So, you want to start a business and are wondering where to begin and what it will cost… most would advise that you start with putting together a business plan, and I don’t contest that… you should, but it’s essential that you’re aware that most business plans, including all the research and financials that they include, do not give you an overall picture of what your start-up costs will be. This article gives an overview of the ways to determine, realistically, what the costs involved in setting up a business will be.
A solid plan? Probably not! A well-formed, flexibly applied plan? Absolutely!
It’s true that the usual manner in which businesses start up, is through an opportunity being identified, determining the ways in which this opportunity can be milked for all it’s worth, (carefully explained in the business plan), and figuring out how much capital is required in order to build the business as outlined in the above-mentioned business plan.
Whilst this is ‘the usual’ and can often work, there is one flaw with this model… It is all developed on the premise that the business will work out right, and as planned, the first time! The reality, is that it is exceptionally rare that everything goes exactly to plan, and most often, even if it does, it’s not first time around.
Often, between the time that a business plan is written, and the time comes to implement, it’s hardly worth the paper it’s written on. Harsh, but true.
In order to more accurately, and relevantly determine your start-up costs, it is essential that you reflectively review assumptions held within the business plan, and be prepared to adapt toward a more flexible approach. Now by no means am I advocating that you don’t need a business plan… I think they are immensely helpful for allowing us to consider as many of the elements required in starting and growing a business as possible… but the plan is only as good as the action you take, and to get the greatest return on action, having plans that are relevant and based on the most current context is key.
Part of your plan should always be to revise the plan… You may have to change things repeatedly as you learn more, determine the impact of what you’ve learned in your business, and then add it to the plan accordingly.
Consider Scaling Down and Pilots
I know what it’s like… you have a fantastic business idea, you see the potential, you see how great it can be, and you want to put in all you can to make that vision a reality. While this is the only way to go for some business concepts which are pretty much, ‘Go Big, or Go Home,’ this isn’t always the case.
Where it’s possible, consider the option of scaling down, and testing the concept. This will allow for you to start up, while saving money, learning from the pilot and being able to action changes, and raise more funds based on proof of concept. This approach not only reduces start-up costs but provides valuable insight around the business, in real terms. It may not generate much profit, but it will offer a wealth of verified information that will help you to determine the next steps… If you decide to proceed with expansion, it is a great basis for second stage funding.
Consider Realistic Timelines and Pricing
Part of calculating your start-up costs will involve figuring out your initial cash flow. Without having actually operated the business this can be tricky. It’s also not uncommon to fall into the trap of under-pricing products and services in order to stand a better chance of competing, and to ‘tempt’ in more business. Be aware that you don’t necessarily need to do this. If you do, raising prices to the market standard could become difficult at a later stage, and you’ll have to do a lot more work in order to break even. My advice- recognise your worth, and price it accordingly.
Consider a Realistic Time-frame for Starting-up
Time is always potential money, and when you’re starting in business, this is true even more. If you’re going to have fixed costs like property leases, if improvements or modifications are required prior to opening this impacts on both time, and money (quite directly). These additional costs add to your start-up costs, but also add to the time before you can start earning. Don’t fall into the trap of under-estimating when you’ll be ready to trade, and build in a good time cushion before you ‘need’ to see funds coming in from business activities. Failure to do so could result in a significant amount of stress, and in some instances, can even result in a business shutting down before it’s even had the chance to take off, simply because there wasn’t enough time allowed to give it a chance to get going.
Consider the Cost of Money
Many entrepreneurs who have a great idea that they believe strongly in, will make the decision to finance the business themselves. At times, this can be at great personal cost, using the credit on credit cards or loans, and tapping into equity from homes etc. While for some smaller ventures the impact may be negligible, for larger ventures, self-financing should be considered exceptionally carefully before committing to this option. If funds are in abundance and potential delays, changes, etc. will have little impact and will be offset by the return, however long it may take… then go for it! If this is not the case, and any delays and progress are not going to plan will cause a great deal of personal and financial strain that could jeopardise business success anyway, then definitely consider other options.
As you can tell, starting a business does not begin and end with a business plan, but goes beyond that to wider considerations. This article lists some of these.