Steps to Starting a Business

For about two and a half years I’ve written a variety of articles focusing on a number of specific business-related topics. Given various factors in our economy and a general trend in the desire to achieve self-determination I’ve been meeting a lot of people who are interested in the steps they need to take to start a small business of their own. In recognition of Small Business Week, which takes place this October 19-24, here’s a thumbnail overview of the basic steps to follow towards starting your business:
1. Idea & Self-Assessment
Coming up with the idea and vision of a business enterprise is, in my mind, the most difficult step towards entrepreneurship. Perhaps the second most difficult step is the self-assessment to determine if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. True that it is one thing to have the business idea but, as importantly, is having an idea of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Do you have the passion and commitment to stick it out? Do you have a strong support network that is able to give you positive reinforcement, honest assessments and a “kick in the butt” when you may need it? Do you have the basic skill set or, at least, willingness to learn?
2. Market Review
Isaac Newton taught us that “a body in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an equal or stronger force.” It seems that for even most people who think they have a great idea their motion is stopped by stronger forces of lack of confidence or fear of the unknown. However, knowledge is the strongest force I can think of. Perhaps you really have the best idea since sliced bread (or stacks of Montreal smoked meat to put in between the slices!). Or, maybe your idea is really just a dud that shouldn’t ever be let out of the house even with Velcro shoes on. The point is, you don’t know what you have until you do a little market research.
3.Business Plan
Once you’ve better defined your idea and conducted enough market research that gives you comfort that your product would find a sustainable customer base to give the idea a reasonable chance of long term viability it’s time to get working on your business plan. There are many different templates of business plans but they all commonly include: an introduction with your mission statement; description of your product or service; management structure and human resources; operational plan; marketing; legal and risk assessments; projected start-up costs; financing; and financial projections.
4. Financing
The development of your business plan will be a fluid process that will help you better define your ideas and how you plan to bring them to market, including how much it will cost to do so. Research conducted into your potential suppliers, industry standards and overhead expenses as well as potential customers and sales will help you decide how much you will need to get the business up and running: also known as capitalization. A business plan with solid cost and revenue projections is a must towards successfully achieving financing from lenders or from potential investors. Of course, the more money you personally put in the more likely you will not only attract other financers but the more of the end profits you will be able to keep.
5. Registration
Now that you have your business plan under development and you are considering different financing options you are probably ready to make it official. In order to do this, you need to do a business name search and register it – as well as register for GST, PST and WCB and municipal business license. Fortunately, most of this can be done online and at a relatively low cost. For more information, please visit
6. Marketing
Assuming you’ve found enough capital to start up your business and a location from which to sell to your customers the next most critical step in starting a new business (have you noticed each step is critical?) is letting your customers know you exist and why they should buy from you. Don’t buy into the myth of “If you build it they will come”. If you really watched Field of Dreams or better yet, read the book on which it is based, Shoeless Joe, Ray Kinsella built the field, the mystical players found it, BUT the paying customers did not come to save the field and the farm until he got the message out to key people (target audiences)! So much money is literally wasted on poor marketing. The waste starts by not understanding your target market, what you want to tell them and how to best reach them. As with most things, you can minimize wasted money and effort through research and preparation. Don’t be afraid to partner with other businesses or even “piggy-back” on their success in reaching mutual target markets.
7. Operating
If you get to this stage; congratulations! Now comes the next hard part but most rewarding – operating your business. This is where all your hard work and research into the creation of the business plan and, especially the implementation section, will start to pay off. Some tips to be mindful of during operations are: to stay true to your core products and services but open to complimentary opportunities to build sales; actively seek out mentors and ways to improve; work with trusted professionals for your accounting and tax services; strive to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Of course, this article is only a short outline of the steps generally involved in starting a business. If you have an interest in further exploring how to start your own business don’t be shy to contact Community Futures and, certainly, keep your eyes and ears open to all the information and opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship during this month of Small Business including these activities at Community Futures’ office at 4757 Tebo Avenue:
*October 20: 6:00 - 8:30 “Driving Holiday Sales” workshop with facilitator, Greg McLaren, will focus on how to identify your customers’ needs and values. This workshop for retailers will teach how to increase sales for the holiday season by determining your customers’ needs and increasing your items sold per transaction.
October 22: 11:30 – 1:30 Community Futures “Open House”. This is a great chance to meet Community Futures staff, directors, past and current clients as well as many others in the community with whom we work. We especially encourage our “alumni” to come in to network and tell us and others about their successes.
*October 27: 6:00 - 9:00 “Christmas Displays that Sell” workshop with facilitator, Cheryl Campbell. Entice customers into your store with exciting displays that will "WOW" them into purchasing your goods and services!
*If you want to come to either of the workshops, please phone ahead at 724-1241 as space is limited.
Continuing a recent tradition in my articles of noting examples of exceptional products or customer service in the Alberni Valley here’s a big thanks to the team at Pearson-Kal Tire. Not once but twice in 2 weeks I had to go in to get different tires patched due to nails finding their way onto our local streets and into my tire treads. On both occasions, I was greeted promptly and politely and within 20 minutes they had the tires fixed at great prices and me back on my way. Keep up the great work!