Strategy, Legal & Operations

Red tape: Top tips for small businesses

Red tape can be a real headache for small business owners. Here’s our top tips to make it more manageable:

1Stay up-to-date with regulation

There are lots of useful websites packed with useful facts and information on compliance. You don’t need to be an expert, but knowing your key responsibilities will help you wade through rules and regulations. Useful sites include HMRC for tax guidance, Companies House for easy-to-follow advice aimed at limited companies and the Health & Safety Executive for workplace safety.

2Don’t let the paperwork pile up

“I’ve found that the best way to manage red tape is to try and do a bit of paperwork every day, rather than letting it pile up,” says business blogger Martin Leyton, who runs a carpet business. “Even five minutes first thing helps you stay on top of things and means you spot any issues early on.”

3Focus on what’s important

When you’re busy, you’ve got to prioritise. Plan well ahead, according to key deadlines like VAT payments or licence renewals, and you’ll feel more in control.

4 Get organised

Piling receipts in a drawer or letting the filing slip is common amongst time-pressurised business owners. But you risk wasting precious time in the long run or, worse, incurring penalties for making mistakes. Don’t put it off – sort out records, file paperwork and make sure you can find everything.

5Share knowledge

Trade associations are a good source of sector-specific advice to help you stay informed on issues around compliance, including regulation and legislation updates. Talk to suppliers too and keep an eye on online industry forums for up-to-date advice.

6Be ruthless with your schedule

Set aside chunks of time or specific days in the month to tackle big tasks like doing the books. Structuring your time efficiently is essential when running a business, and trying to fit in tricky tasks in fits and starts ‘when you have a moment’ is a recipe for disaster – you need to knuckle down and concentrate.


Identify what causes the biggest headache in your business. Bringing in extra help, from half a day’s advice from a senior finance consultant to using a freelance HR expert to check employment contracts, could create valuable breathing space.

8Adopt new technology

Increasing numbers of firms are using integrated small business software that can save time and money. Packages that combine accounting, for instance, with other features such as online banking, stock control and budgeting could make your business much more streamlined and efficient.

9Join a small business association

Membership to groups like the Forum of Private Business and the Federation of Small Businesses will give you regular email updates on legal, tax and HR issues as well as advice helplines and industry guidance. Membership typically starts at around £15 a month.

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