Starting a business is an exciting time, but it can also feel quite daunting. Although Hamilton can feel small at times, when you’re not sure how to start your business it’s easy to feel lost in the city. Don’t worry; you’re in a good place, as the overwhelming majority of CoMotion members have been down the same path and are more than happy to give you some guidance.
Decide the Legal Form the Business Will Take
There are three types of business organizations to choose from:
- Sole Proprietorship
Each has their own specific benefits and drawbacks. Typically a small business starts out as a Sole Proprietorship due to the ease of registration and minimal costs; however the same could be said for a Partnership, which is when two or more individuals carry on a business. A corporation is a little more of a complex structure and typically costs more to set up; however, we’d suggest contacting your accountant or business lawyer to inquire which type of organization is right for you.
Visit the Service Ontario website to register a business name & learn more about business registration
Build a Business Plan
Business plans are incredibly useful when built correctly, but are a real danger when done poorly or forgotten about! A solid business plan is also critical when looking to attract investors, or when approaching financial institutions for business loans or other forms of financing, such as grants.
There are a number of ways to build a business plan, including the classic ‘napkin plan’. There are also a number of online business plan solutions that make planning much easier, including templates and industry-specific plans that can give you a head start or help you make your business plan. A few of the popular ones are Liveplan and Enloop. Search around a bit and find what’s best for your specific needs.
There is much debate about what the key elements of a business plan are. Since each business is unique, every plan will differ, however, investors and financial institutions will have their own key areas in which they weigh the merits of a plan. A safe breakdown of components would be to include the following in your plan:
- Executive Summary
- Business Description
- Market Analysis
- Organization Management
- Sales Strategies
- Funding Requirements
- Financial Projections
Remember; don’t forget about your plan once your business is launched and running. Treat it as a road map that you should reflect on during the operation of your business, and either adjust your operations or adjust your plan accordingly!
Choosing A Location
For small businesses and many start-ups, the first official location is a home office, or in the case of e-commerce giant Amazon, a home garage. Although this is often the cheapest solution to the location need of a business, it will quickly become a burden to the growth of a business. Entrepreneurs and Freelancers need a professional work environment to meet potential clients, but also need it to help break the barrier between work and home life. Many members of CoMotion started their businesses from their home but quickly realized how isolating and demotivating running a business from home can be. CoMotion is a perfect location for Small Businesses or Freelancers to get the affordable professional office space needed to impress potential clients, network with like-minded professionals, and feel motivated every single day.
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Market Your Business
How will all your future customers know where to find you? You may already have great looking business cards, a few brochures, and your company branded pens that you had to add to your cart when ordering your business cards online because they were a great deal! You need a way to market your business and get your name out there in the public eye. The easiest and fastest way is a no-brainer; build your company website.
A word of caution! Although it’s tempting to take the cheapest route (such as a free website or a website on a popular web builder such as WIX), it actually may cost you much more than getting a site built by a professional. Think of all the times you’ve searched for something and visited a website, only to see a terrible website that you quickly hit the browser’s ‘back button’. Imagine meeting a potential client who’s excited to work with you, or buy from you, only to visit your website and change their mind. Take the time to invest in a quality website, it will make your business better in the long run!
Another cost-effective way to market your business (depending on your industry) is to get a company presence on industry appropriate Social Media channels, however; social media is a conversation and not a platform for spamming! Be sure to have relevant, quality content for your audience to read, watch, share, and engage with. Start small, ramp it up when you can, and stick to your business plan or modify it as necessary.
Like it or not, when you start your own business you are becoming a full-time salesperson. Selling is not as simple as just selling your product or service, it’s about selling yourself, your vision, your business, and finally your product or service. The selling process is not just about cold-calling or knocking on doors, it’s built around real relationships and professional networks. Start attending networking events around Hamilton, such as the Generation Z Hamilton Networking Events. The more people you engage with and make genuine connections with, the larger your network will grow, and better your chances of being able to connect with the right people at the right time. Remember, opportunities don’t wait; do your homework so that when opportunity knocks you have the tools and a plan to take full advantage of it.
*This article is not intended to replace professional business advice and planning. Always contact professionals regarding any business advice, financials, planning, operations, and/or management.