Go on, search online for “setting up a business” and you’ll discover pretty quickly that the internet is everyone’s worst best friend. There are dozens of pages (even from gov.au websites) which are confusing, onerous and don’t help businesses at ALL, who are just looking for a clear set of instructions on how to actually get started.
Well, this article is going to try but probably not completely succeed. You see, setting up a business is like creating another child, a mouth to feed which will require almost constant attention, nurturing, love, and to some extent feeding.
Like kids each one is unique and like babies doesn’t come with a set of instructions; no matter how hard government agencies of all persuasions try to convince us. Setting up is a lot like a business plan – I could write pages and pages of How To…
So, let’s tackle just one aspect of setting up a small business; The Admin Setup process.
Unlike design, HR or marketing, admin is relatively clear-cut and can be broken down into bullet points (my favourite type), so here are some top tips when setting up a business, Admin style.
Register… in lots of places
Ok, you’ve thought of a great name, right? Well, before you launch into logo design get your ducks lined up and tick all these availability boxes. Top tip? Avoid Google Ads (where you’re guaranteed to pay more and be up-sold) and head straight for the government websites.
Register with ASIC
First step is to register your business name and luckily a few years ago the Australian Government deemed it useful (duh) to centralise the business name register. So now instead of searching every state and territory to make sure your name isn’t taken, you can register here: ASIC for Business. Follow the steps carefully – Firstly, of course, is to check your name isn’t taken – and better still check a similar name isn’t taken which is in the same category as yours.
Trademark your business name with IP Australia
Many businesses do not realise that just because they’ve registered their business name with ASIC does NOT mean they have trademarked that name. You can register a business name a still receive a cease and desist letter, halting all trading because your name conflicted with another trademarked entity.It is a good idea to check the name isn’t trademarked here: IP Australia Trademarks
Get an ABN
This is an Australian Business Number and you must have one if you are conducting business in Australia. You can register here: ABN Registration. It’s not as straightforward as it used to be. You need to complete a declaration and must be conducting a legitimate form of business. You don’t need to be a company- A sole trader can also register for an ABN and begin conducting business.If you think you’ve registered for an ABN before, check to see that it’s not cancelled before starting a trade. And remember registering for an ABN doesn’t mean you’re registered for GST.
Set up a business website
There are lots of places you can purchase a website domain from, so shop around. They all function the same way but be aware that sometimes searching for the availability can actually push the price up, however using a local IT provider can help keep the cost down. Did you know the .com websites can actually be cheaper than .com.au domains? Have a think about whether you want to register both or all of them! Lots of domain extensions were released by the powers that be a couple of years ago and now you can literally hoard them if you wish.
Research, research, research
Make sure you check if any competitors have a similar name and while you’re at it check out their websites, you can pick up some great tips and avoid looking too similar to their online presence.And ensure to look for that chosen name in dodgy places online – you know what I mean.
Surround yourself with good people.
Good bookkeepers, accountants, legal team and HR advisors make the small business world go ‘round’ so find yourself good advisors to help grow your business. You might not need one straight away, but you are likely to when you’re really busy focussing on your clients. When you have the time, ask for referrals from family or small business colleagues, visit your local chamber of commerce, meet with specialists in their fields and those who are familiar with your industry and who understand your business.
It is important for you to be able to trust and talk openly to them and build those relationships, however be aware in many instances as a small business owner, the responsibility for the business decisions you make (with or without their professional advice) rests with you.
Choose the right structure
Many businesses when they start, begin life as a sole trader. Apart from setting your accounts right, a good accountant should advise on the best structure for you and your business. A good idea is to talk to an accountant before you start trading, and (being a bookkeeper this was always going to be important here) open up separate bank accounts for your business (even if they are in your name), making life a lot easier when getting your bookkeeping under control!
Lastly, remember this journey isn’t easy but like good kids (or a fine wine) it will improve with age.