Review your business idea
Prepare a business plan
Financing & public support
Business or liberal profession
Taxes & Accounting
Networks & contacts
Written and financial section
When you have thoroughly reviewed your business idea, the next step is to prepare a detailed business plan. Just like building a house, a new company must be set up on the foundation of a precise plan with plausible calculations. In many cases, fine details, problems and cause-and-effect relationships only come to light when you see them in writing.
These issues are important …
Who are you writing the business plan for?
- For yourself?
- For cooperation partners?
- For the bank?
- For the Federal Employment Agency (start-up grant)?
What is the purpose of your business plan?
- To plan and structure your activities?
- To support your decision-making?
- To control and manage your ongoing business?
Who can help you with the business plan?
Write your business plan yourself and get feedback from the relevant industry experts or start-up initiatives. As a self-employed person you have full entrepreneurial reponsibilty for your business plan and the estimates, plans and decisions described there. Industry associations can be a valuable contact for entrepreneurs in terms of feedback.
The written section
The written section provides a brief but clearly understandable account of all the important aspects of your business concept.
These aspects include:
- A brief summary
- A description of the business idea (product/service)
- A profile of the founder(s)
- An analyses of the market, customers and competition
- An explanation of the marketing and sales strategy
- Information about organizational and personnel planning
- Information about your choice of location
- An assessment of the opportunities and risks
- A summary of the time frame and your goals
- An appendix including preliminary contracts, references, advertising materials etc.
Keep the structure clear and logical, using a language that is objective and easy to understand. You can adjust the structure and the topics covered to suit your needs. The aim is to produce a business plan of 20 to 30 pages at most.
The financial section
The financial section will help you to assess how much capital you need, whether your business will be profitable and whether you can earn enough money with it. There are three parts to the financial section:
- Capital requirements plan
How much money do you need to launch your company and finance the start-up phase?
- Revenue and profitability forecast
What profits or loss do you expect in the first years?
What assumptions are you making when estimating investment, running costs, and turnover development?
How do you calculate your prices and orders?
When will you break even, i.e. when will your income be equal to or higher than your operating costs?
In the case of self-employment as main source of income:
How long will it take before your anticipated profit as a self-employed person can cover all your living costs (including health insurance and pension contributions)?
- Liquidity planning
Do you have enough liquid funds to pay your bills at all times?
Work through various scenarios. Make the most of Excel by copying entire worksheets and playing with the numbers. How do the numbers change when you take a more optimistic or cautious approach? How do your plans look in the best- and worst-case scenario?
Start thinking about how you will sell your product or service before you start the business. In the marketing concept, pool together your plans and strategies for your product or service range, price structure, sales, and advertising and communication.
Starting a company as a team
Starting a company as a team can have advantages. If you start a company with one or several people you can:
- divide tasks according to people’s expertise.
- share the workload.
- jointly raise the necessary equity.
On the other hand, coordination and decision-making processes can be more difficult in a team and lead to conflict. The composition of a team is key to determining success, because in addition to complementary skills there also needs to be shared understanding of roles and objectives.
Team Canvas – starting well together
Team Canvas offers a good way to consider how a team will work together in advance. The basic version for starting a team/project (PDF) aims to help users achieve clarity on visions, goals, skills, and strengths, reflect on values and guiding principles, and define decision-making and coordination processes. There is also an expanded Canvas version for management of finer points, coordination, and conflict resolution (PDF). There is a detailed English-language guide to using the Team Canvas (PDF).
The joint business plan – for comprehensive team coordination
Jointly developing a business plan is another good step, so as to compare the team’s long- and short-term goals with respect to self-employment and to agree on how tasks will be shared.
Partnership agreement – to be on the safe side
Furthermore, a partnership agreement is also a good idea, to determine, for example, how somebody can leave the founding team if their circumstances change due to new goals, moving home, starting a family, illness, etc. How can people fairly go their separate ways if a crisis occurs and how will profit or loss be shared in that case? The more clearly this is specified, the less potential there is for conflict if such a scenario occurs. A template for a civil law partnership (GbR-Gesellschaftsvertrag) [in German] is available, for example, from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Munich.
The terms “Freiberufler“, “freelancer” and “self-employed” are often confused and used as synonyms.
Please note: Self-employed people in Germany are
- either business people [Gewerbetreibende] with an activity that is classified as a trade or a business [Gewerbe]
- or members of the liberal professions [Freiberufler] with an activity that is classified as a liberal profession [Freier Beruf]
Different rules apply to these two categories.
It is very important that you distinguish between these two types of new businesses and find out which one is right for you. Read on here