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Entrepreneurship in the time of COVID-19: How SMEs can get their businesses up and running

Belinda Wan
February 26, 2021

Make sure you have everything you need before you start Day One of your business. Photo credit: Pexels

Congrats, you have registered your company with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

In other words, you’ve had a good long think about your value proposition, come up with a great-sounding and catchy name (that is also a clever pun), and you are ready for the money to come rolling in.

Well, not quite. There are still a million things to be done.

Here’s a quick checklist of what you need to look into after you have incorporated your business and decided on your business model.

Obtain the necessary documents and certifications

By now, you would have received an email from ACRA that confirms that your company has been incorporated successfully.

You would also have the soft copy of your official Certificate of Incorporation that bears your company registration number, or Unique Entity Number (UEN).

It is best to request for the soft copy of your Company Business Profile in PDF format, as well as the hard copy of the Certificate of Incorporation. Both can be obtained for a small fee.

On top of the company name, UEN and registered address, your Company Business Profile will include important details such as previous names for your company (if applicable), registration date, principal business activities, paid-up capital, and the particulars of shareholders, directors and the company secretary.

You will need the soft copies of the Certificate of Incorporation and Company Business Profile when engaging in legal or contractual activities such as signing up for office services (internet, land lines), opening bank accounts and signing lease agreements.

If there are any changes to your company structure or partners, do update ACRA in a timely manner.

Recruit employees

Unless you are planning to run the show alone, you need a pool of staff to help you achieve your business goals.

Whether you are looking at hiring part-timers, full-timers, freelancers or permanent and contract staff, remember these hiring costs will go toward your fixed costs every month.

Start off by posting job descriptions on various platforms. Glints offers employers free job postings and jobs description templates, while InternSG is a good place to hire interns.

Reach out to fresh school leavers and interns at gradsingapore, which has various job-posting price plans to choose from.

More importantly, ensure that you abide by the terms set out in the Singapore Employment Act.

If you intend to hire foreigners, refer to the Ministry of Manpower for information on the various types of work passes. Do read up on the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act as well.

Get a permit or licence

What do a pet shop, food stall, restaurant or eatery have in common? Answer: They all require various permits or licences before they can start operating.

If you are unsure about the type of licence your business needs, visit GoBusiness Licensing, previously known as LicenceOne. This one-stop portal allows businesses to apply for licences quickly and easily. Its handy Guided Journey feature offers a walkthrough of the business licensing process.

You can search using keywords, look under a list of government agencies or key in your Business Intent.

You can also amend or cancel an existing licence, or renew an expiring licence.

Abide by Safe Management Measures at the workplace

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, all businesses need to follow mandatory guidelines, or Safe Management Measures, that reflect Life in the New Normal (i.e. how strange and inconvenient life has been for everyone since the pandemic struck).

Unless you want your business’s name splashed all over the news for flouting Safe Management Measures, it is best to abide by them.  

Enterprise Singapore has outlined various guidelines for food and beverage (F&B) establishments, and retail establishments and lifestyle-related services.

Safe Management Measures for workplaces as stipulated by the Ministry of Manpower apply to workers, workplaces and those who are feeling unwell.

It’s a lot of information to take in, but these 7 requirements are key:  

1. Appoint Safe Management Officers to ensure employees adhere to Safe Management Measures;

2. Make working from home the default mode of working, except when absolutely necessary;

3. Reduce physical interaction, maintain safe distancing and work in split teams;

4. Support contact tracing using SafeEntry;

5. Wear masks and observe good personal hygiene;

6. Keep workplaces clean; and

7. Conduct health checks and implement protocols for potential COVID-19 cases through temperature taking and health declarations.

Find a checklist of workplace Safe Management Measures here, or read up on sector-specific guidelines.

Adhere to business compliance regulations

In this article, we mentioned your company must have a registered office to operate from. In addition, you must have at least one director who is a Singapore resident (and not a bankrupt) in your company.

You also need a company secretary and data protection officer. The post of the former must not be left vacant for more than six months at a time.

You must also appoint an auditor – unless your company is deemed a “small company” under the Companies Act. This means you have no more than $10 million in assets/revenue at the end of the financial year and have no more than 50 employees.

The following are also required by law:

  • Setting up of company registers and records (e.g. Register of Controllers, Register of Substantial Shareholders, etc);
  • Printing of the company name and UEN on official documents (e.g.  invoices, cheques, business letters);
  • Determining of financial year end (not necessarily 31st December) and upkeeping of all financial records and transactions;
  • Filing of annual returns under ACRA’s BizFile+;  
  • Registration of Goods and Services Tax (i.e. if the company’s annual taxable turnover is more than S$1 million);
  • Holding an Annual General Meeting (i.e. within four months after the end of financial year for public-listed companies, and within six months of after the end of the financial year for non-listed companies);
  • Paying yearly corporate income tax;
  • Complying with disclosure requirements under the Companies Act (i.e. a company director must disclose if he has any interest in any company-related transaction, plus anything that present a conflict of interest to the company; and
  • Abiding by employment regulations, including payment of Employer’s Central Provident Fund contributions.

Tap on grants and initiatives

If all this seems daunting, don’t worry – help is on hand if you need it.

Start-up owners can check out Enterprise One’s Startup SG Founder for funding support, or Startup SG Tech to learn how to secure funding to find business solutions.

Local companies looking to ramp up their productivity can consider the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG). They can also develop their employees with the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit.

Find out what Budget 2021 has in store for SMEs here .

Leading digital loan marketplace Lendingpot connects SMEs to its network of 45 lenders comprising relationship managers from banks, financial institutions, and private and peer-to-peer lenders in Singapore. It aims to help SMEs overcome the information asymmetry problem and lack of transparency prevalent in the SME financing sector by offering SMEs financing options such as business term loans, property loans, revenue-based financing, credit lines, working capital loans, bridging loans, invoice financing, and more.

About the author

Belinda loves thinking about random stuff, and collecting useless bits of facts and trivia. She often roots for the underdog, and believes the world needs more happy endings.

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