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Free business information and training at your fingertips

22 Feb 2011

Whether you’ve got a business issue and don’t know what to do, need marketing advice but lack the budget for experts’ fees, or need a business plan template or help to start your business, Business.govt.nz (www.business.govt.nz) offers free, relevant training and information. The topics covered include the four main stages of a business: starting up, managing, growing and exiting your business – as well as the legal or compliance issues businesses need to attend to stay on the right side of the law.

Designed as a one-stop-shop for small business owners, the site is easy to navigate through the use of drop-down menus and links to related information and resources. The information on the site is intended to be of practical use – anticipating small business owners’ questions and providing answers by telling them what they need to do, showing them how to do it, and providing tools and resources to support the required actions.

With so much helpful information in one place, it’s easy for small businesses to find best-practice advice, saving business owners both time and money.

Free training

The site has many useful articles covering topics, from whether your business idea is viable, to where to find investors or how to plan an exit strategy, all of which are accompanied by a range of free interactive tools and training. All you need to do is click on an interactive tool to be taken through a series of questions that will help you understand the tax implications for different types of businesses (tinyurl.com/29xhqen), what GST records you need to keep (tinyurl.com/4mjwk6t), or how to get the most from your advertising budget (tinyurl.com/4huw4jq).

There are also six interactive ‘Business Healthchecks’, each of which takes you through 10 questions to assess and provide assistance on starting up (tinyurl.com/26cbun7), finance (tinyurl.com/22tq8pv), future direction (tinyurl.com/2f7ujqo), products (tinyurl.com/4mz7nga), marketing (tinyurl.com/28xg5ws), and your overall business capability (tinyurl.com/24v7663).

For example, the Financial Healthcheck asks questions such as: "Do you know what sales you need to break even each week?” Based on your answers, a diagnosis of both critical and important recommended actions is generated. Each recommended action links to advice and free tools to assist you to take action on the advice (such as a template to download to help you calculate your own break-even point).

Templates and tools

You can download and fill in a business plan template (tinyurl.com/24etsew), which can be used to plan your business’ direction and goals, or used as the basis of your application for finance. You can also use the online interactive quick-start business plan (tinyurl.com/22nhown), where you work through 25 steps. Each step prompts you to explain, for example, how your products are made, who is going to help you run the business, and how you will manage your finances.

At each step, you type information into boxes onscreen, describing how you will tackle various aspects of your business. At the end, you are provided with an Action Plan that has recorded all this information, in the form of a Word document you can save and refer back to as your business grows.

If you need to obtain tax forms, find out how to comply with employment laws, or register a trademark, for example, the Business.govt.nz section titled ‘Do it online’ (www.business.govt.nz/do-it-online) contains links to various useful government department pages at Inland Revenue, the Intellectual Property Office, ACC, Government Procurement, the Department of Labour, the Ministry of Economic Development, and a link to search the Insolvencies Register. In addition, you can search the Companies Office register (tinyurl.com/2bf9zpn) within the Business.govt.nz site.

The site also contains links to useful third-party sites, such as Statistics New Zealand, which offers the Business Toolbox (tinyurl.com/2a5cpen). The Business Tool box features the Industry Profiler tool, which gives the number of businesses in your industry by region, the number of new and ceased business in the last five years, survival rates, and average earnings for staff. It also has a Market Mapper, which allows you to learn more about the demographics in the city or suburb where you’re establishing your business.

Altogether, Business.govt.nz is a user-friendly, first-stop-shop for small businesses. New articles and tools are constantly being added to Business.govt.nz, like the new Healthcheck (due to go live in February) to assess whether your business is ready to enter to export market. To keep up to date, sign up for the informative free e-newsletter (tinyurl.com/2vxnd8e) via the link on the Business.govt.nz homepage.

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