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Cheat Sheet

Getting Started in Small Business For Dummies (Australia/New Zealand Edition)

Starting a small business is the dream of many people. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just opening a shop (or starting a website) and waiting for the customers to turn up! Here are some things to think about when getting started in your own small business.

Keys to Small Business Success

A great idea for a small business is the first step to success. But once you’ve decided what to sell (whether it’s a product or a service), you need to start planning for success. Here’s a list of action points to get your small business moving forward:

  • Begin with a business plan: A business plan acts as your inspiration, strategic plan, guardian angel and reality check.

  • Be seen online: Every business, no matter how large or small, needs some kind of online presence, whether this is your own business website, a store on eBay or a business Facebook page.

  • Give to others without expectation: Share knowledge, tips and referrals generously and rewards return tenfold.

  • Keep on top of your financials: Look at key financial reports at least once a month.

  • Invest in employee training: If an employee can’t do something, chances are you haven’t explained it well enough.

  • Learn how to listen: One mouth, two ears, use them in that ratio.

  • Make four contacts a day: Spend a humble 15 minutes a day networking and you soon reap results beyond your wildest dreams.

  • Price your goods or services with care: Exactly how you price your goods or services is one of the most important strategic decisions you ever make.

  • Stay the right side of the law: Trade legally, avoid ‘black’ cash, and pay at least minimum wages.

Starting a Small Business at the Right Time

When you're preparing to start up a small business, you not only need to decide what product and service to sell (and how you’re going to sell it), but you also want to make sure you have the right timing — for the business idea, for you and your family, and for the business environment. If you’re not sure whether now’s the right time to start your business, consider the following:

  • Fickle fashions: Humans are capricious creatures and what’s hot today may be ice-cold tomorrow. Whether the latest craze is kids going nuts about a Disney action doll or adults getting worked up about a big sporting event, make sure you’re not the one who suffers when everyone gets bored and tired.

  • Industry trends: The difference between a trend and a craze may seem hard to pick at first, but the difference is both real and important. Be aware of trends in your industry and capitalise on opportunities.

  • Bleeding edge or cutting edge? You may love being leader of the pack, but there’s no point creating a product or service that customers aren’t ready for yet.

  • Seasonal variations: If you’re planning a business that is highly seasonal, factor this aspect carefully into your timing when making your business plan. Give yourself time to plan carefully for the peak season so you can take full advantage of that period.

  • Experience: If you’re looking at buying a nursery, do you have horticulture training as well as hands-on retail experience? If you’re considering going freelance as a consultant, do you have enough consulting experience behind you? Do you have enough experience to plunge into this kind of business?

  • Capital: Don’t start a business without enough capital behind you. Starting a business with insufficient capital is like competing in a marathon when you didn’t sleep the week before.

  • Tax reform: Many a good business has been sent to the dogs because of tax reform. Keep your ear to the ground and listen out for these changes within your industry network and via the media, before they happen.

  • Interest rates: Some businesses are more affected by interest rate fluctuations than others. Importers and exporters, builders, tradespeople and real estate agents are just some of the industries that are affected, as well as any business with large borrowings. If you’re likely to be affected by interest rate changes, look carefully at economic indicators and plan accordingly.

  • Recessions: Even the most successful business can sometimes have a bad year, or a couple of bad years, especially in times of recession. Such businesses rely on profits built up over previous years to see them through. However, if you start a new business in the middle of a recession, ask yourself whether you’re going to be able to finance it until the good times arrive.

Getting Help to Set Up Your Small Business

Sometimes you need help to figure out how to set up a small business. Here's a list of links to helpful websites for Australian and New Zealand small business; these websites will help you understand everything from your small business tax obligations through to legislation about workplace relations.

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