Starting a business in the New Forest?
Guidance and advice from local business experts based in the New Forest area.
There are more than 9,000 businesses in the New Forest, lots of them very small. Knowing many of them personally and given our own promoting and championing role at Lymington.com, we thought it might be helpful to publish this guide for those of you considering joining them!
How to deal with EVERYTHING!
Starting a business is exciting. Often a long-imagined dream, owning your business can however become overwhelming as the realisation of working at 'what you do' has to combine with the day-to-day management of the business and all the aspects involved.
“Without a doubt the hardest part of starting my own business has been having to deal with EVERYTHING - not just hair!” shared Andrew Twydell of Andrew David Hair, a new salon in Lyndhurst. “I now often feel more like a ‘project manager’ and in particular I’m so glad that I engaged someone early on to take care of my accounts and books, making sure that I was on top of all the legal deadlines.”
Most people start their own business because they are passionate about the venture they are about to embark on, but they are not always experts in the legal, financial and other aspects associated with running a business. It is important to consult experts and to outsource to them whenever possible in order to stay on top of things.
Often you might recognise you need assistance, but you're not sure who to consult or how to prioritise the growing list of 'things to do'. Let's therefore take a look at the most important elements.
Accounts and Legal Requirements
It is so important to know the legal requirements for starting a small business - and to consult an accountant right from the word go.
1) Talk to an accountant straight away
“The earlier we talk to clients in their journey, the better it is!” shared Liza Tillett of Cube Financial Business Solutions, who have assisted many clients in setting up their own businesses which are now highly successful and profitable.
“We like to be proactive and in regular contact throughout our clients' business journey, right from the start. All too often startups miss key deadlines and do not seek financial advice until it is too late and where fines may have been imposed.
“There can be a lot of red tape and hard work involved in setting up a business, which can be off putting. At Cube FBS, we remove the stress from technical considerations, allowing you to concentrate on other aspects of your business.”
Talk to your accountant about your new business ideas and they will be able to help you with the following:
- Advice on structuring your business and the pros, cons and tax differences of the different business types (sole trader/partnership or Limited Company)
- Set up appropriate accounting systems tailored to your business
- Keeping to legal deadlines
- Incorporating the company, not just your standard off the shelf variety, but with due care and attention given to setting up different share classes (as start-ups are often cash poor)
- Opening a business bank account
- VAT advice and applying for VAT registration
- Opening and set up a payroll scheme and auto-enrolment
- Registering with HMRC for taxes (dependent on business structure)
- Corporate tax planning and compliance
- Company secretarial duties
2) Use a Cloud Accounting System
“We also recommend investing in financial systems at the beginning of trading”, continued Liza. “Our team has expert knowledge of a wide range of Cloud Accounting Systems and we aim to find the best system to suit your individual business requirements.”
Cloud Accounting is internet based accounting software, allowing you to keep track of your finances whenever and wherever you are. It can be accessed from your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet and will integrate with a wide range of software. It allows for multiple user access, with varying levels of permissions, providing a secure and accurate way to manage your finances.
“Maintaining an accurate, up to date record of your firm’s finances is essential to its success” says Noony Prosser, bookkeeper at Cube FBS. “In our experience clients are often unaware of the amount of administration, accounting and bookkeeping involved when starting a new business to avoid future problems.”
Contact Cube FBS for a free initial consultation. Evening and weekend appointments are available.
3) Keep on top of the law
As well as accounting legalities, there are likely to be other legal requirements for your business, for example relating to HR and employment - and even data protection regulation.
The team at Lester Aldridge Solicitors has a wealth of experience and can advise you on all areas of commercial and company law.
Marketing and PR
In the same way as your accounts, you should consider your brand and marketing early in the set up stage, and it helps to consult a marketing professional.
"All too often new business owners consider their brand, marketing and communications in a piecemeal fashion, tending to dabble at things without a plan and without a budget," said Jane Porter of Bartley Marketing. "Engaging a marketing professional in the early stages can save you precious time and money, since you'll you have a framework for how to put your best foot forward."
1) Start with a plan and identify a budget
Whilst a business plan helps define the direction for your company, a marketing plan will help your business understand how to get there and sets out how you are going to put your brand and marketing strategy into practice. It should become an ongoing control mechanism, providing the framework for you to assess and evaluate all the opportunities sent your way inviting you to spend money on advertising and other promotion during the year.
There’s a process to building a marketing plan, which includes firstly considering all elements of branding (personality, proposition, premises and experience - it's not just about your logo!). Thereafter examining the products and services you offer within an ever-evolving marketplace and competitive environment. A detailed examination of customers and prospects to refine your target market and an honest appraisal of your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT), are other key components of a marketing plan.
Objectivity in conducting this process often results in the identification of new markets and opportunities, and especially in the crystallisation of the competitive “promise” of a business. This is where New Forest based Bartley Marketing comes in - their skills and experience can save you precious time and because they're not emotionally involved in your business they can be more detached and objective about your SWOT and recommendations.
2) Set up your business correctly online
Consider carefully how your business should appear online. Your online platform should be consistent in terms of messages, with well-written content and relevant images.
See your website as your 'online brochure,' reflecting your brand identity and providing a quick and effortless way for potential clients to find out more about your business. It is possible to build a simple website yourself, however given everything else on your plate it is worth outsourcing to the experts. Bartley Marketing work with a number of web designers and can tailor a solution to fit your requirements and your budget.
If budgets are really tight initially then consider a Business Webpage on Lymington.com (which covers the whole New Forest area) rather than a website (here's an example).
Even if you have a website, having a presence on other well-respected websites can help your search results - especially in the early days when your website is still deemed to be 'new' by search engines. But beware anyone offering you "paid links" and other "Black Hat SEO" techniques - search engines have wised up and will penalise your website. If you are local to the New Forest, take up Annual Membership of Lymington.com (just £150 per year plus £150 set up - find out more here) which includes a Business Webpage plus feature article for Google Alerts, plus recommendation and promotional exposure on social media channels and direct marketing.
Once you have an online presence, set up Google My Business and ensure you complete verification to make sure your business appears on Google Maps. If you have business premises to show off, consider a 360° ‘virtual tour’ which is perfect for getting you noticed online. It displays on desktop and mobile devices, including the use of interactive information points, navigation options such as floor plans and bespoke design with high quality photography. Your business will be presented at its best, with interactive imagery displayed on Google Search and Google Maps and can be integrated in your website and social media too. (Take a look at this great See Inside at The Haven Restaurant)
4) Sort out social media
Your marketing plan will identify which social media platforms (if any) should be used to best reach your target market. Even if you are competent on social media as an individual, consider assistance with setting up your business platforms and social media training. Managing multiple platforms properly can be very time-consuming and it is therefore better to focus your efforts on one platform initially and/or consider outsourcing your social media management.
5) Other start up marketing considerations
Your marketing plan should highlight and prioritize other marketing and PR recommendations, including:
- Traditional press and PR or 'free publicity' is a hugely powerful weapon in your arsenal. It may help to get assistance with copywriting press releases, marketing and PR professionals will be experienced at writing articles in a way that press and other media will desire.
- Once your brand identity has been developed, you'll need to consider promotional material. In the first instance invest in business cards.
- Start building a GDPR compliant database as soon as you start business. (For advice on GDPR consult Mark Gracey at the Digital Compliance Hub.) This could be done very effectively in a spreadsheet or workbook initially until you have the budget for a database package. Remember to keep details for all your prospective customers as well as your clients.
- Keep in touch with your clients via email. As your business grows you're likely to need a bulk email package.
- Seek recommendation: ask your clients to provide a Google review
Networking can help you become more visible to the right people. Through your contacts, you can gradually become that one person that "knows everyone", and is asked to make introductions or provide insight on clients, associates and even competitors.
In the New Forest area there are a number of really useful networking opportunities. Keep an eye on the Business and Networking Events section of our Events Calendar. We recommend in the first instance the following groups:
1) Lymington & District Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LDCCI)
LDCCI was founded in 1952 to facilitate business in Lymington and the surrounding area, and it is still going strong! The Chamber holds regular networking meetings where local businesses and professionals can meet informally to discuss matters of common interest and to explore and deepen local business relationships. Monthly Business Networking Breakfasts are held at locations throughout the area on the third Thursday of each month. Find more information here.
2) New Forest Business Partnership (NFBP)
NFBP provides business support in the New Forest, fuelling economic growth by advancing relations between local business and local government and building business-to-business relationships. NFBP activities and events bring businesses together across every business sector and area of the New Forest, and include regular networking, training and the annual Brilliance in Business Awards. All events are open to members and non-members. Find more information here.
3) Forest Entrepreneurs
With more and more people working from home or sharing offices, you may need to hold meetings, conferences or presentations at an external venue. We recommend the following local venues, that you have perhaps not yet discovered:
Tilefield Equestrian, Brockenhurst
The indoor facilities at Tilefield Equestrian are perfect for meetings, training courses and small conferences. Both the meeting room and the reception room offer flexible seating arrangements, with or without tables, enabling you to organise the facility for your precise requirements. The rooms have wi-fi and heating throughout, there is a screen and HDMI connection, flip chart and white board. Find out more here, including contact details.
A host of New Forest hotels provide businesses with meeting rooms and conference facilities. Take a look in the Business Section of our Directory, which includes hotels and other providers catering for business users.
Weekly What's On from Lymington.com
Every Friday we email our FREE Weekly What's On detailing detailing what's on in the New Forest and Lymington area, including many community events which are free of charge (or low charge).
Subscribe free of charge to receive the Weekly What's On from Lymington.com below. You can also follow us on Facebook (Lymington Hampshire), Twitter (@lymingtondotcom) and Instagram (@lymingtondotcom)
In addition, our Events Calendar details what's on locally all year round - and there are new events added every day! Plus this summer take a look at our guide to What's On over the Summer Holidays...