For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.
Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.
It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.
Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.
Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.
Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.
Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.
Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.
Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.
It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.
Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.
Lack of funding is a key reason why many businesses fail to scale. If you can't access the right funding mix as and when you need it - you're unlikely to grow significantly.
After you've decided on a business growth strategy, you'll need to update your business plan. Your plan should detail your future financial needs. Seek input from trusted financial advisers to identify the cash flow implications of taking on additional debt.
Trying to achieve significant business growth brings its own cash flow challenges and you must be mindful of the risk of overtrading.
Once you know how much you need and when, you can explore your funding options. Some sources expect the business owner(s) to have invested, or be prepared to invest, their own money while reinvesting business profit.
Much depends on how much you need, but friends and family may be willing to invest in your business. They should only invest money they can afford to lose and everyone concerned should carefully consider the implications if things don't work out as planned. You should set out the terms of any loan or investment clearly with a signed agreement.
External investors will expect to see a sound business plan that reassures them that the business can be scaled up (the financials must be beyond question). Crucially, investors will want to know when they'll be able to exit, having made a tidy return on their investment.
Many ambitious small businesses seeking to grow will first speak to their bank about funding. Overdrafts and invoice finance are fine for short-term needs, but loans are better suited to bigger, longer-term objectives.
Business loans are generally taken out for a fixed period of between one and ten years, with repayments agreed in advance. If your bank turns down your loan application, you may be able to appeal. You may be able to find another lender via the Responsible Finance website.
You could be asked to provide security when taking out a business loan, and the assets you put up as security may be given a lower value than you expected. Alternatively, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme may provide a solution. It can be used to guarantee 75% of loans of between £1,000 and £1.2 million. The British Business Bank runs the scheme on behalf of the Government.
Business angels are usually highly successful entrepreneurs who invest in businesses with high-growth potential in return for a share in your business. Their experience, knowledge and contacts can prove invaluable to your business. Visit the UK Business Angels Association website to learn more.
Private equity could be more suitable if you need a significant sum (£2 million plus) and a management buy-out or buy-in is your growth strategy. According to the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (BVCA): "Private equity firms typically invest majority stakes in underperforming companies [with] potential for high growth. Growth is delivered by working with the company's management team to improve performance and strategic direction, making complimentary investments and driving operational improvements."
Venture capital firms invest: "In the seed (concept), start-up (within three years of the company's establishment) and early stages of development." The BVCA has produced a concise guide to private equity.
Alternative funding options include crowdfunding ("raising money from a large number of people all putting in relatively small amounts"). Peer-to-peer lending could be another possibility, via platforms such as Zopa, Funding Circle and RateSetter. Visit the Peer-to-Peer Finance Association website for more information. The Alternative Business Funding website provides a signpost to other non-bank sources of business finance.
Visit GOV.UK to find out about government-backed support and funding available in your area or sector. You may also identify local and national funding support available to your business via your local Growth Hub (ie local public/private sector partnerships in England often led by the Local Enterprise Partnership). Working with an approved independent UK broker could also help you to find the most favourable finance solution for your business. You may even be able to take advantage of R&D tax credits, so speak to your accountant.
The British Business Bank and ICAEW have published a business finance guide, which runs through the main equity and debt finance options for businesses that want to grow. Better Business Finance also "provides impartial information and support to businesses and entrepreneurs looking to grow". Set up in 2011 by Barclays, HSBC, RBS, Lloyds and Santander and managed by the British Bankers' Association, its website features an online finance tool to help small firms find funding solutions.