The Hidden Costs: 5 Key Considerations When Starting a Business

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.

To Conclude…

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.

Starting A Business (With Minimal Resources)

I have had several people tell me that they want to start a business but do not even know where to begin. Honestly, it can be pretty overwhelming if you don’t have any steps to follow. Thus, what I am going to share with you here can serve as guidelines for you.

Be sure that what you intend to do is your passion.

Don’t just jump into any business because it’s a fad, your friend made money out of it, you think it’s going to make money, or whatever reason other than it being your passion. So before you even think about setting up your own business, ask yourself the following questions: What do I love to do? What do I enjoy doing? What am I really good at? What am I most experienced in doing? From here you will know what your passion really is. And if the business you are thinking of setting up does not fall in this category, forget it. It is not going to work.

Work with what you got.

Do not even attempt to think of thousands or hundreds of thousands if all you have are hundreds. I am not talking about financial projections here but where you are to begin. If all you can spare is $500, then work on that. If all you have is a computer and phone, then work with what you have. Start with what you have, not with what you don’t have. Then work your way from there.

If you need top-of-the-line equipment, look for slightly used ones for sale instead of buying it brand new. Keep your costs low.

Invest wisely.

Whether you plan to borrow money or you have enough savings to start with, learn to invest wisely. Write down everything you need, and prioritize.

Your priorities should be your main business tool or equipment, as well as your promotional tools.

Find out what business laws you have in your city/state.
Some cities/states do not require you to register a business unless your gross yearly earning is over $12000. If this law applies to your location, and if you are not sure how much money you will be making on the first year, then don’t register your business yet. Test the waters first and work your way from there. As far as I know, if your business is not legally registered, you are only allowed to use your name and not any other name for the business.

One way to really start low is to experiment first. If you plan to venture into a food business, try cooking from home and sell your food to your neighbors and friends. If you want to do wedding planning, then let your friends know and do their wedding planning for them, for a very minimal cost. You can even do it for free. This is a good way of building up your credentials.

Get all your tools ready.
Other than the equipment, furniture, supplies, and other things you need for your business, the ‘tools’ that you need to prioritize are your “promotional tools”. These include your business card, website, flyers, business sign, letterheads, brochure, social media, etc. The kind and extent of promotional tools you need will depend on the type and size of business you are thinking of. The basic promotional tools for any type and size of business are business cards, website, brochures, flyers, and social media. Do not even attempt to start a business without these tools ready; otherwise you will be like a soldier in battle without his ammunition. Likewise, do not attempt to do all these yourself unless you have the skills and experience in doing so.

And don’t forget the most important tool of all: your business plan. This is your blueprint – where everything about your business lies. It is what you will need to apply for a loan, to apply for a grant, and to create your promotional tools.

Leave your promotional tools in the hands of those who are more equipped to do it. This is where I can be of help to you.

Promotion is the key.

Once you have all your promotional tools ready, it is going to be easier to promote your business. Have your business cards with you at all times and give it to anyone you meet. Your business card should already have your website and social media addresses. Flyers help a lot when you are promoting a product or a service that is better presented through visuals such as photography, weddings, flower arrangement, etc. Brochures are most effective if your target audience are groups of people such as church, organizations, corporations, etc.

Utilize every opportunity and connections you have. Keep promoting!

Build relationships.

Repeat business is the biggest indicator of a good business. And the only way people are going to refer you to others, or do business with you again, is if they are satisfied with what you provided them with. Customer satisfaction is not so much how good your product or service is but how good they felt about you and what you did for them. It is all about the relationship that you build with people.

Integrity counts the most.

Integrity is more than trust. It is the result of consistent trustworthiness. It means that you walk your talk… you deliver what you say you will do… you stay committed to your commitments. When you have integrity, customers will prefer you over your competitors. They will choose you because they know that they can rely on you, whatever happens.

Work harder than an employee.

Some people who are considering setting up their own business think that if they do this, they can relax and act like the big boss who seems to do nothing but walk around. The opposite holds true. Since you are your own boss when you have your own business, you really have to operate like a boss. And bosses are not just walking around. They are the ones who do almost all the thinking, problem solving, decision making, financing, networking, and all the more difficult and tedious mental tasks. Add to this working like the hardest working employee you can ever find. In short, you are the boss and employee at the same time, unless you plan to hire people under you.

Stay committed and consistent.

Once you start a business, you have to remain committed to it. It’s not an experiment that you can just start, and then end when it does not work in a few months. You can’t be dictated by your emotions. You have to get going no matter what happens. This brings us back to what I said in the beginning of this article — find out what your passion is.

Top 5 Advantages of Starting Your Business Online

Starting a business is risky. It’s the reason why everyone doesn’t have one. It can require thousands of dollars of investment just to get off the ground. 9 out of 10 of all new businesses fail in the first year. Before any profit is made, things like product inventory, incorporation, advertising, employees, accounting, insurance, licenses, commercial space etc. have to be paid for.

Enter the internet..

The digital world has taken away a lot of the risk of starting the business of your dreams. There are still start-up expenses involved in the beginning but they are not nearly as high as starting a brick and mortar business. License and incorporation fees are going to have to be paid online or offline but most of the other expenses can be avoided in the early stages by starting with your online presence.

If it can be sold in a store it can be bought online and shipped to the customer’s home. At the very least it will add an additional revenue stream for the business. There are plenty of advantages to starting a business online but here are my top five.

1. There is no immediate need for full-time in-house employees.

What makes online business so powerful is its scalability; meaning you do a little bit of work for a greater result. With automation tools you can have a lot of your tedious data entry tasks done without you even thinking about it. With PayPal you can accept payments online through your website without you even knowing a credit card was entered.

If you are selling digital products that are to be downloaded then there is no need for pre-ordered inventory or commercial space, thus eliminating the cost of rent.

For when you actually need the assistance of a real human, sites like oDesk.com and Elance.com make it possible for you to outsource work to people on a for hire, monthly or even a full-time basis.

Things like insurance and security are needed for online as well as online but securing intellectual property stored online in the cloud is a lot less expensive than doing the same for merchandise in a store that is susceptible to theft or fire

2. You have the freedom to travel.

There is no need for a physical location in most cases so there is no need to stay in one place. If you need to pack up and move your company to another state where there is more opportunity, it can be as simple as packing up your laptop and accessories and leaving. With a physical ‘brick and mortar’ business, it would be a little more difficult to relocate. You will most likely be constrained to whatever lease agreement you may have in place.

As you know, business and tax laws vary from state to state. Having your operation online gives you the freedom to choose where you want your business to be incorporated. You would have to have some sort of address established in the state but it doesn’t have to an actual store. There are a few states who’s laws work best for the traveling internet entrepreneur. *I am not an accountant or a business lawyer so please consult one before getting started.*

3. The whole world has access to what you’ve got to offer.

You aren’t limited to your immediate geographical area anymore. You aren’t limited to ANY geographical area for that matter. Offering your products and services online opens your business offering up to the edges of the world. The internet doesn’t sleep and there are billions of people online looking for solutions to their problems, while YOU are sleeping.

4. You are at the fingertips of a growing online market.

The internet definitely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon as more and more people are gaining access to an internet connection or a smart phone every second. E-commerce is following the same trend as more and more people are becoming comfortable making purchases online and from their mobile devices. From a consumer’s standpoint, making purchases from the comfort of your own home can save you a lot of time, and for certain products, shame or embarrassment.

5. You can inexpensively test your market.

Not every brilliant idea translates into a consumable product or service. And as you know, the failure rate of new businesses is very high. Another advantage of starting a business online is the ability to gauge interest without actually having the product readily available for sale. One example of this that I’ve seen a lot is a preview or ‘beta’ page with a prototype of a product where people can sign up to ‘be the first to know’ when the product is made available. This can be done with a food product, a clothing line, an app, pretty much anything. It’s a great way to gauge interest before you go all in with a final product.

You don’t need $10,000 to start a business anymore..

There are hundreds of ways to make money online and frankly, who can afford NOT to open up shop to the billions of people on the internet. There are still a lot of traditional brick and mortar businesses that are not providing their products and services online, constraining themselves by business hours and management of on premise staff.

All you need is a website, a product or service and consistent potential-buyer traffic to that website. No permits, no city council meetings, no weather constraints and depending on where you live, no off duty police officer.

Recommended reads: ‘The Four Hour Work Week’ & ‘The $100 Startup’