Step 1: Do you have what it takes?
So youre thinking about starting a small business. It could be one of the most important Steps youll ever make. Before you make the decision to proceed, you may want to consider the pros and cons of launching your own business. This document is designed to help you through the process.
Entrepreneurship offers many rewards. It offers the freedom of being your own boss. It offers the personal satisfaction of building a prosperous business. And it offers the chance to earn an income that is limited only by your choices, skill, and your determination. There are, however, many risks.
Many would-be entrepreneurs are not aware of the effort involved in starting a small business. Many new ventures place heavy demands on your time, your family relationships and your finances. As well, an overwhelming majority of small businesses fail within the first three years, and many require several years to return the entrepreneur's original investment.
There is also good news. Small business ownership offers you financial and decision-making independence. If your venture succeeds, you gain job security and the opportunity to provide employment to others.
Questions you should ask yourself
Do you have what it takes? Answer the following questions to help you determine your business strengths.
- Have you tried owning or operating a small business before? If yes, did it succeed or fail?
- If it failed, why? What did you learn from the failure, and why will this venture succeed?
- Do you think positively about yourself and your abilities?
- Are you ready for long hours of research, planning and hard work?
- Do you have the ability to identify and solve problems? Do you see problems as opportunities?
- Are you able to set reasonable short and long-term goals and then follow through? Do you regularly set objectives and then evaluate and adjust to meet them?
- Can you identify, evaluate and manage financial and other risks involved in operating a business? Can you determine the effect of various risks on your business? Can you distinguish acceptable risk from outright gambling?
- Can you accept failure as part of the learning process?
- Do you seek out and use feedback? Will you be objective about other peoples ideas and observations concerning your business proposal?
- Are you a self-starter? Will you display initiative and accept responsibility for the affairs of your business?
- Will you deal effectively with competition? Success will attract competitors to your business. How will you deal with them?
- Can you handle uncertainty and a constantly changing business climate?
- Are you able to attract the right people to your business? Choosing partners, shareholders and key employees is extremely important.
- Does your educational background prepare you for your chosen field of business?
- Has your work experience exposed you to the type of business you wish to start or buy? Can you demonstrate this experience to potential backers?
- Are you willing to prepare or assist in preparing a business plan which details every aspect of your proposed enterprise?
- How effective are your business management skills? Do you have general knowledge of financing, buying customer relations, advertising, banking and loans, selling, pricing, insurance, and employee relations? What other special skills will you need?
- Do you understand the various laws and regulations that govern your business? Have you considered permits, licenses, zoning, employee deductions, labour relations, taxes, record keeping, and shareholder agreements? What other legal requirements will you need to meet?
If you've taken the time to answer these questions, you now have a better understanding of your ability to start a successful small business. If after answering these questions you are still unsure, you should talk with a consultant such as The Business Guide Inc.
Step 2: Identifying A Business Opportunity
Most successfully businesses start with a good idea. This idea may be your own or may be drawn from any one of a number of available resources, including the following:
- B usiness contacts and acquaintances .
- B usiness magazines and newspapers: these often contain business success stories, how-to information for would-be small business owners, and lists of start-up opportunities.
- S pecial interest publications: sector-related publications keep entrepreneurs informed of developments in their area of interest.
- T rade shows.
- R adio, television and the Internet.
- I mport goods list: Reviewing a list of the goods imported into an area might provide clues on a wide variety of business opportunities in import replacement and supplier development. If products are not manufactured locally,find out why not.
- Trend Analysis: Watch for trends in population, consumer or corporate buying behavior, government legislation, and other trends related to your business sector.
- Existing inventions and innovations: Inquire at universities, trade schools and other research centers for opportunities to acquire technologies already developed.
- Government departments, agencies and programs: govt. departments and agencies are often committed to increasing the volume of federal government purchasing in their area of operation.
Departments and agencies offer studies and reports on business trends and opportunities. Board s of Trade and Chambers of Commerce also compile a number of business and investment opportunities.
Step 3: Preparing a business plan
Will you be able to produce and sell your goods or services in sufficient volumes and at a price which will make it financially rewarding?
You must decide what your personal goals are in terms of growth on the business and financial returns. Questions you have already answered about your ability as a business-person will help you decide if a business idea is right for you.
The most effective way to organize your thoughts and fully develop your business idea is to prepare a comprehensive business plan. This plan will help you to think about all aspects of the business, and may help you to avoid costly oversights. The business plan also provides the basis for evaluating the viability of your proposal. Be thorough, accurate and concise as you work your way through the business plan elements described below. The elements don't have to be completed in order.
Your business plan will contain the following sections:
1. The Opportunity
Start with a brief description of the the business. This gives potential investors and others the information to determine the kind of opportunity your business represents. Avoid technical terms and jargon. Highlight the competitive advantages of your business over others in the field. If the plan concerns an existing business (modernization or expansion) give a brief history of successes and failures.
2. The Product or Service
Describe the existing or proposed products or services. Avoid technical terms and highlight the key features that will distinguish the products or services from competitors. Products may be described as a collection of attributes (size, color, shape, materials, etc.) which produce various benefits (slices, dices, chops, etc.). The status of patent, trademark, and other protection should be addressed in this section.
3. The Market
The marketing section of the business plan is one of the most important and challenging sections to prepare. Describe who will buy your product or service and why. Support your claims. Wherever possible, you should verify statements with valid market research results. Include a description of consumer behavior (who will buy your product, where, when, for what price, what will they use it for, how often will they purchase). Other information necessary in the marketing section includes:
- location of markets
- proposed pricing strategy (e.g. skimming vs. mass marketing)
- competition (direct and indirect)
- distribution strategy
Investors will place a great deal of importance on the proposed management of the business. Describe your own background, as well as that of key employees and managers. Include any special skills that will help make the business a success.
5. Manufacturing or Delivery Process
Describe how you plan to manufacture the product or distribute the service. Describe any special equipment or processes involved. Cover items such as facilities, equipment, labor, materials, sources of supply, materials handling and storage. Highlight critical stages of the production/delivery process.
6. Financial Projections
Financial statements should include a projected balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement for the first five years, with the first year broken down monthly. Provide a detailed list of assumptions included in the financial projections, as well as a statement of the cost to develop the product or service.
7. Required Investment
Describe the amount of investment required, and the timing of cash requirements. Detail the sources of funding and the purpose. Outline the repayment terms of borrowed funds. Pay particular attention to long-term capital costs versus operating costs (working capital).
Once a business plan is completed, it may be possible to further analyze your proposed operations. Market research should provide you with a range of prices that consumers will accept, as well as a detailed cost to produce the product or service. Fixed costs include any of the costs of doing business that remain the same while levels of production and sales increase. Examples include equipment costs, rent, utilities, advertizing, and salaries as long as the payroll remains constant. Variable costs include those items that can change and include such items as repair costs and the cost of materials. The level of output required to break even can be calculated in a break-even analysis based on the fixed costs and variable costs.
Assume you own a pencil making machine. Your fixed costs such as salary, utilities, and rent, total $100,000 per year. Variable costs such as materials and machine maintenance total 40 cents per pencil. Each pencil sells for 80 cents. Using the formula:
Step 4: Financing Your Business
Preparing a business plan will identify the amount of start up capital required (for building and/or leasehold improvements, licenses, equipment, legal and incorporation fees, and materials) as well as operating capital required (rent, utilities, wages and salaries, benefits, telephone and transportation).
The type of business financing depends on capital requirements. Term financing (repayment terms of one to five years) is required to fund the purchase of long-term assets, such as equipment or initial franchise fees. A long-term mortgage is required for very large expenditures, such as land or facilities.
Working capital is money needed for everyday operations such as rent, utilities, wages and office supplies. Many working capital needs are funded by the cash surplus of a business. During start up and at times when cash requirements outpace contributions from sales, there may be enough cash on hand to cover the day-to-day operating needs. In this case, businesses may acquire working capital either by borrowing money for a short time at fixed interest rates, or by establishing a line of credit at a bank or other financial institution. A line or credit is a negative bank balance, with flexible interest rates and repayment schedules. Normally, the amount of credit allowed is predetermined by the bank and the borrower. You will require the services of a bank to provide for checks and deposits and to keep a separate record of your business transactions.
Besides banks and other financial institutions, there are other sources of funding you can access. These include personal equity, family and friends, informal investors, venture capital companies (private firms that invest in high-risk / high-return ventures, usually by acquiring large shares of the business and providing management assistance), supplier credit, equity funding, shareholders, and government departments and agencies.
For information on Canadian financing options you should subscribe to The Business Guide website. You will be able to access information on financial assistance programs available from all levels of Canadian government. The Business Guide has financial consultants who can discuss your funding needs. For more information on assistance available in your province contact us .
For information on U.S. funding options review the many excellent resources available in our U.S resource centre.
Step 5: Types of Business Organization
There are several possible forms of business organization or ownership. The most common forms of business as the sole proprietorship, partnership and corporation.
This is the simplest way to set up a business. A sole proprietor is fully responsible for all debts and obligations related to their business. A creditor with a claim against a sole proprietor would normally have a right against all of his or her assets, whether business or personal. This is known as unlimited liability.
Income earned by a sole proprietor is treated as personal income and subject to federal and provincial personal income taxes. This type of business comes under provincial jurisdiction.
A partnership is an agreement in which two or more persons combine their resources in a business. In order to establish the terms of the relationship and to protect partners in the event of a disagreement or dissolution of the business, a partnership agreement should be drawn up with the assistance of a lawyer. Partners share in the profits according to the terms of the agreement.
In a general partnership, two or more owners share the management of business, and each is personally liable for all the debts and liabilities of the business. This means that each partner is responsible and must assume the consequences of the actions of the other partner(s).
A limited partnership may involve limited partners who contribute capital only. Limited partners do not contribute to the management of the business and are personally responsible only for the amount of capital they have contributed. A limited partnership may also involve general partners. They are fully liable for the debts and obligations of the business, but may be entitled to a greater share of the profits. Partnerships also come under provincial jurisdiction.
A corporation is a legal entity separate from its owners, the shareholders of the company. Each shareholder has limited liability, meaning that a creditor with claims against the assets of the company would normally have no rights against its shareholders. Federal incorporation involves the completion and filing of the Articles of Incorporation, a Notice of Registered Head Office Address and a Notice of Directors. These documents, which are available from a kit from the Corporations Directorate, Industry Canada, must be accompanied by a filing fee. Applicants must also submit a Newly Upgraded Automate Name Search (NUANS) system report. This report, which relates to the name specified in the Articles of Incorporation, must be dated within 90 days of submission, and may be found in the Corporations Directorate kit.
If a company intends to operate solely within a province, it may be preferable (and cheaper) to incorporate provincially. In either case, we recommend that you get the assistance of a lawyer.
Step 6: Patenting Your Invention or Innovation
If your new business is to be based on an invention or innovation, you must consider whether or not to pursue a patent. Patentable subject matter includes products, compositions, apparatuses and processes. The subject matter must be useful, not obvious to someone in the field, and not a collection of other known devices. For a small business, patent fees vary . Before filing a patent , you should make sure you have written records of your research and development. You must also conduct a patent search based on your detailed description of your invention.
A patent provides a degree of protection against unauthorized use of your invention or innovation. Infringements against the patent must be pursued by the patent holder. A registered patent may help in securing financing by providing credibility for the business idea. You may also decide to sell the patent, or license the production to somebody else for royalty payments.
Alternatives to patenting an innovation include obtaining a trademark on the name, or copyrighting the rules or instructions. The continued success of Coca-Cola TM is based not on patenting the formula, but the exclusive rights to the words Coca Cola and Coke TM .
Step 7: Setting up your basic bookkeeping system.
Your bookkeeping system is a tool that lets you know how well your business is operating and provides information necessary to prepare financial statements, submit tax returns, apply for bank loans or government assistance, and make sound decisions about every area of the business. Unless there is a way of keeping track of commitments, income and expenses, there is a good chance money will disappear or be wasted on needless penalties or foregone discounts.
If you dont have the skills available within your organization to set up the books, there are several alternatives. You can contact an accountant or enlist the help of an experienced friend or counselor to get the system started and show you how to maintain it. You can enroll in one of the many available courses in basic bookkeeping and do-it-yourself accounting. You can contract a bookkeeping service to update your records on a regular basis, or you can purchase one of the simplified commercially available bookkeeping systems.
The advice of a professional accountant will be extremely important in matters of taxation, financial planning, joint-venture negotiations, financing, expansion, and major capital asset acquisition. If you plan to incorporate your business, yearly financial statements will need to be audited by an accredited professional accountant.
Step 8: Remitting State/ Provincial Sales Tax (if applicable)
In many provinces or states , taxable goods are subject to sales tax. Any person or firm who, in the ordinary course of their business, sells tangible goods to a purchaser for use or provides an eligible service, must register with the Tax Administration Branch of their provincial or state government. This branch provides a sales tax registration number and remittance forms.
S ales tax is remitted regularly with a summary form provided by the provincial government.
There are various tax exemptions available for many sectors of the economy. There are also tax exemptions for specific types of goods such as fuels, food and clothing.
Step 9: Federal Taxation Issues (Canada only)
By law, every employer is responsible for deducting, remitting, and reporting employees personal income tax with-holdings, unemployment insurance premiums and Canada Pension Plan deductions to Revenue Canada Taxation. This remittance is required by the 15 th day of every month, or twice monthly in the case of large employers where deductions are in excess of $15,000. If you do not remit in time there is a penalty of 10% of the remittance amount. As well, the employer must provide employees with completed T4 forms by February 28 th each year.
Contributions to both the Federal Unemployment Insurance Commission and the Canada Pension Plan are cost shared by the employer and the employee. Currently an employer must provide 1.4 times the amount of the employees EI premium and an amount equal to the employees Canada Pension Plan premium.
Where a person and her or his spouse own more than 40% of the common shares of an incorporated company, they are not eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits and thus do not pay premiums. Operators of unincorporated businesses, proprietorships or partnerships, similarly do not pay EI premiums but must pay CPP with their annual personal tax return.
On request, District Offices of Revenue Canada Taxation will provide an account number and a package of the necessary forms, instructions and tables for calculating payroll deductions. They can also help answer any specific questions regarding tax deductions or remittances.
Businesses must also collect and remit the Goods and Services Tax, charged on most goods and services in Canada. Businesses are also entitled to reclaim the GST they have paid on eligible business expenses. Revenue Canada Excise, will provide an account number and explain the collection and remittance process, including rate schedules and remittance requirements of various product, service and industry classifications.
Step 10: Registering With Your Municipality
Most businesses must pay business tax to the municipality in which they are located. This tax is in addition to any commercial property taxes. Businesses which operate from rented premises are also liable for business tax. Tax rates vary by location and by type of activity, so it is very important to get the correct information from your municipal assessment office.
To register your business, contact your town or city council. They will first review your proposal to determine whether or not you would be allowed to operate in your proposed location. You then have to go through an application process and receive an occupancy permit.
Every person starting a business, or restarting after a period of inactivity, should advise the assessment office within a week, giving the start-up date and the address of the business. When locating or shutting down a business, inform the assessment office as soon as plans are confirmed.
Step 11: Obtaining Work Injury Insurance
All businesses should have a work injury insurance program which provides benefits to injured workers and protects employers from most law suits by injured workers or their dependents.
Each state/ province has their own system. They are usually funded completely by employers. The amount an employer pays varies according to his/her operation, basically, the higher the risk of injury the higher the cost of coverage.
Most companies are obliged by law to register and pay assessments. If you hire one or more workers, whether full time, part time or casual, you must register. There are some exceptions, such as artists, clergy and sport professionals. If you are unsure of the status of your operation call your local authority and they'll let you know if you are required to have coverage.
If you fail to notify the authorities when you start your business you may be liable for assessment and penalty charges and you may be liable for the cost of any injuries suffered by your workers.
Optional coverage is available for owners and partners of non-incorporated businesses. If you would like to know more about optional personal coverage or coverage in general contact your local authority.
Step 12: Insuring Your Business
There is a wide variety of insurance products tailored to the needs of small business. These include the standard insurance policies covering fire, theft, and vandalism which can offset a potentially serious loss of buildings, equipment or inventories. It is likely that a lending institution will insist that adequate property insurance be carried as a condition of a loan.
Specialized types of insurance are also available. For example, business liability insurance will help protect business operations against legal action. Certain important assets of the business, such as plate glass or expensive moulds, may be specifically insured against loss or damage. Business interruption insurance guarantees income during downtime. Plans which can guarantee a level of personal income in the event of temporary or permanent disability are widely available.
Life insurance on key individuals in an organization minimizes the impact on the business in the event of death. Insurance coverage is often structured to fund buy-sell agreements among principal shareholders. Proceeds of the insurance policy are used to purchase the deceased persons shares in the business from his or her estate, eliminating the possibility of those shares passing on to someone unacceptable to the surviving shareholders
PREVIOUS PAGE HOME Preparing A Marketing Plan
How to Prepare a Marketing Plan
The final result of marketing strategy planning is an action plan for moving your products and/or services to the final consumers. Elements of the marketing plan include the following:
Describe the product or service, highlighting unique or innovative features. Identify status of patent, trademark, or other legal protection.
- Situation Analysis
This is a comprehensive analysis of the environment in which you propose to do business. Sections include:
I: The Market
Describe the type of consumer you are aiming your product or service at, the total number of these consumers in your market area and the number you expect to become customers. Outline the potential growth in the market for your product or service, and your projected growth in the market share. Market share may be based on total dollar sales or on unit sales.
II: Competitive Environment
Identify and describe your primary and secondary competitors. Primary competitors will sell products or services which may substitute directly for your own. Secondary competitors will market products or services which may displace yours indirectly. For example, Pepsi might include non-carbonated drinks fruit juice, mineral water or milk. Compare your own proposed operation to your competitors, and describe the relative ease or difficulty in entering the industry.
III: Technological Environment
Describe the role of technology in your business and estimate how quickly it might become obsolete. How will technological advancements in other industries affect your business, and will you be able to adapt to change?
IV: Socio-Political Environment
How responsive will your firm be to emerging trends in legislation and changing consumer attitudes? Describe your plan for maintaining awareness of new laws and regulations which will affect your business.
- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT)
Examine your business and the environment around you carefully. Identify weaknesses in your business plan or operation and threats from the environment, and then document your ability to respond to these. Also identify strengths in your firm and opportunities presented to it, and describe how you might exploit these.
Set precise, quantifiable and realistic objectives for your business. Instead of suggesting, for instance, that you will increase market share every year, state an objective. (For example: to capture 5% of the total market by number of units sold in year one, 7% in year two, and 10% in subsequent years.)
Take into account the results of the SWOT section, and select a marketing strategy to achieve your objectives. There are many marketing strategies to choose from, such as new market penetration and expanding market share. Ask a regional consultant of ENL for a basic text on marketing to decide which strategy best fits your situation.
- Action Plan
The basic four elements of the marketing mix are product, price, place and promotion. An action plan describes how you will manipulate each of these areas in implementing your marketing strategy. It is best to consult a marketing text for more detail on this process. For example, if your strategy includes increasing market penetration, action items may include lowering price and increasing promotion. The action plan should answer this simple question: What will you do tomorrow?