I'm sure I don't need to tell you, that running a business is difficult... really difficult. It's one of the reasons why so many small businesses fail, or never reach their full potential; people seriously underestimate the level of work involved, and aren't sure where to turn for information and support when they find themselves getting a little bit stuck.
This was an acceptable excuse twenty years ago, when the internet was barely a twinkle in a developer's eye, but now all the information, details, specifics and inspiration you need to fine tune the day-to-day operations of your enterprise, are available right at your finger tips.
Of course this raises a rather comical issue; now there is so much information, that it has become a real challenge to sift through the waffle, the inaccuracies, the untruths, and the ulterior motives, to get to the hard facts you need.
I have compiled this short list, of really useful and inspiring websites and platforms that I have come across over the years. Each has a unique approach to delivering startup and small business support, so regardless of what your business does, you're bound to find one of them well suited to your needs.
GOV.UK and HMRC https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs
I have begun with GOV.UK and HMRC for a very good reason. If you need up-to-date, indisputable information on issues such as taxation, national insurance, employment legislation, business regulations and so forth, this is the first place you should turn to.
Granted, it might not be the most glamorous, or even user friendly resource out there, but when using it you can be certain of one thing; the information you will find is 100% accurate. Legislation is changing all the time, such that the instant a piece of content is published elsewhere, it is immediately out of date, and therefore should be suspected of containing inaccuracies. GOV.UK and HMRC sometimes do a terrible job of explaining things in a way the average person will understand, so other resources can really help you to understand processes, but for the cold hard facts, there is only one place you should be looking.
Perhaps at times a little too corporate for my taste, Forbes is nonetheless one of the most respected and well tended sources of entrepreneurial inspiration, tips, advice, and business analysis available on the web. Every day hundreds of thousands of people turn here for the biggest business news stories of the day, as well as insightful interviews with industry leaders, expert tips and advice, inspirational stories, and an all round glut of business related facts and figures.
I find they are particularly insightful when it comes to the use of social media for your business, and can be counted upon for no-nonsense discussions of all the major platforms, with solid original and thought-provoking tips.
This is a really good all-rounder source of useful tips and advice for the modern business owner. They focus primarily on the practicalities of running your own business with major topics under examination including leadership, growth and strategy, marketing, technology, social media, finance and franchising. A word of caution though, this is a US based platform with no UK edition, so it is not a reliable source of information on UK specific legislation, but it is still jam packed with universally relevant discussions that should come in very handy.
The Guardian Small Business Network http://www.theguardian.com/business/small-business
These folks offer a characteristically British and altogether thorough approach to all things small business related. They are an indispensable resource for anyone with even the slightest smattering of entrepreneurial interest, and can always be counted upon for up to date news and thoughtful analysis. But what is particularly impressive here, which is slightly lacking in the aforementioned platforms, is the person focused approach to business storytelling that they employ. I am a firm believer in the value of sharing enterprising experiences as a way of inspiring and informing others, and this is something that the team at the Guardian do very well. This is a great site to turn to for a little inspiration over your morning coffee.
Whilst not the most visually stimulating website you will ever come across, startups.co.uk makes up for this in the quality of the content they create and the comprehensiveness of their material. They differ from the others I have listed so far, in that they have a huge range of very detailed industry guides, pertaining to starting and running pretty much any kind of business you can think of. Despite the 'startup' specific title, this is a website that can provide a lot of really useful information, regardless of your businesses stage in life.
TechCity UK http://www.techcityuk.com
Specifically designed to inspire the creation and growth of UK technology firms, TechCityUK is a fresh and modern resource that is bursting with great discussion and analysis relevant to anyone with a tech focused enterprise. They are especially good at crossing the barrier between the online and offline worlds, with regular meet-ups, programmes and other technology specific events to inspire and inform. They are extremely well qualified commentators on the UK's digital industries and have recently compiled the largest ever report on this sector, which in itself is well worth a look!
Eoin O'Hara is a business developer and lead content writer at Startacus.net. He has a background combining arts and culture with strategic business development, and now plays a central role in the growth of the Startacus brand. Startacus.net, The Self Start Society, is the place for enterprising people to learn, share, connect and bring ideas to life. Follow them at @Iamstartacus