Time is often the enemy but all traders know that getting the little things right can make a big difference. That's why it is worth taking time to do what might seem like dull, administrative tasks.
Here, we list some of the services you need to help your business run efficiently, and what insurance and utility tweaks you can make to save your business money.
If you’re a Which? Trusted Trader member, you also get exclusive access to two Which? helplines. One gives you free legal advice over the phone from experts on tax and business law on subjects that affect your business, such as employment law and contract negotiations. The other is our wellness helpline, where you can get free advice from qualified counsellors to help you or your family members with mental health issues such as stress and anxiety.
Plus, you get access to all our reviews and buying guides as part of your free Which? membership.
To access all the services and information available to you as a Which? Trusted Trader member, as well as others available to non-members too, visit our SME business portal. Read more about what’s on offer below.
If you drive a van for your business, it’s a legal requirement to have at least third-party insurance in case you’re involved in an accident and cause damage to other vehicles or property, or injury to others.
It’s essential to make sure you get an insurance policy that suits your needs without paying over the odds to give you the best value, and also that you consider taking out additional cover to ensure you don’t have to stop working if something happens to your van or its contents.
The insurance that’s best for you depends on how you use your van and your personal situation. One option is social-only insurance but this won’t suit you if you use your van for work purposes.
As a trader, you’re likely to need either insurance for business use, which covers you if you use your van to drive to and from jobs and transport the tools or equipment you need for your work, or haulage use if you’re hired to transport goods – you’re a delivery driver, for example.
Alternatively, if you just use your van to drive to and from a single workplace each day, a social and commuting policy could be the one for you.
Find out more: compare policies to find the best van insurance
Traders should consider taking out insurance to cover against injury, sickness or death of directors, key personnel or employees. This can protect the business, be an attractive benefit for staff and be tax efficient.
How you structure your insurance depends on your business. For example, if one person being ill for a year or two would require you to hire a replacement temporarily, you might choose an income replacement-style insurance that would pay out monthly for the period your employee couldn’t work. This would mean their enhanced sick pay was covered and you could hire a replacement at no extra cost.
If the person being ill would have a serious impact on your profits, you might buy cover as a critical illness-style policy to provide a lump sum to cover your losses.
You can also buy standard life insurance-style products for all staff, offering a death-in-service benefit. For very small firms this is underwritten for each staff member individually. For firms with more than five staff, a group policy is available without medical underwriting.
For limited companies, all these types of insurance can be claimed as legitimate business expenses and offset against tax. Crucially they are not considered to be benefits in kind for employees, so they attract no P11D taxation or accounting.
All traders should take a little time choosing the best mobile phone deal.
This is because costs can change significantly depending on how much you use your phone and how often you need high-speed data.
Some networks do better in different geographic areas, so use a service that compares all providers using postcodes to check which provider works best in your area.
But it’s not just about coverage; quality of service comes into play too. Which? has examined the customer satisfaction levels as well as price and coverage of the many mobile phone service providers. As a Which? Trusted Trader you can use your Which? login to view our scores.
You should also consider whether to have a separate business mobile. Some pros of having one include allowing you to:
You can use your personal mobile and rely on staff to use theirs too, but switching to a business plan may bring benefits and work out cheaper for you in the long run.
Business deals involving several phones can be cheaper and come with service and back-up not available to individual consumers.
You can also sign up to services that enable you to transfer calls from your main business number to different mobiles and for your business number to show up when making calls to clients, even if you call from a different phone. This may encourage callers to answer, as many people don’t answer calls from unrecognised numbers.
Finding the right broadband provider is crucial - many traders have online booking systems, staff management and time sheets online.
Business broadband is more expensive than residential broadband but comes with added protections and services built in.
Business customers will get consistently faster downloads and uploads with fewer customers sharing the same lines, compared with the same providers which offer residential broadband in your area.
This means if the service does go down, the business broadband lines will be prioritised for fixing.
There’s often better security built into a business package for those that need to access office services while working remotely. For example, business broadband offers a static IP address, whereas residential customers cannot get this.
High data users can also choose to upgrade to a leased line guaranteeing faster speeds with no shared access.
It is also worth looking at whether fibre broadband is available in your area. This is being rolled out across the country and replaces the standard ADSL broadband, meaning upload speeds are the same as download speeds and both are significantly faster than the traditional broadband.
Complete your business admin to-do list in a flash with our round-up of essential services, Which? reviews and guides on the Which? SME portal. Compare providers and products, access advice, switch to better deals and more.