When starting a new business, think hard about the likely costs before you pass go. This will help you avoid expensive surprises.
Estimating costs and income is key for any new business, whether you’re a fast-moving start-up or still weighing the pros and cons of chucking in the day job.
These numbers will help you decide if your business is viable or not, and show you a quicker path to breaking even and long-term profitability.
The amount of money it takes to start — and to stay in business — will vary greatly from business to business. This page sets out common steps to work it out.
It’s a good idea to add 20-30% for costs you haven’t thought of — unforeseen bills or price rises can quickly add up.
Assessing whether you can afford to start a business takes careful consideration. The first thing you should do is analyse your own expenses.
Go through your personal spending with a fine-tooth comb. Add up your mortgage or rent, bills, food, school fees and discretionary spending.
Look for things you can cut. Add up the items you can’t to work out the least amount of money you need to sustain your lifestyle.
Running a business can be incredibly fulfilling, but the early days in particular can be a financial squeeze. Being realistic and honest with yourself from the get go will help you avoid financial disaster.
Once you’ve gotten to grips with the impact on your personal finances, it’s time to focus on how much it will cost to get your business up and running.
These tend to be bigger ticket items, including:
These are bills and other costs you need to pay on an ongoing basis, also known as overheads.
These tend to be time-related, eg monthly phone bills or quarterly rates payments. Common fixed costs include:
These are expenses that vary depending on how much, or how little, your business produces.
Common variable costs include:
An accountant will be able to run through your projected expenses and pinpoint any others you might not have thought of.
If you’re planning to approach lenders or investors, remember they’ll likely be more comfortable supporting your business if you (or someone in your management team) can demonstrate previous business experience. If you don’t have anyone with business experience in your team, you may want to try to gain some skills and experience of your own first.
They’ll be interested in what you’re personally investing in your business idea, both in terms of money, and in time and effort.
Using your estimated costs, the next step is to do a cash flow forecast for your first 12 months of business. It’s typically a spreadsheet that projects your business’s income and expenses.
It’s common to operate at a loss when you first start a business. You’ll need to make sure you have enough money in reserve to sustain yourself during this period. A cash flow forecast will help predict whether you’ll need to borrow money, and if you are financially prepared to start up.
An accountant will give you good insights into how much money you’ll need to get started.
Try to find an accountant or advisor who has a good track record with business similar to your own.
Another good way to get an idea of profits and costs is to talk to businesses similar to your own. You’ll be surprised how open certain competitors might be to sharing their experiences.
Stats NZ and Inland Revenue have a range of tools to dig into financial data for your market and your competitors.