OPSR’s Business Toolkit was designed to give entrepreneurs step by step assistance for starting a new business. Here you’ll find advice on a number of issues from coming up with a great idea, to executing your business plan. Feel free to contact our offices directly if you need further assistance getting your business off the ground.


Business Planning

Business Start up Checklist

Thorough planning is the most important part of launching a new business. The following checklist will help you assess your preparedness and direct you as to the next steps you should take.

Key Planning Steps

• Determine your business goals
• Analyze your strengths and weaknesses
• Analyze the start-up costs
• Identify your financial resources
• Determine the financial risks
• Determine the best location for your business
• Conduct market research
• Ensure that know your customer base
• Familiarize yourself with your competitors
• Develop a marketing plan

Important Business Transactions

• Register your business
• Prepare a business plan
• Establish a business checking account
• Apply for business loans
• Obtain business insurance

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Generating Sound Business Ideas

Deciding what to do is often the most difficult part of starting a new business. Inevitably, this will be driven by what the market needs. Are there any essential products or services that no one else provides? Are there new technologies that have not yet been introduced to your market? Is there an exiting business model that you can improve upon? All of these must be considered and balanced against what your passions are. Determine what you are good at and see how this fits in to the current market conditions.

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Setting Business Goals

A business must have goals in order to succeed. Goals motivate, provide benchmarks, keep you focused, and allow you to track your success. Brainstorm your goals, write them down and keep them close at hand. Here are some tips to help you along:
• Develop short, medium and long term goals
• Have deadlines by which you would like to achieve your goals
• Ensure that your goals are relevant and will directly drive your business success
• Be ambitious, but ensure that your goals are realistic
• Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day
• Constantly review your goals as your business develops

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Assessing your Strengths and Weaknesses

Self examination is a critical part of starting a new business. By assessing your strengths and weaknesses, you learn what your advantages are, and are better prepared to avoid pitfalls that may hinder your success.
The following is a comprehensive list of skills that are necessary for running most types of business. Review this list and rate yourself from 1 – 5 for each skill.

• Financial planning and accounting skills
• General administrative skills
• Oral communication skills
• Written communication skills
• Computer skills
• Word processing skills
• Fax, e-mail experience
• Organizational skills
• Ability to work long and hard
• Ability to manage risk and stress
• Ability to deal with setbacks and failures
• Ability to work alone
• Ability to work with and manage others

Conducting a Competitive Analysis

It is just as important to assess your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses as it is to do so for yourself. This allows you to know just where to position yourself in the market in order to achieve your goals. Business is very competitive. For you to succeed, you must know who or what you are competing against. Here are some tips for conducting an effective competitive analysis:

Identify your Competition

Identify both existing competitors and potential competitors that may exist in the future.

Analyze Competitors’ Strengths and Weaknesses

Why are they successful? If you were a consumer, would you purchase their products or services? What advantages do they have over you? What advantages do you have over them? What is their reputation? All of these are questions that you must ask yourself.

Determine your Opportunities and Threats

A competitors’ weakness is your opportunity. Likewise, their strengths are threats to you. An effective competitive analysis outlines a strategy through which you can capitalize on key opportunities and guard against market threats.

Determine Your Position in the Market

Analyzing your competition will help you determine what will make your business stand out. This is called your unique selling position, and will tell you how you can differentiate yourself from your competition.

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Structure of a Business Plan

The business plan unites your research, vision and strategy. It outlines the direction your business will take and says exactly how you intend to achieve your goals.

The structure of a business plan varies depending on your type of business. The main elements however, usually remain constant, and are described below.

Executive Summary

Business plans usually begin with an executive summary. Here you describe your business concept and state the reasons why people need your product or service. Your executive summary should grab a reader’s attention so that they are interested in finding out what else you have to say. Keep your language simple and free of jargon. Don’t assume that those reading it have the same amount of technical knowledge that you do.

Market Analysis

This is a summary of your marketing plan. State who your target market is, show the demand for your product and service and describe your sales plan.

Financial Section

This is where you describe your business’ capital requirements. State the amount of funds you already have, the amount you need to source and how you plan on paying this back. Include your income projections, projected cash flow statements and balance sheets.

Management Section

Outline your organizational structure and describe your management team. Include resumes and biographies of key personnel.

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Legal Issues

Registering your Company

For your company to be legal, you must register it with the Registrar of Business. This is a standard and straight forward business procedure that is conducted through a lawyer. There is a modest registration fee.

Using employee contracts

Smart business people conduct all their transactions by means of contracts. The employee contract is the most common type that you may encounter. This states the terms under which your employees will work and outlines what is expected of them as well as what is expected of you, the employer. Contracts ensure that all parties have a common understanding and protect you in the event of a dispute.

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Market Research and Planning

Market research provides information that you must have in order for your business to succeed. Your research should tell you the consumption preferences, needs and habits of your potential customers. The more you know about your market, the better able you are to position your business ahead of the competition. Remember that markets constantly change. Your research must therefore be frequently updated. Here are some market research tools:


These are a series of questions that allow you to analyze a sample group that represents your target market. The larger the sample, the more reliable the results. Surveys may be conducted in person, over the phone, by mail or online.

Focus Groups

In focus groups, a moderator guides a discussion among a group of people to gauge their opinions on a product or service. These are conducted at neutral locations and can last from one to two hours. For balanced results, at least three focus groups should be conducted.

One on one Customer Interviews

While the results of one on one interviews do not represent a large segment of the market, they provide valuable insight on customer attitudes and are an excellent way to discover issues related to the delivery of your product or service.

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Advertising is the use of the mass media (radio, television, newspapers, magazines, internet etc) to convey a specific message to your potential customers. Your advertisements should be catchy, unique and memorable, and your advertising message is usually informed by the results of your market research1

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Forming a Budget

Budgets are a critical part of any business venture. They set expenditure boundaries and provide standards for evaluating your performance. Budgets can be done on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis depending on the needs of your business. Include the following in your budget:

• Revenue projections
• Expenditure projections
• Forecast of your cash needs and sources
• Balance sheet projections – an anticipation of your future assets, liabilities and net worth

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