:42

Purple - outside my front door??

Actually, I will send you a PM as we are dreadfully short of that sort of thing locally! It's what I'd do if I could face a business in food/drinks - which I can't!

skyebluesapphire Mon 15-Oct-12 10:01:27

in my spare time. If you have everything ready to go then you are in business. You need to register within three months, so pick a date, say 1 September or something and tell them. You can include oretrading expenses prior to that date. You need to do form CWF1 which you can find online. A sensible year end would be 5 April. Your first year does not need to be a whole year.

skyebluesapphire Mon 15-Oct-12 10:02:07

*oretrading should be pretrading!

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 15-Oct-12 10:52:38

Thanks for all the amazing tips and advice so far - do keep them coming!

skyebluesapphire Mon 15-Oct-12 11:41:46

Also, shop around for bank accounts. I have an online bank account with HSBC for which I pay no charges as long as I stay within certain limits. So if your transactions are mainly online, go for an account that is free. If you bank lots of cheques or cash, or write out lots of cheques, then go for the bank with the lowest fee per item.

However Online Banking is the way forward and the cheapest way of banking.

WooSuzy Mon 15-Oct-12 15:51:45

My advice would echo D Trump's - always take the money when you are offered - it will invariably be when you don't need it. Try getting money when you do!!!

ParsleyTheLioness Tue 16-Oct-12 07:45:02

Help on putting together a business plan would have been useful, and enabled me to see cash flow forecast etc.
I wish I had known how difficult it would be just to motivate myself to keep going. My business does not have an immediate return on investment of time (I make handbags) so I do not see the work=pay equasion at the month end necessarily. It obviously depends on how much I sell during the month. Also, that as a one-woman band, it was not enough just to be good at designing and making handbags. I would have to take time out to source components, research them, try out ideas which ulitmately would not work, produce all my own marketing literature, computerise the invoicing system, and get well out of my comfort zone when pitching to a possible outlet for my work.
Tips would be to be disciplined! Fill out time sheets, and have a minimum hours to do per week. Keep going. Keep abreast of the market for your product and the competitin. Use free social media like Twitter and Facebook.

You don't actually have to register within 3 months now - they changed the rules (I had a major panic as my business had taken off so quickly I had forgotten to do that, when I suddenly realised it was 11 weeks in). The rules are different - something like by September? Don't take my word for it, but if for some reason it's past 3 months and you haven't registered don't panic just ring them and ask (I did, and they were helpful).

foolingwithmisskitty Tue 16-Oct-12 09:22:56

I started my own childminding business in February 2011.

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business) - Advice about the market - how much should I charge? Where should I advertise? How should I word contracts?

~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others - How valuable my business is. In my first contract negotiations I sold myself short because I was so desperate to get work.

~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do - Get talking to people who have built up successful businesses in your area. Other childminders were happy to share advice and tips. Talking to them ensured I set my fees at reasonable rates. I increase my fees yearly as everything goes up so it's necessary to maintain my business. Don't sell yourself short - make sure your prices are viable for you to run a business that works for you.

I've been running my own business for nearly 8 years now <yikes> and am currently in discussions as to whether to move from being a sole trader to a Ltd company/partnership.

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)

When I started: as others have said, checksheet type advice would have been helpful. I found it relatively easy to get the legal stuff going, but things like "best ways to get up a cheap website" would have been handy. In my situation now, I need to find someone who can sit me down and explain the differences between sole trader & Ltd in detail - and the cost implications of each. I've accessed this, so now need someone to help me work out how to organise a partnership/payment systems...

~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others

The key think I wish I'd done in the early days was make the most of my network! I had a great network, and out of politeness, really, didn't approach them. Wish I'd been less polite grin

~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do

- keep a tight rein on costs. It's hard to get me to spend money!
- keep money back for your tax bills - get a separate account & put it striaght in when your invoices are paid
- find good, active networks - mine is national rather than local, & is totally invaluable in sharing resources and ideas.

- assume you need a separate workspace - had one for years, now use the kitchen table and am much happier

cherryjellow Tue 16-Oct-12 16:49:13

Something that I have chatted to people in business is location is a massive deal. You don't want to go into a saturated area with a business, especially with a product that is saturated! Really do your research in this area before starting up smile

HoneyDragon Tue 16-Oct-12 17:28:14

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)
Advise on insurance and protection for working from home would've been good, it's not terribly easy to come by. Couldn't get a straight answer.

~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others
That banks really really like to waste your time.

~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do
Face book is a useful tool you get to know other local businesses and it is a really fast way to get advertising via word of mouth. Join local groups and muck in with free advise and you'll reap dividends.

toffeefee Tue 16-Oct-12 17:47:47

Something that I have had to work very hard at with my own business is that you cannot be shy!! You have to get out there and talk to people, sell your wares and push yourself, otherwise people don't know that you are there! This aspect of business was much harder for me to get my head round than any of the legal stuff, an one that I am still working on, but it makes a huge difference!

StellaMarie Tue 16-Oct-12 18:02:02

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)
One of the things I worried about most was tax and dealing with HMRC, I struggled to find clear, basic information and was unsure where to turn for the advice when I first started my business. I still worry about HMRC but have faith in my accountant!
~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others
How to network, lots of people say it's easy but having that confidence to tell everyone what you do and how good it is takes skill and determination.
~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do
Time management is key to success in many areas. Whether it's responding to enquires in a timely manner, being prepared for meetings or production deadlines, or simply knowing when to stop and take a break. Overworking can be counterproductive to both your business and personal relationships. Close the door on the office and take time out, this will ensure that you come back to it refreshed!

PosieParker Tue 16-Oct-12 18:05:13

I am a photographer, I have done lots of jobs for free which have lead to paid work. I attend networking events that have given brilliant leads. No job is too small.

I would like more info on tax.

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