There has really never been a better time to start your own business. Thanks to Government initiatives, start-up communities and entrepreneur networks there is a smorgasbord of information available to surf your way through.
Places such as your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) have developed courses and programmes to take you from the ideas board to having your product on the shelf, you no longer need to have a background in business to set up your own, you can just learn as you go.
If you have created an innovation and feel that you want to put the business wheels into action we’ve set out a step-by-step strategy taking in the practicalities of getting your business up and running.
First you must decide if you are registering as a sole trader, partnership or company. Registering as a sole trader means the business is completely in your hands, you are the decision-maker and is often the choice if you intend trading as a small business.
If your innovation has much bigger potential, registering as a partnership or limited company is suggested.
"Legally the structure could be that one could be a sole trader or could form a limited company or if they are doing it in partnership it could be that there is a partnership formed or again a limited company of which the partners become directors and shareholders. That structure needs to be decided ideally at the onset. If you are a sole trader it's a case of registering that, or if it's a limited company it's forming a limited company and then registering with the Revenue Commissioners and having the various Companies Registration Office (CRO) and tax numbers that go with that, says Thomas McEvoy, head of enterprise at LEO Louth.
The company is registered for tax via revenue.ie.
Once the company has been registered, the business name needs to be registered with the CRO within a month of adopting the business name. All forms and information are on cro.ie.
"The VAT registration will probably happen around the time you register the company," says Gerry Delaney, managing director of Kendlebell. "This is where you would take tax advice as to when you would need to register. Generally you wouldn't register for VAT until you are starting to spend money or receive in money, normally you start to spend money first in a business. Once you start to spend, if you've got expenses or have VAT you want to reclaim, then you need to start looking at it at that stage."
You can register for VAT yourself through Revenue's Online Services (ros.ie) or you can enlist the help of a tax agent, someone who is registered to provide tax services to the public.
If you used a tax agent then you are more than likely already availing of the professional services of an accountant but if you did that stage alone then your next port of call is to get one in your sights.
“In my opinion, and my experience, a start-up business generally goes to two people: they go to an accountant and they go to a bank manager because to run a business you have to have a bank account,” says Marc O’Dwyer, chief executive of Big Red Cloud.
“In a lot of cases the banks have relationships with accountants and the start-up may already have a relationship with an accountant if they registered their business. The smaller accountants around the country are the ones to go to, not necessarily the big four or five. You don’t need to be paying a huge amount of money for these. You really are at the early stages, so you just need a little bit of advice, a couple of hours initially.
“We are biased but our advice would be to get a computerised accounting system from the very start. In the background your accountant, if your revenues get up to a certain level, will help you do your annual return but computerised accounting systems like ours will automatically do that for you as well.”
It’s important when you are hiring professional services that they understand your business. Some accountancy firms specialise in certain areas, so it’s worth shopping around.
“The legal advice is an important side – obviously, around patents and trademarks, you might need to talk to a specialist firm that looks after intellectual property,” says Delaney.
If you have invented something you want to develop into a business, then getting the invention patented is a must. Protecting your intellectual property (IP) involves trademarks and registration of designs, so finding a law firm that will not only help you to protect your IP but also understands your type of business is imperative.
"If you believe you have something truly unique with a deep level of innovation it is imperative that you protect it from being copied," says Niall McEvoy of Enterprise Ireland. "For example, a lot of innovation has been spinning out of universities where deep research has been done. A lot of that stuff would have significant intellectual property wrapped around it."
If you are going to be dealing with shares in your company then this will also require a lawyer with a solid understanding of corporate law. Fellow entrepreneurs in your field may be able to offer advice on who to deal with.
Owning or renting office space is not a necessity. If you’re a start-up looking to move from the kitchen table or leave the solitude of a home office, this is possible to do at a relatively low cost.
You can register your business to your home address and avail of the many floating desks or hot desks that have been set up by business communities around the country. For example, Bank of Ireland provides a free workspace/hot desk facility in five of its main branches – three in Dublin, one in Cork and one in Limerick.
If you are looking to get involved in a community then obtaining a co-working desk or office space in the many co-working spaces around the country can enable you to travel with work or just get involved with many of the entrepreneur communities built by Irish start-ups. A list of these can be found on coworking.ie.
Once you have registered your business and have been given a tax reference number you can register yourself as an employer through ros.ie. Depending on how many staff you are considering employing and how well you can deal with book-keeping, this would be the time to research payroll software, book-keepers and employers' liability insurance.
"The Revenue have brought in a new system called PAYE Modernisation and if you intend to employ somebody, or indeed pay yourself, the moment you pay somebody or yourself, whether it's weekly or monthly, you need to upload the information immediately to Revenue. Now, that's going to be a laborious and time-consuming task if you do it manually but a payroll package, like the one that we do at Big Red Book, does that automatically for you," says O'Dywer.
“The new real-time reporting regime will be operational for all employee payments being made from 1 January 2019. Employers, agents and payroll providers will need to review their business processes and practices so they meet the new requirements,” according to Revenue.ie.
There is ample advice that you can avail from on how to set up you own business online but if you feel that your still unsure if you are more innovator than business owner, contact your Local Enterprise Office and enrol on their start-your-own-business programmes – you never know where it might lead you.