Starting a business for the first time is exciting and daunting all at once. To help you navigate your way to the start line — and across it — we’ve compiled a checklist with links to support you through this process.
1. Do your research
Confirm you are up for the task
Make sure you feel confident you have the right characteristics and determination to start your business.
Research the size of your market
Before starting your business find out how large your target market might be, using accurate market research. Use any statistics you can find like the Quick Stats data from Statistics NZ to understand customers in your area, and Market Mapper to help find where your customers may live.
Identify your main competitors
Knowing who your main competitors are will help assess what you are up against and develop tactics to help customers choose your business. Research your competitors to find out as much as you can.
Understand your customers
Find out how, when, what, why and where your main customers buy. Do they buy during work hours or in the evenings, online or in person? You’ll want to know everything about them and their purchasing habits to increase the chance of selling to them.
Conduct your own SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis
You’ll want to maximise your strengths, reduce your weaknesses, take advantage of your opportunities and avoid threats. Use the SWOT analysis in the lean business plan template to help you plan out your actions.
Identify your set up costs
It’s useful you determine how much cash you’ll need to start. This is the amount you’ll need to fund yourself, borrow, or raise from others.
Estimate net cash flow
A cash flow forecast helps you identify fluctuations of sales and expenses each month. Use our monthly Cash Flow Forecast Template to predict when you may have too little or too much cash so you can take action early.
Identify your break-even position
It’s important to know how many items (or overall sales) you’ll need to sell to cover your costs and make a profit each week. Take a look at our Break even template to find out.
Financing your idea
Before going into business, and maybe leaving your current job, it’s important to consider taking a future-proof approach by ensuring you have enough personal savings to get by until you start making a profit. Work out how much money you will need to start by using a cash flow template.
Find an accountant
To help you set up your business and understand your tax obligations it’s a good idea to seek out an accountant early on. If you don’t know a local accountant, ask for a referral from a fellow small business owner. Or look for an accountant on the Xero or MYOB partner lists.
Develop a pricing strategy
The way you price tells customers a lot about the quality of your products or services, which is why it’s important to have a pricing strategy in place. For example, if you’re going to set up a guided hiking business will you price exclusively for the luxury travel market or target backpackers in a lower price range? Research what competitors charge, then decide where you want to position and work backwards with your costs to see if there is a margin for profit. If not, look to see what else you can do, like find cheaper suppliers, lower your overheads, or find a justifiable reason for the price you want to charge.
Set up your banking
Once in business, you should keep your personal bank account separate from your business day to day banking so you can track sales and expenses accurately. It's a good idea to have an interest savings account for spare cash. It’s also smart to arrange for a business overdraft or credit card to take care of any cash flow shortfalls, especially during your start up period, even if you don’t end up using it. Get in touch with us to see how we can help set up your business banking in the way that best suits you.
Apply for merchant facilities
You should access the right merchant services to help you accept credit and debit card payments quickly. Depending on your business, you may want to accept payments online as much as you can. It means cash gets to your account faster, so it's a good idea to make use of internet banking.
2. Prep the basics
Choose a business structure
In New Zealand there are three main business types – a sole trader, partnership, or limited company. To decide what’s best for you, visit the business structure page at business.govt.nz.
Choose a business name and register it
This is often the hardest part! Think of a business name that is different, describes what you do and the benefits, and make sure it isn’t taken by anyone else. You can search the Companies Office register to see if the business name you want is already taken. Sometimes you can have a similar name if it’s in a different industry, but best to check to be safe.
Register for a New Zealand Business Number (NZBN)
The NZBN is a unique number allocated to your business which holds your primary business data like your trading name and contact details. So whenever you deal with a Government agency or supplier, it’s easily found. Apply here for a NZBN number.
Register for GST
If you’re anticipating sales turnover in excess of $60,000 each year, you’ll need to register for GST. It isn't compulsory if you think you'll be under this threshold, but it's a good idea to register anyway. Firstly, it’s better for credibility when starting up. Under $60,000 is quite a low turnover for a year and if you don’t have a GST number, if you're selling to other businesses they will know how small you are. Secondly, you get to claim any GST you pay on your set-up costs. So you might get a refund if you’re buying machinery or lots of inventory to start. Finally, it makes you keep accurate business records. which is important and useful.
Register for PAYE
If you’re thinking of employing someone then as a business you must register as an employer, as you only pay the employee their net take home pay. You pay their tax portion to the Government on their behalf. Business.govt.nz has a great outline of PAYE and the things you need to do when employing for the first time.
Check local business licenses or permits
It’s important to know what your business will need to comply with before you start, such as health and safety, standards, noise controls etc. Almost every industry will have some control or restrictions on where you can be located, what you can do and how. A good start is to use the Compliance Matters Tool which will help identify what you may need to consider before starting.
Join your local business support group
You can’t put a value on how extra support, services, and experience can help guide your business in the right direction. For example, your local Chamber of Commerce offers networking and contact with other business owners.
Join or research your business association
It’s helpful to get specific industry advice or support when starting up your business, whether it’s to pay to join and become a member or just review their free information and advice.
Apply for any relevant grants and subsidies
Your business may be entitled to certain grants or subsidies to help get it up and running.
Learn more about the grants, subsidies and help available for small businesses.
3. Set up
Find a great location
Location is often one of the keys to creating a successful business. Take time to find a great site for operating your business, whether it’s retail, manufacturing, or service based. Each business will have its own characteristics, for example retailers tend to want to be near foot traffic (or parking if a destination business) while manufacturers often need larger premises can be further out of town as it’s cheaper. Professionals may want an office space next to other professionals for the credibility, and design or IT companies may be happy in converted warehouses as it fits the culture of the owners. Home offices are also increasingly becoming popular as flexible working and technology makes running a business easier and easier.
Set up your accounting software
It’s easy to track all your expenses and revenue if you use accounting software like Xero or Wave. Check out their features and select the one that suits your business best. You can ask other small business owners and your accountant what they recommend if you're not sure where to start.
Add apps to help run your business
With the growth of ‘cloud’ software - using the internet to host the software engine, rather than installing on your computer - there are thousands of online software options to help run your business better. For example you can use PayPal to receive offshore funds, Shopify to run an online store, Vend to manage retail POS, Google Analytics to track web traffic, Mailchimp to send e-newsletters, and of course Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to run your social media campaigns. Find out which apps apply to your industry the most by talking to your industry association or other business owners.
Sign-up for MyBusiness Live
Keep on track by using MyBusiness Live (it’s free) to build your own dashboard of apps. Log in each day and see what’s happening across all your main apps, rather than needing to log in to each one separately.
Arrange business insurances
You’ll want to make sure your business is insured against fire, theft, key man, professional indemnity, and public liability. Think about what insurances are most important for your business. For example, protection against the effects of drought and fire is essential for the agricultural sector. Take a look at how we can help your business manage its risks with the right business insurance.
Organise personal insurances
Personal insurance should also be considered when you start up your own business. It’s important to have protection against your income, trauma, total permanent disability, and life.
Arrange getting your utilities connected
You’ll need to make sure the basics like electricity, gas, phone, internet, and water to operate your business, so connecting essential utilities is an absolute priority.
Fit out your space
Make sure your business has the right equipment, furniture, and technology for you and your staff to work at their best. Some industries have exact requirements that you’ll need to carefully scope. For example, if you’re opening a new restaurant you have to consider the health and safety requirements that might impact on the size of the space you have for dining.
Make sure you've got all your office supplies
Set up your office with all the equipment and stationary supplies you’ll need. Not only is it useful, but it will make you look professional and credible to customers who visit.
Create an asset register
An asset register lists all your assets and what you paid for them. This will make things easier at the end of the financial year to account for depreciation.
4. If you’re buying a business
Carry out due diligence
You’ll want to find out about the business’ vital statistics and how well it’s been performing recently. Also go over the assets and intellectual property. What percentage of their assets are owned by the company, and is the intellectual property protected?
Talk to current staff
Find out who the key staff are and how happy they are in their jobs. Compare their qualification and training levels to others in the industry.
Interview customers and suppliers
Talk with current customers to find out how loyal they are and whether they also use the competition. Ask suppliers about the business’ reputation and learn whether they’re on good terms or not.
Examine the financial history
Look for consistent trends in sales, debt and stock on hand to identify areas that could be improved. Be sure to inspect the owner’s financial forecasts for the upcoming year. Is the business making a profit? Don’t just listen to a verbal promise by the owner that the business ‘was making more than the books show’. Only make decisions on the latest financial information, which should ideally be from up-to-date accounting software.
Value the business
Get an idea of how much goodwill the business is worth after talking to the people who are closest to it, like customers, suppliers, staff, and the current owner. If the owner leaves, will the business continue as usual, or will customers leave? Often the owner is so involved in a business it’s difficult for their influence to pass to you, so make sure to get independent advice on valuing any business so you’re aware of the possible cost, and that you’re buying the business for fair value.
Make an offer
After obtaining a professional, independent valuation of the business, consider making an offer. Be prepared to negotiate and identify if the owner will allow you to pay a portion of the sale price over time (so the business is helping pay the owner back).
5. If you’re buying a franchise
Meet and get to know the franchisor
Consider what the franchisor will bring to the table to help your franchise be successful. The main advantage is the speed you can start as everything has been completed for you - product, service, brand, price, location, invoicing systems, staff training, uniforms etc.
Check the track record
Be certain the business concept works before you decide to buy into the franchise by seeing what its track record is like. Are other franchisees making money? Could you have spent the franchise payment fee on starting the same idea yourself?
Talk to other franchisees
Are you able to talk to other franchisees to establish their opinions on the positives and negatives of starting up a branch of this particular franchise?
Find out about the marketing strategy
Try to get an idea of how much marketing support you’re likely to get if you do decide to become a franchisee. Determine how much you’ll have to contribute towards marketing costs to help establish the new franchise branch.
Talk to a BNZ franchise expert
Contact us to explain your franchise purchase in advance. Our BNZ franchise specialists will be ready to give you their support and expertise to help you get your franchise up and running and give it the competitive edge.
6. Develop a business plan
It’s important to write down what you want to achieve in business, and how you will keep your business on track and focused on achieving its goals and objectives.
Writing down what you aim to achieve over your first few years in business helps to guide your progress and set out a plan of action. We have a Business Plan Template to help you get started.
Include a 12-month projected cash flow statement to estimate money inflow and outflow, so you can take some steps now like arranging a line of credit.
Ask your advisors, such as your banker, lawyer, or accountant, to review your business plan and identify any issues they think could be problematic.
Download our Lean Business Plan template to help document your idea.
7. Finally, start and generate demand
Develop a clear competitive advantage
It’s best if your business has a key point of difference from competitors, so customers can see why you are better value for money. Make sure you figure out why someone will buy off you rather than the competition.
Establish practical marketing tactics
As a new business you’ll want new customers, so you should develop marketing tactics that attract and retain customers. Use a marketing plan template to flesh out your ideas. You can download our marketing plan template to help you get started.
Create a logo
A well-designed logo helps a successful brand and marketing strategy. It’s a visual representation of your company and how your target audience relate to your company. To get started you might want to consider 99designs, an online freelance designer marketplace.
Register a website domain name
To create your website, you should get your own domain name which is your unique ‘www’. The easiest way to see if your preferred domain name is available is to try it online. If it doesn’t come up, it’s probably available. There are lots of official registrars in NZ and you can use any domain name provider. Take a look at Domainz, where you can type into their search bar and see if the name you want is available.
Build a website
It’s easier to compete in business with a website. Use a local agency, or you may wish to build your own using website template companies such as Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. If you want to have an online store, set up an online ordering and payment system. To get started you might want to consider an established ecommerce platform such as Shopify, WooCommerce, or BigCommerce.
Set up a unique email address
Your email should be the same as your business domain name and in the format email@example.com so customers recognise your business as well as you. You can then set up email filters such as firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com to more effectively direct customer enquiries.
Establish a social media presence
By building a strong presence on selected social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter, you’ll create vital communication channels between your business and your customers. Remember the MyBusiness Live dashboard allows you to view all your social media activity on one screen.
Sign up for free for MyBusiness Live.
Use our loan calculator to determine possible repayments if you needed to borrow any cash .
Open a Business Bank Account so you can start tracking expenses to claim.
Use our branch locator to come talk to us or call us on 0800 275 269 for general enquiries.
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