If you’re led to believe the stereotypical Silicon Valley narrative, startup expenses are rather straightforward – a dedicated crew of programmers armed with high-end gaming laptops, top-tier cloud infrastructure, trendy office space in a sought-after incubator, and an inexhaustible supply of Red Bull, all covered by the winnings from TechCrunch Disrupt.
However, reality paints a different picture.
During favorable economic periods, startups often amass sufficient venture capital (VC) funding to extravagantly launch their business with little thought given to the path to profitability. But this era seems to have temporarily receded. The current metric of success is profitability, and as any savvy business graduate knows, maintaining healthy unit margins hinges on controlling costs from the very beginning.
For a budding startup, the approach of lavish spending while counting on sales to maintain fiscal solvency is laden with risk. A meticulous review of all expenditures is imperative—costs to formalize your company, services, stock, payroll, equipment, marketing initiatives, software, legal charges, even the decision to employ a financial controller— followed by prioritizing, recording, and ongoing evaluation.
Understanding Small Business Startup Costs
Numerous budding businesses, captivated by their grand visions, often overlook the importance of meticulous planning and rigorous accounting necessary to manage costs. They tend to lean heavily on an anticipated influx of customers to keep the business operations running— a strategy that sometimes leads to disastrous outcomes, as evidenced by small-business survival statistics.
Indeed, a plan is crucial, but there’s no need to create one from the ground up. In certain cases, the government of your target market might already offer a suitable template:
- Australia: Estimating the Initial Costs of Your Business
- New Zealand: Determining Your Financial Requirements for Starting a Business
- Singapore: Understanding the Expenses Involved in Establishing a Business in Singapore For markets not covered above, feel free to download this complimentary worksheet we’ve designed to assist you in computing your startup costs.
The startup costs you’ll encounter will vary based on your type of business, but most enterprises will need some combination of equipment and supplies, communication and collaboration tools, licenses and permits, professional services such as legal counsel and outsourced bookkeeping or accounting, advertising and marketing initiatives, and a website to connect with customers.
Essential Points to Remember
- Assessing both initial and recurring expenses is vital in ensuring your business has sufficient capital to sustain operations for a certain duration without solely depending on sales.
- Documentation is paramount: To secure a loan, you’ll need copies of contracts with major suppliers and clients, an estimation of anticipated revenue and expenditures, and more. Hence, maintaining records is crucial.
- Common things when calculating startup costs for a small business encompass research, licensing fees, payroll, insurance, and rental charges.
Calculating Small Business Startup Costs
Startup expenses encompass the financial resources needed to establish a new enterprise. Certain costs, such as those associated with qualifying for a specific industry or profession (e.g., obtaining a license to practice law or sell real estate), are not tax-deductible. However, there are several expenses that can be deducted for tax purposes, including:
- Legal, brokerage, accounting, appraisal, and other similar costs associated with acquiring a capital asset.
- Customer surveys and other market research-related expenses.
- Site selection expenses incurred in identifying a physical location.
- Incorporation and partnership registration fees.
- Salaries and wages for employees undergoing training and their trainers.
- Deductible interest and taxes, such as those related to real estate.
Different types of businesses will incur various types of costs— for instance, a professional services firm may need office space, whereas an e-commerce store would require warehouse space. However, there are certain expenses that are common across most types of businesses. What’s crucial to understand is how your local tax authority classifies an expense. If deemed a capital expense (e.g., an asset like machinery, office furniture, or company vehicles), it is documented on the balance sheet and depreciated over a defined period.
This classification holds significance when seeking to minimize business taxes, as capital purchases are usually amortized or depreciated, meaning the expense is distributed over several years. It’s also vital to establish a launch date for your business, as this will help determine the timeframe during which you can deduct startup costs. Generally, you can claim deductions for expenses incurred up to one year prior to your business’s startup date.
The Importance of Calculating Startup Costs
Estimating startup costs provides you with a clear picture of the financial requirements to initiate and sustain your business. How much will you need for one-time expenses like furniture? This information helps determine the initial capital required for your business to commence operations.
Comprehending regular or ongoing expenses, such as payroll and cost of goods sold (COGs), aids in analyzing your cash flow requirements. This understanding allows you to gauge the revenue you need to at least reach a breakeven point. Furthermore, it facilitates setting aside an adequate reserve fund—perhaps the equivalent of six months’ worth of ongoing expenses—thereby reducing your immediate dependence on business revenue, especially during the initial phases of your venture.
The Significance of Detailing and Calculating Startup Costs in Your Business Plan
While venture capital financing often grabs the spotlight in business news, the reality is that only a select few companies opt for this funding approach: In 2020, the VC industry allocated over US$112 billion to finance a mere 5,091 companies in the Asia-Pacific region. A far greater number of businesses depend on credit cards, loans, and lines of credit to cover their startup expenses.
Regardless of the financing path you choose, it’s essential to have a rough estimate of the capital you’ll require before seeking external funding. Documentation necessary for most loans typically includes copies of contracts with crucial suppliers and clients, coupled with a comprehensive one-year projection of anticipated revenue and expenses, supported by a narrative explaining how you plan to align these projected figures.
Calculating Top 10 Typical Small Business Startup Costs
Though the following list segregates one-time and ongoing startup expenses, you’ll notice that some costs might fall into both categories. The key is to comprehensively and realistically assess your financial expectations.
- Research Costs: A business plan offers a broad perspective and roadmap of your new venture. It necessitates considering expenses and various strategies to secure your business’s longevity, which involves meticulous research of your industry, target market, and optimal tax structure. If you enlist a market research firm, this expenditure must be included in your business plan.
- Borrowing and Fundraising Expenses: A majority of small business owners accrue debt from banks. Depending on the financial institution, you might need to pay upfront charges, such as application or origination fees, in addition to ongoing principal and interest payments.
- License and Permit Fees: The nature of your business dictates whether you need to secure approvals and inspections to obtain a business license or permit. Some industry-specific permits might be more expensive. Consider the costs of filing articles of incorporation or organization, following state guidelines.
- Equipment and Supplies: All businesses require some sort of equipment and supplies. These costs could be one-time or ongoing, depending on whether you choose to buy or lease.
- Marketing: Advertising and promotion are crucial not only in the beginning but also throughout your business’s lifecycle. Develop and implement a marketing plan and a PR strategy to enhance brand visibility and foster public trust.
- Payroll and Benefits: Human resources costs encompass wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, stipends, and employee benefits. Offering competitive compensation attracts talent to your organization and reduces turnover. If you’re not hiring employees, this cost can include contractor fees.
- Insurance: Business insurance may cover workers’ compensation and short-term disability. Be cautious not to overspend. Also, consider insurance to safeguard your customers and your personal assets from any business-related legal liabilities.
- Utilities: Water, electricity, internet, and phone bills are common for physical businesses. These expenses also apply to home offices, but usually, you can’t deduct all your utilities when working from home.
- Technology: Technological costs entail expenses for a website, information systems, and business software, including accounting and payroll systems. Some business owners opt to outsource these functions to managed IT service providers or virtual CFOs or accountants, while others prefer software-as-a-service (SaaS).
- Inventory: Retail, restaurant, and manufacturing businesses often need to procure initial inventory for startup and ongoing operations. Proper calculation is necessary to ensure there’s enough inventory, but not excess that could lead to unnecessary or spoilable items. Efficient inventory management is crucial.
Estimating the Cost of Starting a Business
Calculating the startup costs of your small business can aid in attracting investors and determining when you’ll start turning a profit. Here are some fundamental steps to guide you through this process:
- Compile a list of essential expenses: Include both one-time and recurring costs in this list.
- Conduct a cost estimate research: Endeavour to closely approximate the actual cost of each item on your list. This research should entail comparing prices from various vendors to help you minimize costs without compromising on quality. Depending on your business type, research might encompass equipment leases, office supplies, rent, and contractor salaries.
- Summarize the expense amounts: Tally your one-time costs. Subsequently, calculate how much your recurring expenses will amount to for one month and multiply this figure by a certain number of months to determine your initial total startup amount. The exact number of months will depend on when you realistically expect to start generating revenue or secure additional funding.
- Include a contingency fund: A buffer of six to twelve months can support your operations, considering it’s challenging to accurately predict initial sales.
- Determine the final total: Add the contingency fund to your initial estimates to obtain the final total startup cost.
Leveraging Expense Management Software for Tracking Startup Costs
Utilizing expense management software can significantly streamline the process of calculating your small-business startup expenses. Such software not only aids in automating the expense reporting process but also enables real-time visibility into how much of your funds are being allocated towards reimbursable operating expenses.
If you’re part of a team, this software can serve as a central repository of data that syncs in real-time, facilitating smoother collaboration. It also simplifies the task of documenting your expenses, a crucial element for tax reporting and auditing purposes.
Frequently Asked Questions on Small Business Startup Expenses
What are some common examples of startup costs?
Startup costs typically encompass licensing and permit fees, insurance premiums, office supplies, payroll expenses, marketing and advertising costs, research expenditures, and utility bills.
What does the average startup cost for a small business look like?
Given the diverse nature of businesses and industries, the startup costs can significantly vary. Factors such as the need for office or warehouse space, physical inventory, and licensing, among others, play a vital role. Hence, it’s imperative to estimate various costs, such as the pre-opening expenses, non-cash assets, and a financial buffer for potential operating deficits during the initial phase.