Develop a

Business Pathfinder Guide

Starting a business, but not sure where to start? This is a working document to help you clarify your thoughts, structure and formulating the background and basis of your business and secondly: it dives deeper into the 4 core spheres of your business helping you to solidify the structure of your business and consider key aspects such as the brand you are building.

Ready to get started?

  1. Set aside a few hours, and if needed, more than one session.
  2. Open a new MS Word document and then use this guide to piece together your Business Pathfinder Guide.



Whoa! Stop. Let’s not put the cart in front of the horse. Yes, the executive summary comes first but it should be written last.

The executive summary is a short overview highlighting the most important aspects of your business. 

Once you have worked through this process you should be able to provide a brief overview of the most important bits from the various sections and write your executive summary.

Tip: Talk about the highlights and what excites you the most.

Your summary may include:

  1. Business Purpose: You should share the reason for your company’s existence. Why your customers or clients should make use of you.
  2. What is it that you are selling? Yes, you may be selling a product or service but are you not rather selling convenience, trustworthiness, ease of access, comfort, certainty, clarity? These create a much better emotional connection with your potential customer or client.
  3. What makes you different? This is often referred to as a USP, or Unique Selling Point?
  4. What is your business module and strategy? In other words, briefly how will you achieve delivering the above? A brief summary of the product / service viability and the operational and logistical aspects.


  1. Vision: Take time to formulate a sentence or statement on where is this business going? What’s the goal in the long run?
  2. Mission: How will you get there? Write a statement summarising the means by which you will achieve the vision over time.
  3. Ownership: Think about this as a small personal profile overview. It will contain some elements of a CV but not all.
    • Who are you?
      • Your background and relevant experience (broad overview)
      • Education
      • What is your role in the business?Describe your experience in the 4 core pillars of your business. (Where your experience is lacking you can always hire in an expert):
        • Branding and marketing
        • People and HR
        • Structures (legal, finance, and administration)
        • Systems (Software to assist processes or automate certain functions)
  4. Management: Maybe initially you can start and do this on your own but somewhere down the line, you will need some help. Now is a good time to already start thinking about this. If you are already employing or will immediately employ management then note this here.
    • Draw up a management structure / organizational chart indicating:
      • All key management and in which business unit they fit
      • Remuneration structures
      • Are there any specific strengths or shortcomings in your management structure?
  5. Business Offering: Here is where you can provide more detail on the product or service that your business is providing or going to provide to the public. This is the core and what you will be selling. You need to be clear and precise.
    1. Describe the following about your product or service:
      1. The product lifecycle
      2. Is your product or service CAPEX intensive? (also take this into account when you do your finance overview)
    2. What is the working capital cycle like for your product or service? (in other words, what is the process, and how long does it take to acquire raw materials, convert this into inventory, sell this to your customer, convert your credit sale into cash noting that if this process takes longer than the period your supplier has given you credit for then you will have a cash flow shortfall for which you will potentially require funding – take this into account when you do your finance overview).
    3. The location and from where it will be manufactures or the service be rendered
    4. Describe the production process and facilities required including if any systems or technologies are required as part of the process?
    5. Do you have or plan to put in place any quality assurance processes or procedures (such as ISO)?
    6. Who are the key suppliers and subcontractors you will be making use of?
    7. What is different about your offering? What is the competitive edge nestled in each service of product?



Now it is time for a bit more detail on the engine room of your business. We need to understand the four spheres that hold the business together and drive it forward. The better this is defined by you, the leader, and implemented the more you will have the ability to work on the business instead of in the business ultimately setting yourself free.


The Market

  • Is there a market for your product or service? Be objective and don’t cloud this evaluation with your enthusiasm.
  • What is your evaluation and market analysis, what are the trends, how big is the market, is there growth potential?
  • What are the problems facing this industry and do you overcome that?
  • What are the opportunities in this industry and how are you going to capitalize on them?
  • Who are the current role players (competitors) in the market and how are you planning to take market share from them?
  • SWOT analysis. Provide details of the following being completely honest with yourself:
    •  Strengths
    • Weaknesses
    • Opportunities
    • Threats to your business

Having formed a better picture of your ‘target’ market, it is important to establish how you want them to perceive your business, how you will reach them, and how you will sell to them…

Brand Positioning

Your brand is quite simply what people believe about your business. It’s the collective entrenched perception both customers and staff have of the business.

What is the brand you are conveying to your customers or clients? Here is a simple online Brand Positioning tool to help you form this which is summed up in a Brand Positioning Statement (BPS). Following the development of your BPS consider:

  • How does your Brand Positioning inform the design of your logo, and even the name of the business?
  • Signage design, corporate stationery are all other visible items.
  • Physical spaces like shop or office interiors where customers and staff engage.
  • Website – what is its function? Online sales, bookings, content access, and what does it need to look like to reflect the brand positioning?

After establishing the brand’s positioning, you move on to marketing (how to do tell people, and what do we tell them?) and sales (how do we turn those who know about us into paying customers / clients?)


  • How will you reach your market with your value proposition or message?
  • What are your marketing channels needed?
  • Online and Social: From Google Ads and email to WhatsApp Business and Facebook Business?
  • Demos, exhibitions, events and trade shows?
  • Influencers, ambassadors, sponsorships?
  • Collaborations with other brands?


  • Sales Strategy: How will you gain and retain customers once they are aware of your products because of the marketing?
  • Do you have a specific pricing strategy and how does this compare in the market?
  • What are your sales projections and targets? When will you reach break-even?
  • Do you have/need a sales team? How are they remunerated?
  • Will you need a Customer Relationship Management system like Hubspot for your sales team?
  • For franchisees consider and include the marketing strategy of the franchisor.
  • You have a business and products or services to sell but do you have a market? Here you can provide more details on the market for your business and products or services. It is now getting real as without a market or someone to sell to you will not be able to have a viable business.


You have already given an overview of the ownership and management of the company. This section deals more with how the company will overcome its shortcomings in relation to human resource management and more specifically how it will deal with its people. The policies in place ensuring that you can be set free instead of being directly involved in this aspect of the business.

Some of the most common shortcomings facing smaller businesses are:

  • Having a formal process in place for hiring new recruits.
  • Leadership clarity and how to manage your staff including conflict resolution.
  • Forming, implementing, and conveying a company culture.
  • Attracting quality staff and being able to match bigger businesses in terms of remuneration and benefits.
  • Keeping up to date with relevant laws and regulations:
    • Are there know labour issues in this industry and if so how are you address or overcoming this?
    • Are there specific requirements from a bargaining council in this industry?
    • What are the compliance aspects you need in place to protect your people, business and you? This can include Health and Safety compliance, POPI Act compliance and Employment Act (Being ill-informed in these areas can be detrimental to the business).
  • What up-skilling do you or your staff require and how do you plan to provide this to them?

I’ve put together a more in depth look at this topic in both of the handbooks below that are available at

Leadership Handbook Recruitment Handbook


You cannot run your business without systems. Systems refer to the processes in place ensuring that your divisions and staff know exactly what they are doing as well as the actual underlying software systems you put in place to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Define your systems and processes for each business unit.
  • Do you have a cloud strategy and if so what is it and how does it support your systems and processes?
  • What software systems are you planning to use?
    • Accounting System
    • Payroll Management System
    • Inventory Management
    • For Products: Sales system – E-Commerce / In-Store
    • For Services or high value product sales: CRM System
    • Marketing Platforms


This section deals with your legal business structure, financial frameworks, as well as the internal structures which you set up in your business.


Legal Structures

  • How have (are you planning to) legally structure your business? What is the legal structure (company, sole proprietor, Limited liability, or close corporation)?
  • What are the responsibilities of the directors? Refer to the Nomad Directors’ Guide here
  • Who are the owners and what is the shareholding structure?
  • If the shares are held by an individual is he/she married and on what contractual terms?
  • Is your business new, takeover, expansion, or a franchise as this will affect the structure?
  • What are the annual legal requirements for keeping your business compliant and are you currently compliant? Do you have a tax clearance certificate?
  • What is the legal and regulatory environment you are operating in and how are you planning to overcome this?
  • Are there any requirements in terms of copyrights, trademarks, patents for your products?
  • How are you structuring your business? What business units are you setting up in your business?
  • Who are your accountants, auditors, attorneys, or professional advisors
  • One of the biggest structural issues we face in South Africa is the short supply of electricity. How is the current short supply of electricity affecting your business and what are you doing to avoid this negative impact on your business?


Financial Framework

This section pulls together al that you have said into financial figures to see whether your idea is financially viable or not. Some of you working through the pathfinder process may be Excel WizKids but for the most, you are not. Even if you are not you will have to upskill knowing that without proper financial oversight your business is doomed.

Let’s try and find middle ground here. Keep it as simple as possible but still, include as much detail as possible when considering the following:

  • Capital Investment
    • Long-term capital investment: What investment into CAPEX is required for your business to operate?
    • Working capital investment: How long will your working capital cycle be and what investment is required into this cycle?
  • Borrowings
    • Long term borrowings: Do you require any long-term funding and if so how much?
    • Short term and overdraft: Do you require any short-term funding and if so how much?
  • Projections
    • Turnover: What is your projected/estimated turnover?
    • Cost structure: What are your cost structure and profit margin?
  • Financial analysis/summary
    • Historical:
      • If you have historical information and track records include those here
    • Forecast:
      • Include only a short version of your Profit and loss and expected capital investments here
    • This needs to indicate at least a 12-month forward-looking cash flow forecast along with a Pro-forma balance sheet at the end of the 12 months
    • General
    • Ensure that the other sections in this pathfinder document correlates and agrees to the information included in the financial analysis
    • You may also include details on pricing or costing


Supporting Documentation

You have considered a lot in this document, well done! The final stretch is to collate and put together some of the supporting documents that give substance to what you have defined and protect you and your business on a legal compliance level. These may include:

  • Company registration documentation
  • Tax clearance certificates
  • Partnership agreements
  • Share certificates
  • Purchase or franchise agreement
  • Lease agreements
  • ISO certificates
  • Contracts, letters of credit, letters of intent, orders
  • Patents, trademarks, or copyrights
  • Identity documents and marriage certificates
  • Life insurance or key man insurance policies
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Policies: From privacy to company policies
  • Employment contract templates and code of conduct
Ready to start a business?