Business Companion: Quick Guides - business advice for busy people

The phone's ringing off the hook. There's a pile of unopened mail on your desk. And a queue of customers is steadily lengthening outside the door.

Running a business already places so many demands on your time that the idea of becoming bogged down in the minutiae of mundane legal requirements and legislation can sometimes seem daunting and even unnecessary. But, as with everything in life, the devil is in the details.

Despite the occasional temptation to do so, the cost of cutting corners when it comes to business compliance can be severe; just ask anyone who's ever found themselves on the wrong side of an intellectual-property dispute or been caught out by an unexpected health and safety inspection.

Running a business can often feel a bit like navigating an obstacle course; it can be exhilarating, but traps and pitfalls lie in wait for the unwary, which is where Business Companion comes in. It's a free tool designed for busy business owners who don't necessarily have a lot of time to dedicate to keeping up with changing regulations, but are keen to ensure that they adhere to legal requirements and good business practice. 

The benefits of doing so are obvious. As well as helping you to avoid the financial and emotional costs of legal action, being informed about business law and trading-standards issues can improve levels of customer satisfaction and make your company a more rewarding place to work for your employees.

It creates a virtuous circle that boosts the health of your business: benefiting you, your customers and the wider community.

If you find yourself in a position where you need to quickly check something or give a straight answer to a customer or employee, Business Companion's Quick Guides are invaluable.

Written in plain English by experts in trading standards, and available as downloadable PDFs as well as browsable web pages, the Quick Guides are essentially tools that can help you to learn how the law 'thinks'. This goes beyond mere common sense; in areas such as consumer contracts, for example, a broad knowledge of legal terms and terminology is essential. Without it, it's surprisingly easy to be tripped up through no intention or fault of your own.

The Guides are organised around five areas: What you sell, Where you sell, How you sell, Key topics, and Key activities.

The Quick Guides also link through to Business Companion's In-Depth Guides, which offer a huge array of information, covering everything from energy ratings and performance to food safety, from pricing and returns to the delivery of goods, and even keeping pet pigs.

The In-depth Guides take into account regional differences, ensuring that whether you practice business in England, Scotland or Wales you are acting according to the most recent guidance for your region.

So, if there's a specific area about which you are keen to learn more, the likelihood is that Business Companion has it covered. And if you still have questions or need further guidance, there is a link at the bottom of every page, which enables you to get in touch with your local trading standards service.

As the old adage goes, a stitch in time saves nine. Whenever you find yourself unsure of the best approach to a potentially tricky business situation, the Business Companion website is a great place to find guidance and reassurance. In the long run it could turn out to be the most sensible use of your time this week.