When SOC.OS spun out from BAE Systems, I had plenty of experience managing people, budgets and plans for large scale projects and programmes. I hadn’t, however, ever managed a business, and certainly hadn’t ever set one up. When starting a new business, there are many things to consider to ensure the smooth running of your new venture, as well as making sure you’re compliant with the relevant regulatory and legal requirements.
Whether or not you’re dedicated to the operation of the business, as a founder of a small business, you are still likely to end up wearing many hats, covering functional areas from HR, to finance, to sales operations as well as the day to day management.
This series of blogs will go some way to elaborate on the things you need to do, or keep in mind when establishing and running your business. It’s not meant as an exhaustive list, but will hopefully set you on the right path, coming from someone that’s been in the same shoes. It’s based on my experience in a venture capital funded B2B SaaS start-up, and compiled with a United Kingdom lens. The principles, however, should apply to other geographies and ventures.
In this first blog, I will talk about some of the fundamentals of setting up a business from an operational perspective. In subsequent blogs, I’ll dive in to detail of areas including financial management, human resources, sales operations and other responsibilities that come with being a COO in a start-up.
Getting started with your business
One of the first things you’re likely to have on your to do list is registering your company with Companies House. There’s plenty of guidance online around how to do this, so I won’t repeat it here. One thing to keep in mind when you set up your company - you’ll need to have a registered office address. You can, in the first instance, use your home address for this, but I’d advise utilising one of the many registered office address services available online. You can get help, for example, from an accountant or legal professional, to set up your business and make the appropriate filings with Companies House. It can be tricky to navigate the whole process, so this may take some of the pain away.
If you’re going to take a salary, or hire people in to your business, you’ll need to tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) by registering as an employer. There’s lots of useful guidance online around employing staff for the first time. If you’re going to be paying benefits and expenses through payroll, these can also be registered with HMRC.
If you expect the revenue of your business to go over a certain threshold (which currently stands at £85,000), you will also need to register your business for VAT with HMRC. Regardless of revenue, you’ll be required to register for Corporation Tax within three months of starting to do business.
You can register for both PAYE as an employer and Corporation Tax at the same time as registering with Companies House.
If you’re going to be taking revenue, receiving funding, payrolling or incurring costs, you’ll need a separate business bank account. There are plenty of options out there, so shop around for one that suits your requirements. You may also want to consider a separate business credit card, or getting one through your business banking provider .
If your business is going to process any type of personal information (including that of your employees), you will need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and pay an annual Data protection fee. There’s a wealth of information on your obligations as a business, relates to data protection, on the ICO website.
Finally, you may require a number of business insurances to enable you to manage your business risks. Only employer’s liability insurance is required by law, but you may want to consider other policies including, but not limited to; Public Liability, Professional Indemnity, Cyber, Travel, Contents and Key Person Insurance. I would also strongly recommend getting Directors’ and Officers’ Liability insurance for your founders or directors. You can shop around for these insurances, but I would recommend finding a good broker, who will do the leg work for you, for a small commission.
Getting started checklist
- Engage a Lawyer and/or Accountant to help you set up your business and support on an ongoing basis.
- Decide on your Registered Office Address and use a paid for service if required.
- Register your company with Companies House and make appropriate filings (you will also need to complete a confirmation statement on an annual basis).
- Register as an employer with HMRC, including payrolling of benefits and expenses.
- Register for Corporation tax.
- Register your business for VAT with HMRC.
- Set up Banking Services, and if required, business credit cards.
- Register with the ICO and pay your data protection fee.
- Get business insurances in place (Employer’s Liability is mandatory).