After working for several tech and e-commerce companies and big brands in the UK, it’s clear there are three indispensable items every business needs to check off its list before thinking of opening for business. There are numerous hurdles you will have to navigate, but here we’ve covered the bare, but absolute essentials that you cannot afford to overlook.
Have You Written a Business Plan?
It might seem a little old school, but it doesn’t matter how much industry experience and contacts you have, writing a business plan ensures not only you’ve done your homework, but that you’ve provisioned for every scenario. Business plans are essential for banks and investors too. Have you ever watched a Dragons’ Den episode, where the company presenting didn’t know its projected earnings or botched the figures? You probably laughed and said you wouldn’t make that mistake, but by not writing a business plan you are half way there.
Your business plan is your road map. The first year’s projected earnings are rarely accurate, but these projections are a good indicator of how close (or far) you are from achieving your goals. LSE is a great source of information for writing business plans for start-ups, covering everything from banks to intellectual property rights.
Have You Arranged the Right Cover?
Hopefully, you’ve covered this in the risk section of your Business Plan, but if you haven’t you need to arrange the proper insurance cover before launching your site. There are many business insurance options geared to e-commerce, from standard product liability to internet liability to cover data security breaches or business interruptions. You will also need transportation insurance to cover damaged goods during shipping. Most international couriers provide cover, but it is worth checking exceptions and their claim section before arranging enhanced cover.
If you produce your own products, you will need contents coverage to protect any items in warehouses, offices or workshops. Insurance can make or break a business, especially during the start-up phase. As you grow, you will need to take out further cover. Stay vigilant and consult solicitors when necessary. Don’t just think of consumer related incidents, try to see how third party incidents may impact your business like service disruptions from suppliers or tech providers.
Is Your Business Compliant?
Ensuring you are compliant is a minefield for any small business. While larger companies have entire departments dedicated to ensuring their operations remain compliant, start-ups simply cannot afford this cost. This means most of the pressure falls on business owners to keep up-to-date with UK, EU and international regulations.
E-commerce businesses need to ensure they are following UK law when accepting returns and giving refunds.There are other areas like VAT, tax, import and export duties to consider. For example, businesses shipping electronic devices with lithium batteries outside the UK will need to follow the guidelines for dangerous goods. If you plan to send goods abroad, you should look up customs restrictions and ensure you have the correct paperwork. Most couriers provide customs paperwork as part of their booking process, but it is also worthchecking the customs homepage of the destination country. Some goods require a special import/export licence like antiques over 50 years of age or precious metals. While ensuring your business is compliant may be time consuming in the short-term, it can save you time and money in the future as you may be able to apply for certain reliefs or tax breaks.
Simone Baret has worked in retail and tech for many years with top brands like Hobbs, W.H. Smith and Easy Taxi. She joined ParcelHero’s content team at the beginning of 2015 to share e-Commerce and international shipping tips for business owners around the world. She takes an active interest in the courier service industry as an American living abroad.