Installer Back to Business Basics – how to run a successful trade business

Quality comes first
In the trade, 70% of work comes from repeat business or personal recommendation. That’s why it’s so important to remember that doing quality work is vital for every successful installer business.

But it’s much more than that. If you are a sole trader and even more so if you employ people, you should be emphasising pride in work done well. The vast majority of people enjoy the feeling of doing a good job and find this motivating. It also helps to avoid any unpleasantness with customers.

Keep up to date
It’s all too easy to get set in your ways. I can be like that, and I specialise in technology!

Of course, when it comes to Gas Safe, you have to be up to date to maintain your registration.

The great news is that it is so much easier to keep up to date nowadays. Youtube is chock- full of videos showing how to use different techniques. There are also plenty of reviews of new materials, tools and appliances.

It’s well worth refreshing what you do and how you do it. It’s only by continuous improvement that you and the country can get richer.

Don’t forget tax and legals
A quick list of things that you really mustn’t forget is:

  • VAT – if you are not registered, are your trailing sales for the last 12 months approaching the VAT threshold of £90,000? If so, you will need to register
  • CIS – if you employ subcontractors both you and them must be registered for the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). The penalties are draconian if you fail to do this
  • You must remember to put money aside for tax
  • Doing your returns on time – VAT, CIS, tax or company accounts and confirmation statement if you run a limited liability company – saves penalties

Remember that you should keep a record of all the expenditure associated with your business. This includes invoices for all of your costs. It may seem like hassle but having missing records is like burning money. You will be charged tax by HMRC on profit that you never actually made.

It’s not just obvious things like materials, tools, van costs and petrol for travelling to jobs. You can also usually claim for a share of the costs of running your house. That is if you use it to do paperwork or for storing materials.

Charge the right price
To run a successful business, you need to have a good business head. That primarily means being able to win business at the right price. You must not discount or charge too little which takes discipline. You have to cover tax and national insurance, your holidays, any sickness, the cost of tools, the cost of your accountant and more. It’s easy to not consider all of these. The biggest reason for businesses failing is charging too little. It’s good to keep reminding yourself of this.

Remember employment law
If you employ people, there’s a growing legal minefield that can catch you by surprise. Donald Trump and Lord Sugar may have enjoyed barking out “You’re fired”, but copying them is the road to disaster.

With the latest changes in UK employment law, should you need to discipline any staff, you should first consult an HR advisor or lawyer. It can save a huge amount of hassle and cost. It’s a line I’ve taken for many years, resulting in never having been taken to an employment tribunal, despite many circumstances that could have led to this.

At the end of the day
Running your own business is a liberating experience. It can also be fun. But there are some things which it’s good to remind yourself about. Spending time on these should keep good times rolling, so all of the best.

About the author
Benjamin Dyer is CEO and co-founder of Powered Now. Powered Now’s mobile app aims to take the pain out of paperwork for installers and other trade businesses.

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