GUEST BLOG: The legal curse of running a small business in London

Running a small business in London can be a battle at the best of times, particularly in terms of managing your own time as it is one of the most valuable resources in the company. You need things done correctly, you can't do them all yourself, and you don't want to be distracted by things you shouldn't have to worry about.

I should know, as COO/CFO of the number one hosted website builder in the UK, We're a DIY website builder for consumers and small businesses to share their passions online, based in central London.

Legislation affecting your business can seem like one of those extra things you just shouldn't have to worry about, but it is real and does matter. Some of it is a real pain, some of it is good discipline with real benefits.

The main kinds of legislation that affect the running of your business are:

  • Employment law: essentially, this concerns the relationship between you and your employees. From payment rights to varying types of discrimination.
  • Consumer protection: this looks to ensure that consumers are treated fairly by businesses and to ensure product quality is satisfactory.
  • Tax and regulations: anything from payroll taxes, VAT and corporation tax, to filing accounts and statutory documents.

It's your responsibility as a business owner to make sure you take notice of all these things. But this doesn't mean you have to do it all yourself.

My first piece of advice would be to make sure you have an accountant who is looking out for the day to day stuff, particularly payroll and taxes. The revenue aren't particularly sympathetic to people who pay incorrect tax and a competent accountant will make sure you do. It is an additonal outgoing but - trust me - accountants are worth their weight in gold.

On the legal and employment side of things, treat people fairly, with respect, and you'll be okay in most cases. If you find yourself in a tricky situation, then take advice. There are several business services that will offer standard contracts and process documents (e.g. dismissal), so you can use these to save money. Smarta offers a business software bundle that includes legal and accounting software, so that can be helpful here.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to do something for fear of regulation or concern that it's all too complicated. Seek to do things the right way and take advice if you're unsure, but don't get paralysed. Most government agencies want you to succeed and will work with you to help you comply, even if it's tidying up after the event!

Some laws can even lead to a benefit for your business. Understanding that EU law requires us to give customers a 60 day right of refund for digital purchases has allowed us to promote this effective 60 day money back guarantee to our customers - to their delight! So it's not all bad :-)

Further reading:

FREE Business Briefing: How to interview

The Comply or Die ebook

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