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Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

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Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

The small business confidence conundrum

30 September 2016

The small business confidence conundrumConfidence levels in the UK's small businesses community are falling and yet the proportion of businesses planning to grow in the next 12 months has gone up.

The findings of the Q3 Small Business Index from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) tally with other recent reports that highlight a yawning chasm between small business confidence and actual business results.

The FSB reports that small business headcount, growth and exports have all risen in the past quarter and access to finance has hit record levels. And the share of small businesses aspiring to grow over the next 12 months has risen to 55%; while the share of businesses expecting to downsize, close or hand on the business has fallen to 11%.

And yet small business confidence has now dipped into negative territory for the first time since 2012 and confidence has now fallen for the last three quarters in a row.

This is the first data gathered by the FSB since the referendum. The FSB says there are signs that businesses are "getting on with the job in hand" and, it says, many firms may have "priced in" the impact of the EU referendum result in advance of the vote.

In addition, the FSB report shows that small businesses are hiring, with a net balance of 7% of SMEs increasing headcount this quarter. This is the first time that smaller firms have reported an increase in hiring this year.

A net balance of 15% of small businesses reported an increase in revenues this quarter, up from 7% at the start of the year. However, this net balance is expected to decline to 9% over the next three months, in line with indications that economic growth is likely to slow later this year.

Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said: "Small firms are resilient and will survive the current fragile economic outlook, but to avoid an economic slowdown this data should be a wake-call for our elected politicians. We look to the party conferences and upcoming Autumn Statement to green-light infrastructure projects at local and national level, to simplify the tax system and to help reduce the costs of doing business."

Commenting on the FSB report, Dominic Allon, Europe VP and managing director of Intuit QuickBooks, said: "It was inevitable that the referendum vote would put many small businesses on edge. Small firms have to become even more determined to grow over the next year, and this is the kind of spirit that will help carry them through any testing times ahead. The Government needs to play its part too, however, and planned initiatives to ease tax processes and tackle late payments will prove more important than ever to help small businesses thrive."

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