Five tips to get started

Here are some ways to start planning to get your business off the ground.

Successful entrepreneurs embrace risk, but they are also grounded in reality. They understand that behind every great business idea is extensive research and sound planning. Here are some ways to start planning to get your business off the ground.

The secret to success

Working for yourself can bring many rewards, but it also comes with many challenges. People often wonder if there is a secret recipe for business success. While there’s no magic formula, there are certainly things you can to do to create advantages for you and your new business.

The more of these steps you can take in the early stages of your business, the better your chances for success.

1. Develop a sound business plan

A clear business plan will allow you to focus on your goals and take opportunities as they present themselves. It’ll also demonstrate the feasibility of your idea based on your background research. A business plan pulls it all together.

Your plan will include, among other things, the following:

  • The type of business you are creating.
  • The goals of your business and how you intend to accomplish them.
  • An understanding of the marketplace, the competition and your potential customers.
  • A description of your team and your business processes.
  • How you will finance your business.

By committing your plans to writing, you’ll help identify your priorities and measure your progress towards achieving your goals.

Do your research homework

You’ll be spending a lot of time and money to build your business and should avoid proceeding on a whim. Use market research to show your idea has merit. Get the data to identify your customers, why they will buy your product or service, and who else is already selling something similar. Find out as much as you can about your direct competitors.

2. Invest in your own education

Self-education could be as specific as learning how the latest piece of software can help your business. Or it could be mastering the different skills you’ll need to run your business, such as marketing, finance, and customer service. The more you can learn about the overall operations of your business, the better your decisions may be - particularly if you run a smaller company that requires you to wear more than one hat.

Be willing to learn. Be prepared to learn all about the nuts and bolts of business. You can take courses, buy business books, attend webinars, use the Internet and find yourself an experienced business owner willing to mentor you.

3. Get your personal finances in order

It’s a good idea to save as much money as you can before you launch your business, as you may need to draw on your savings for personal living expenses during the early start-up stages when you don’t have a lot of revenue coming in.

Check your credit rating

Do what you can to establish and maintain a good personal credit history – this will help you when you need to borrow money for your business. Be sure to check your credit rating using any reputable credit reporting service in Canada, such as Equifax or TransUnion.

Replace your insurance coverage

Many employees are covered by group medical, dental, disability and life insurance. When you leave your employer and strike out on your own, that coverage usually ends. Be sure to investigate your own insurance coverage to protect your family and minimize unexpected healthcare-related costs.

4. Keep your overheads low

You’ll have heard of people starting out in their garages until they have built up their business. Starting small and keeping your costs low lets you make mistakes on a much smaller scale and gives you the time to learn from them. Affordable computers and the Internet make it easy to start your business from your home.

Have you determined your start-up costs? Thanks to communications technologies, many service-based businesses can be started without much cash. But you still need to budget for things like computers, web-hosting services, Internet access, telephone service and supplies.

5. Learn from the experts

Take advantage of the expertise of an accountant and your business banker. An accountant can help you with the books, find ways to keep your costs low and do your tax return. Your business banker can advise you on cash flow, the use of credit, investments, and borrowing. He or she can also share best business practices.

Next steps

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