Starting a business can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. Being your own boss, building something from the ground up, and watching it succeed are no doubt huge accomplishments. However, building a business takes a lot more than just a great idea. Without properly thinking through and developing that idea, you’ll end up falling flat on your face before you know it.
At Futurpreneur Canada, we like to ensure that all entrepreneurs that go through our program aren’t just getting the financing they need to start, but also the tools they’ll need to succeed, launch, and grow their business. Through our comprehensive business planning, to ensuring their cash flow makes sense and pairing them with a business mentor once they’ve received their financing, we know a thing or two about what aspiring entrepreneurs need to think about before they open up shop.
Research is key
One of the most important things to do before you start a business is to do some comprehensive research on your competition and your target audience. It’s important to show that you not only have a great idea, but an idea that has a unique selling point, too. What makes your service or product different? Why is there a demand for something like what you’re offering? Or is there? Research will help expand your knowledge of your customers and the competitive landscape. It will also help you make educated decisions when moving forward with other aspects of starting your business.
Tip: Researching should never stop, even after you’ve launched. Constantly look for ways to improve to keep your customers happy and coming back for more.
Plan, plan, and plan some more
You may have a fabulous business idea that you are convinced will succeed, but jumping in head-first without thinking it through will only end up with you running your idea into the ground. A business plan will help you map out the details of your business, and is a key document, not just when starting out, but also throughout your entrepreneurial career. The primary purpose is to define what your business is or will be, and to clarify the purpose and direction of where you see it going. It will also outline your vision, research you’ve conducted to support your concept, sales and marketing strategies, and break down details about your operations and financials.
Not only will a business plan help guide you in your journey, but it will also help you attract financing, because let’s face it, financiers want to see more than just an idea on a napkin.
Tip: Futurpreneur has a great interactive business plan writer that you can use for free.
Make sure you’re covered
There are a lot of legal obligations that come with starting your own business. As much as it would be great to just pick a name and open up shop, that’s not how it works. From determining what you need to trademark for your business, to making sure you have all aspects covered in case you run into trouble, it’s important to think through everything from a legal mindset before it’s too late. There is a stereotype that you only seek legal advice when you’re in trouble, but by accessing it when you’re getting started, you’ll prevent this trouble from happening or be ready for when/if it does. A professional will help you understand the regulations, licences, and taxes you will need to follow, obtain, and pay as a business, which are all important in starting out on the right foot.
Tip: A franchise lawyer is an asset for anyone looking to franchise their business, as they can help with the legal aspects of franchising, including trademarks, franchise agreements, disclosure documents, and more.
Get your finances in check
One of the more common issues that many entrepreneurs struggle with is numbers. Numbers aren’t everyone’s strong suit, but are obviously an important aspect of any business, especially a new one trying to stay afloat. While planning for the launch of your business, build out your cash flow. Your cash flow should include start-up costs like insurance, office furnishings, building a website, legal fees, etc. It should also include a sales forecast, where you’ll make educated assumptions of how much you’ll charge, seasonal variations, major initiatives, etc. and how they relate to your monthly sales figures. Your cash flow will show the money that enters and leaves your bank account on a monthly basis, and give you a better idea of your finances. Don’t forget to think about how much you’ll need to live, too!
Tip: Futurpreneur has an easy-to-use cash flow template you can download.
You can’t do it alone
Starting a business can have you being pulled in a million different directions, pulling all-nighters, and losing sight of why you even started in the first place. Being an entrepreneur is a hard job; it takes hard work, dedication, and a willingness to know when to ask for help, because you can’t do it all on your own. Eventually, you’ll learn that there are aspects of your business that aren’t your specialty, or you’ll learn that you just don’t have the ability to physically do it all by yourself. Remember, asking for help isn’t a bad thing. In fact, when you finally do, you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Get yourself a mentor
A mentor can be one of your most valuable business assets. It’s proven that small business owners with a mentor statistically succeed longer than the average business. A mentor can provide valuable business advice from their own personal experience, and can be a second set of ears and voice of reason when you need it. By having someone that you can regularly check in and meet with, you’ll hold yourself accountable for different aspects of your business that you otherwise may let slip to the sidelines.
Tip: Futurpreneur matches all entrepreneurs that are part of their start-up program with a mentor for up to two years. The Canadian Franchise Association (CFA) also provides a Zor-2-Zor Member Program for its members.
So you have a great idea or think entrepreneurship might be for you? That’s great! Entrepreneurs are a strong part of what shapes Canada into the fantastic country it is today. They help create jobs, build our economy, and make us love the cities and towns we live in. Now that you know some of the things you need to think through once you have your “big idea,” we hope we’ve set you on the right foot for getting started.
How can I find the right franchise experts?
If you’re looking to franchise your business, you’ll want to consult experts with experience in franchising, such as a franchise lawyer, accountant, and consultant, among others. These professionals can provide guidance and advice about many of the elements required to franchise your business.
CFA’s online Member Directory features support services and suppliers in 18 business sectors and disciplines. As CFA members, these professionals and organizations have expertise in franchising, providing their services specifically for franchisors and franchisees.
Futurpreneur Canada has been fuelling the entrepreneurial passions of enterprising young Canadians since 1996. It’s the only national, non-profit organization that provides financing, mentoring, and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18-39 – 10,000 to date. The internationally recognized mentoring program matches young entrepreneurs with a business expert from a network of almost 3,000 volunteer mentors.
By Lauren Marinigh