Canada is a nation of small business owners. At the end of 2017, 97.9% of all Canadian businesses were small businesses, employing 8.3 million Canadians, or 69.7% of the total Canadian private labour force.

Ontario has the highest concentration of small employer businesses in Canada, so if it’s your dream to start your own business, you’ll be in good company. What’s more, 55% of small businesses employ less than four employees, so you can start small and grow.

Plan for success

The key to starting any new business is planning. As the saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” 80% of businesses fail in their first five years. Every year between 2010 and 2015, an average of 95,000 businesses were created annually, but 85,000 disappeared.

At Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, we’ve seen our fair share of businesses come and go. We know that starting a new business can be daunting on your own. Your Chamber is here to help you succeed and become part of our thriving and progressive business community in Woodstock.

Here’s our top ten questions you should ask yourself before starting your new business.

1. Do I have a brilliant business idea?

If you do, fantastic. Think about how exactly how you might turn that idea into a viable / profitable business that you love. Check that your unique business idea really is unique, that there are not too many competitors in your marketplace, and that there is a big enough market for your goods or services to support a business (and you). You don’t actually need a unique business idea to succeed. You might look at buying an existing business and giving it your own twist, such as turning an existing coffee shop into a vegan café.

2. Do I need a business plan?

The answer to this question is YES! A business plan will focus your mind on the shape and form of your business, and how it looks in the first year and and in the future. Be realistic, practical, and start from the beginning of the whole process. Add in milestones and a a timeline so you can assess your progress more easily. There are plenty of business plan templates available online; just choose a plan that’s the best fit for your business, and adapt it to your needs. Your business plan doesn’t need to be long, but it does need to be in place before you do anything else. Remember too to plan how you will attract, serve and retain customers longterm. Many start-up businesses think this is ‘marketing’ and don’t include it. Marketing is one method of fulfilling your business plan – a business goal is to attract customers.

3. How do I choose a business name?

The name of your business is remarkably important. According to The Balance magazine, it needs to:

“- Appeal to your target market

  • Fit your particular business and/or industry
  • Work well with your chosen marketing methods
  • Stand out from the competition
  • Be appropriate for the form of business you have chosen”

Remember, you can’t add “Ltd” or similar to a business name unless it is incorporated (see below). For more great advice on business names, see the full article here.

4. Do I need to register my business name?

The regulations do vary. If your business name is just your legal name with no additions (i.e. John Smith), you do not need to register it. However, if you attach anything to that name, e.g. John Smith Plumbing Services, then you need to register the business name. Also, your business name needs to be acceptable to Companies Branch for Ontario, the body that oversees registrations. You can register a name that’s already used by another business, even accidentally. So it’s important to do your own research on existing business names to avoid confusion, or use a service such as:

5. What type of business should I start?

in Canada, there are four main types of business you can start:

  • sole proprietorship
  • partnership
  • corporation
  • cooperative

If it’s just you working in the business for now, sole proprietorship could be right for you. if you plan to expand, rent premises, or employ staff, you should look at becoming a corporation. Do your research to avoid burdening yourself with unnecessary administration for a one person business, or constraining your activities as your company grows.

6. Do I have sufficient finance and resources?

Starting a business from scratch can be expensive. You may need to rent a workshop or an office, employ staff, or buy a vehicle. You might need to buy new equipment for the office, or specialist machinery to make your goods. You’ll also need sufficient funds for marketing and promotion, and realistic cash reserves to tie you over until the first invoices are paid. Opstart website suggests:

“Plan on it taking at least 3-6 months before you start to see a profit. For some businesses, it might take even longer. Many people keep their jobs while they are starting their own business. That way, there’s a guaranteed paycheque to help them while they’re starting out.”

7. Do I need to hire help?

You may not need to employ people straight away, but you’ll probably want some help doing tasks that you don’t have the skills for, from fitting out a high street store to completing tax returns and filing business accounts. You may also need some marketing advice or help with finding suitable premises.

Your local Chamber of Commerce will be able to help with advice and names of local officials to help you. You’ll also need to check which permits and licences you might require to operate – check via BizPal

8. Do I need a website?

Whatever your business, it will certainly benefit from an online presence. This usually means a website that gives an outline of what your company does, what you offer, and why people should choose your business over others. If you’re a bricks and mortar business, an online presence will help establish you in the local community and can also ensure you’re found in local searches on cell phones.

Don’t build a website yourself unless that’s what your new business will be, and make sure you have your own domain attached, e.g. www.yourbusinessname.ca. Also get onto social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google My Business to spread the word about your new business.

9. Who do I know that can help me?

Not everyone has business connections. if you’re starting a business for the first time, or have limited working experience, it can be very daunting without some support and assistance. This is where business networking really can help. You can meet other business owners and talk to them about their experiences.

You can also find out which businesses they use locally for their essential business services, such as suppliers, legal advice or vehicles dealerships. Also join local Facebook Groups – members are always happy to give recommendations and they may allow you to (gently) promote your business too.

As your local Chamber of Commerce, we can also help with advice on starting a new business here in Woodstock, and point you towards resources and help you may not even have known was available. Call us – we’re happy to help even before you have a business name!

10. What else do I need to know?

Every new business has different requirements but they all initially depend on one person – you. So, make sure you look after yourself during those first few exciting months. Eat healthily, allow time to rest and sleep, and maintain a good work/life balance.

Ensure you have quality family time, enjoy your social life and keep up your hobbies and sports. That way, you maintain a balanced view of life that isn’t all about all work, and have the energy and concentration when you are working. A good work/life balance actually makes you a better business owner too, because you’re grounded in reality and your community.

For other tips on starting a business, see what the Dragon’s Den experts say in our blog.

So, we look forward to seeing you at a Woodstock Chamber Business After Five networking meeting, at our office to discuss help with your exciting plans, or on the golf course!