Adventures In Micro-Business: Franchises, tax and enabling the disabled

Each month Professor Russell Smith answers your queries, and profiles a small business facing a big challenge
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Q. I am a disabled person with restricted mobility following a car accident. How realistic would it be for me to start my own business working from home and where do I start?

A. This is a very realistic proposition but the key to success will be careful research regarding what you intend to offer as your product or service. I recommend that you contact the Association of Disabled Professionals (01204 431638) and take a look at the information on their website (www.adp.org.uk). The Business Link website (www.businesslink.gov.uk) is another fantastic resource - enter your postcode on their home page to find the contact details of your local office.

Q. Recently, an opportunity has arisen for me to sell products to customers overseas. Bluntly, I'm nervous about getting paid but I don't want to lose out on these sales. What should I do?

A. You should at least carry out a credit check on these potential new customers. The UK Trade and Investment international trade teams can help with this via their Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS). Visit their website (www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk) for further information about the support available to you.

Q. I have been self-employed for some time and now intend to take on my first employee. Can you suggest a source of good advice about the taxation issues involved please?

A. HM Revenue & Customs provide a straightforward guide to taking on a new employee from their website (www.hmrc.gov.uk) and you should read that first. Having said that, I would strongly recommend that you get your accountant to handle "payroll" calculations and to deal with the tax office on your behalf. Most accountants offer this service and it is invariably cost-effective. However, taxation is only one aspect of employment and, as an employer, you will need to ensure compliance with a wide range of laws. The Business Link website (www.businesslink.gov.uk) has a good range of material available under the "Employing People" section that you should also be aware of.

Q.. My small business is now in its third year and my accountant has advised me to review insurance provision. How do I decide what is appropriate for my business?

A. Start by reading through the useful glossary of insurance terms on the British Insurance Brokers' Association website (www.biba.org.uk) since there is a bewildering array of business insurance available. Then arrange to speak with an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) who will be able to advise on insurance relevant to your business from any source rather than just products from a single insurance company.

Q. I would like to run a business with my partner but we are both nervous about starting something from scratch. Could you offer advice on franchise businesses please?

AA franchise business is one where you pay to acquire the tools and training needed to replicate a business that has been proven to be successful elsewhere (see page VII). Franchise packages usually offer the franchisee ongoing support such as supplying any materials needed and customer contact lists. The best place to start looking for business franchise opportunities is by visiting the British Franchise Association website (www.thebfa.org).

QUESTIONS PLEASE

Send your questions to Professor Russell Smith at ios@businessboffins.com

Answers are for the general guidance of owner-managers only; always seek professional advice. Professor Smith is the founder of Oxford-based Business Boffins Ltd which, in collaboration with Oxford Brookes University Business School, delivers sustainability support programmes to small businesses nationwide. Independent on Sunday readers can enrol on the university-accredited programme at a discounted rate. For details, see: www.businessboffins.com/ios

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