Sole trader, partnership, limited company… when you set up in business it’s a fair bet that the initial structure will be driven by a combination of personal circumstances and tax/legal implications. And as the business grows any change of structure will again be heavily influenced by the need to optimise tax advantages, to gain legal protections, or as a result of a merger or acquisition.
There is nothing wrong in that. After all, if you get the basics right then they can serve as a firm foundation for your growing business. Get them wrong and you could find yourself falling foul of any one of a number of legislative pitfalls; or paying out more in tax, insurance and so on than you need to. That’s why it’s so important that companies take advantage of any professional advice available, drawing on expert knowledge in order to future proof the business.
That importance takes on another dimension when it comes to overseas investors who are setting up a new company or subsidiary in the UK. Whilst the UK is widely recognised as being a great place in which to do business, inevitably some of our regulatory requirements will be different from those of the originating country.
Recognising this, the Department for International Trade (DIT) has launched the UK Investment Support Directory. Designed as an online searchable platform, the directory will enable potential overseas investors to access expertise and advice across a wide range of areas including legal, financial and human resources. Each of the organisations listed in the directory, ourselves included, have committed to providing an initial free one-hour consultation in order to help and encourage overseas businesses to set up in the UK.
Optimising for people
No matter how you access advice, as we commented earlier that advice is likely to be heavily weighted towards legal and financial outcomes. But have you ever stopped to wonder whether your business structure is optimised in other areas, in particular for the delivery of great customer outcomes? Or to put it another way, could you be so enmeshed in meeting regulatory and legislative requirements that your customers are seen as incidental to the core business function?
Take HR for example. Managed properly, HR legislation can help to deliver a diverse and inclusive workforce which is engaged in ensuring great customer outcomes. Taken to a risk averse extreme you create a cohort of jobs-worth naysayers who are more focused on ticking boxes and filling in timesheets than interacting positively with customers.
Or what about your accountancy function. Decisions may be taken in respect of investments or plant and machinery in order to optimise tax outcomes. But could a slightly different, admittedly less tax advantageous, structure lead to an enhanced product, swifter delivery times, or a smoother process; all of which enhance the customer experience?
And then there is the underlying business structure. Is a limited company really the best option or would some form of partnership structure help to engage your people in delivering great outcomes? Or has your business grow so much that the original sole trader model which stood it in such good stead in the early days is now acting as a brake on future development?
It is easy to say that the approach to customer excellence comes from initiatives such as undertaking surveys, taking customer soundings and training your people to be customer focused. But if your business structure isn’t aligned to the same end then instead of exceeding your ambitions, all you are heading for is an own goal.