Quest Magazine - Home

Independent resettlement & recruitment guide for serving Armed Forces & Veterans

Top tips for self-starters

Top tips for self-starters


11 Jun, 2018

Chartered accountant, business adviser and author Allan Esler Smith has helped hundreds of people start up in business. Perhaps that could include you … but where can you get help and what are the current top tips? Allan’s here to help you get started on your self-employment journey.

Let’s start with the big picture. The government views small business as one of the main growth engines of the UK economy. Lower corporation tax rates are succeeding in encouraging big business to see the UK as a good place to do business. Small business ultimately feeds off big business. This backdrop is now boosted by the radical pension changes that could help you leverage earnings from a small business to great effect – particularly when you can involve your husband/wife/partner.

Where can I get help?

There is freegovernment-funded help out there and your starting point will be here: 

  • You will find free government helpat – searching from this homepage will take you to the government’s online resource for businesses.
  • You should also check out the government-backed initiatives www.startupbritain.organd for inspiration and ideas. Regional or country-specific support is also available in the following locations.

– England: the Local Enterprise Partnership at

– Northern Ireland:

– Scotland:

– Wales:

Top ten top tips

Added to that, I’d like to share my current top ten tips with you. In no particular order, these are as follows.

  1. Talk – and talk – with other former Forces’ personnel who have started a business, to understand their lifestyle, the quality and consistency of their work and, importantly, how they get their work.
  2. Underestimate the importance of your network in getting work at your peril (especially those great people you worked with ten years ago – where are they now?).
    Tip:Try LinkedIn and don’t burn any bridges as it is a small world out there.
  3. Poor planning is a hallmark of many businesses that have struggled, however I do understand why many folk struggle with the concept of a business plan.
    Tip: I’ll simply borrow a quote from the man who led the D-Day landings in this 74th anniversary year: Eisenhower said, ‘I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.’I promise that planning will help you tease out opportunities (or threats). If you struggle with this, try asking a colleague who now runs a business or your accountant for some to help to get you started.
  4. Make sure your accountant is qualified, holds a certificate to practise, and knows how to help you leverage tax breaks and mitigate tax risks.
    Tip: Check out who will be your day-to-day contact and then, after taking a deep breath first, ask for the firm’s hourly rate, who regulates them, check they hold professional indemnity insurance and that they know your business sector. 
  5. Invest in yourself through training, or buy in specialist skills.
    Tip: Marketing and selling skills do not come easily to everyone, but you are never too old to learn new tricks!
  6. Understand the differences between the trading options available to you. These include a company ora partnership orworking as a sole trader. In addition, some contractors may work through an ‘umbrella company’.
    Tip: If you get your work through an agency, you will probably find that it has rules on the type of business set-up it wants.
  7. Join a professional or trade association that provides a free legal helpline for business questions and tax investigations insurance.
    Tip: Consultants and contractors, check out and, for other businesses, try
  8. Consider the benefits of insurance (public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance, product insurance and more).
    Tip: Some firms offer these as a bundle for a slight discount so do shop around and ask other business owners for recommendations. 
  9. Buy the Good Retirement Guide 2018, which is packed with general advice on finance, leisure, tax and contains more than 30 pages of guidance on starting a small business (and also volunteering, if that’s your thing). You’ll find all the details at the end of the article.
  10. Don’t end up wishing you had done this (or at least thought about it) years ago as you can get the journey under way now with some clear thinking and planning.

The Good Retirement Guide 2018, by Allan Esler Smith (272 pages), is published by Kogan Page in e-book and paperback formats. Visit to find out more. Also available on Amazon at