How to set up and run a small business

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If Alexander Armstrong gave 100 business owners 100 seconds to name words describing the kind of boss they are, the chances are, “cruel” would be a pointless answer.

But some of the 100 would be wrong. Why? Because many well-intentioned business owners continue to employ some members of staff who, because of their results and/or attitude, quite simply shouldn’t be there.

Here, HR expert and author of Fire Well, Sue Ingram, explains to ByteStart how a small business owner should deal with problem staff and how letting an employee go, can be the most considerate action an employer can take;



Being a business owner, and your own boss, is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life, but it can come with some drawbacks such as long hours, stress and a poor work/life balance.

If you’re running your own business and want to stay on top of your game for the long-term, you need to look at the way you integrate work into your life. If you work too hard, you can run yourself into the ground and actually end up damaging the business, you so desperately want to succeed.

So here are 9 thing you can do to help strike the right work/life balance while running your own business; Continue…


If you decide to recruit your first employee for your small business, one of your legal obligations is to present all staff members with a written statement of employment particulars.


When a member of your staff takes a holiday, do you feel like you’re the one having a break? While they’re away, does your time at work feel less stressed? Do things run more smoothly? Is being at work just more enjoyable? And does the workplace in general seem lighter? Do the people around you seem more contented, even though they’re taking on the workload of their vacationing associate?


That can’t be right.

Well it’s not. And you need to do something about it. Otherwise, you’re effectively paying someone to sabotage your business. But how do you fix it? Continue…


Working is a balancing act. Whether its deadlines or internal demands, we all have plates to spin. This is particularly so in small businesses where there are fewer resources to draw on when the pressure is on.

Being busy at work is the norm for most of us, and often leads to an imbalance between work and life. Letting this equilibrium tip more towards work is not good for our wellbeing and can have negative effects on health and performance at work.

With recent news reporting that 40% of employees are suffering from “brownout”, a milder form of burnout, and are consequently disengaged and demotivated at work, businesses need to think how they can get the best out of employees, including allowing them to re-energise themselves. Continue…


One of the big problems for businesses today is that fewer than 20% of employees are fully engaged at work. This is, of course, a huge waste; for the individual, the team and the company.

As a company, you pay for 100% of employees agreed work time. If your employees are not fully engaged, this means you are only getting a small part of their paid-for capability – and they are not fully valuing their own time.

So how can you improve employee engagement in your business and what benefits will it bring?


A recent survey by the Institute of Leadership and Management (iLM) suggested more than a third of UK workers (37%) were hoping to leave their current job inside 12 months, and that a quarter of people planning to change jobs were doing so because they felt underappreciated by their current employer.

Other studies have shown that many UK employees feel undervalued at work and often it’s the small things that count. Last year recruitment website found 58% of British workers don’t believe employees are thanked enough in the workplace, with 54% saying this left them feeling unappreciated and 41% feeling demotivated as a result.

So what can small business owners do to help ensure staff are motivated to do a good job and want to stay with you for the long-term? Continue…


In an increasingly competitive business world, nurturing your existing staff can help you avoid a high turnover rate. If you’re constantly losing employees you find yourself spending a lot of valuable time training new staff, but not reaping the rewards down the line.

In any small or start-up business, one of the most important aspects is to find the right staff for the company. Employees need to be a good fit for any business, and in a start-up environment staff need to have the drive, innovation and determination to ensure that they make any venture a success.

While training may be a big upfront cost, it is vital to retaining new employees and ensure that the investment you make in recruitment and training are not drained from the business as employees leave the company.

So what staff benefits can you introduce to help you draw high-calibre employees to your start-up or small business? Continue…


As a small business owner you may not have lots of money sloshing around. You know your staff are your most important asset, but you may not be able to afford to give them a pay rise.

So how can you be an attractive company to work for, motivate and reward staff and promote loyalty without increasing your pay bill?

Believe it or not, introducing employee benefits may be the answer. There is a range of benefits which won’t be a cost to your company and will actually provide savings by reducing your tax liability. These are known as salary sacrifice arrangements.


Poor posture at work can lead to serious long-term health problems for many individuals, often triggering severe stress and anxiety in sufferers.

There is compelling evidence to indicate people who sit for more than four hours at a time are at greater risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes – a condition that has risen by almost 60% in the past 10 years.

Back pain caused by bad posture is an issue affecting around 70 per cent of the nation’s workforce and is now the second most common complaint among employees. Few will be aware that poor posture can also contribute to knee pain, fallen arches and even cause poor bladder control.

With back pain damaging the health of employees and costing businesses in sick days, it’s clear that employers should do everything they can to eliminate poor posture in their workplace.


The short answer is yes. But most business owners and managers seem to think that it is currently impossible to fire anyone, let alone be thanked for doing so.

Too many owners and managers hold these two beliefs about firing staff: Continue…


If you could have lunch with any businessman or woman in the world, (alive or dead), to discuss your commercial/professional situation, whom would you choose – and why?

Chances are that you’d choose someone you admire or are intrigued by, perhaps because of their achievements, their values or their reputation/personal brand.

Most of us recognise the need to learn from the life experience and wisdom of others. We also aspire to accelerate the pace towards our own success, or at least smooth a few of the bumps in the road. A business mentor can be an invaluable asset to enable us to identify relevant principles of success and adapt them for our own situations and use.



Do you wish everyone in your business talked with one voice? There are plenty of corporate cliches for this – being on the same page, singing from the same hymn sheet – but it all boils down to one thing: having a strong company identity that everyone shares.

When you launch a business, you probably aren’t thinking about a brand, culture or values. However, by the time your growing start-up has reached the point where you employ more than a handful of people, it may be time to establish key words and values that ensure unity and continuity. Continue…


Latest figures from the Government have shown that 131 million working days are lost to sickness absence very year in the UK, and over 1 million workers had sickness absences greater than one month.

The cost to employers, and to the country, in lost productivity, is considerable. Therefore, steps are now being taken to reduce longer term sickness absences by between 20% and 40% annually.

With the recent introduction of the ‘Fit for Work’ scheme, the Government is attempting to cut the cost of sick days, but how does the scheme work, and how can employers use it to lower the number of staff absences in their business? Continue…


Running your own business can be challenging and often a test of your patience. When workloads mount and your calendar begins to clutter, feeling stressed may can be inevitable.

The Health and Safety Executive says that stress currently affects one in five of the UK’s working population and is costing businesses more than one billion pounds annually as a result of stress-related absences and a drop in productivity.

To minimise the impact stress has on your life and career, here are five top tips to help you and your employees avoid burnout and ensure that you remain in control of your business and your health; Continue…


Disability in the workplace is a very contentious issue, and something that we certainly wouldn’t be able to definitively cover here.

However, what we can do is to help you as an employer to understand how to behave with care and attention – so as to avoid getting into any grief when it comes to dealing with any disability in your business.



I used to think I used a coaching style with the teams I led. Then I went on a coaching course to learn a little bit more. Imagine how disappointed I was when I found out that I hadn’t been coaching at all!

It turned out that all I had been doing was being vaguely encouraging while I told them what to do and how do it. And I was so busy because I always needed to know everything they were doing, so I would always know what to tell them to do.

I discovered that getting people to do things my way, no matter how nice I was while I was doing it, was nothing like coaching.


It’s absolutely vital for a small business to maintain a good reputation. It can be the making or breaking of your company after all. Unlike bigger businesses that seem to shrug off really embarrassing moments and carry on, smaller businesses can find it impossible to recover from a tarnished reputation.

So managing how you and your employees represent your business on social media is crucial.

Many may just use it to interact with family and friends, but some – in the very rarest of cases – can use it to abuse, or say inappropriate things. And what if this is seen by your customers? Or they say something about work? Would you know how to handle it?


Instances of anxiety and depression in the workplace have become much more common in recent years; it’s a matter of record. For example, the number of mental health related absences in the NHS last year showed a two-fold increase since 2010, and on average in the UK 23 days are lost for each case of stress, depression or anxiety.

Whilst these statistics may not exactly represent the state of mental health in your business, it’s worth thinking about. Not least because mental health issues affect more people in the UK than you might think, about four in ten adults having experienced anxiety about their work in 2014.

So, as an employer, what should you do if one of your employees encounters mental health issues? If they’re work-related especially, what is expected of a business?


Taking on your first employee should be an exciting time. It means your business idea is working and you need help to expand. But while employees will help your business grow, they will also bring new stresses you may not have encountered before.

When you are employing new staff, there are all sorts of costs that you must take into account. Plus the way your business runs with just you and any business partner, may not continue to be appropriate when employees are on board.

This guide will help you identify the true costs of an employee, and build a plan to manage the impact on your business. Continue…


Taking on an employee for the first time – 4 things you must get right

February 17, 2015

If you are taking on a new employee, you need to be aware of a whole range of issues. With staff come a range of responsibilities that you, as an employer, are required to fulfil. Taking on the first employee in your small business is something you should take real care doing. What many employers […]

Why every business needs to give its staff autonomy

February 12, 2015

Giving your customer a great experience is not just about customer service. It goes far deeper than that. It’s also essential if you want to increase your sales and make your marketing budget go further. The reason people don’t want to do business with organisations that aren’t customer focused is because it’s so difficult to […]

A Guide to mindfulness in the workplace – how it can help staff wellbeing and productivity

February 11, 2015

When it comes to the subject of employee wellbeing, it is very easy for employers to push it to the bottom of the agenda, or shrug it off as a waste of valuable time. But with many firms now taking staff wellbeing seriously, and beginning to recognise the benefits of a focus on ‘mindfulness’, this […]

5 ways to motivate your staff without spending a fortune

December 21, 2014

One of the beautiful things about running a small business is that it’s so much easier to motivate your staff. As the leader of a small team, you will have the opportunity to get to know exactly why each employee is working for you – and use that knowledge to press the right buttons and […]

Employment law changes businesses can expect in 2015

December 17, 2014

With 2015 fast approaching, an important year in the political calendar, employers are sure to be turning their mind to preparing for any changes set to come in over the next few months. It’s clear, if last year is anything to go by, employment law will not remain the same for very long and so […]

Employers’ guide to managing sick leave

October 11, 2014

As a small business owner, it is likely that you will have had at least a couple of employees call in sick this winter and with the cold weather expected to last a while longer, sick leave may become a HR issue that you deal with well into Spring.

How to reach a deadline without feeling dead

September 19, 2014

It’s all too easy to get to the end of a project and feel completely exhausted. Sapped of all energy and enthusiasm we can miss what’s really important. To overcome this, change leader, Ian Coyne reveals a new approach to project management which will help you to manage projects and hit deadlines without grinding yourself […]

5 simple steps to overcoming procrastination

September 10, 2014

Whether it’s in a business situation or home environment, procrastination is a true monster that takes away confidence and ultimately undermines self-worth. It also saps vital energy, stifling you and your business. Every time you delay something, you add imaginary weight onto your shoulders while the item joins the long queue of “to do” items: […]

Flexible working rights for all employees – what small businesses need to know

August 22, 2014

In June 2014, flexible working requests became a universal right. Anyone with 26 weeks of continuous employment can now ask to work flexibly for any reason. The repercussions for small businesses, in which each employee may be vital to day-to-day operations, could be significant.

Legacy, loyalty and upside-down leadership

June 24, 2014

How do you define leadership? There are thousands of books, resources, classes and experts, together forming what might be described as a leadership industry. So it’s not surprising that leadership definitions abound. Most definitions of leadership are likely to combine a number of words or ideas, such as: vision; belief; action; motivation; inspiration; intuition; or […]