Spark Consulting

Tips And Insights On Starting A Small Business

Join us (@spark_biz) and a panel of small business experts for the #RBCSmallBiz chat, on October 22 at 9 pm, EST, on Twitter. Get answers to your most pressing questions about starting a small business. Canadian participants will also get a chance to win RBC Visa Gift Cards! With millions of small business owners in Canada, a number which is rapidly growing, it seems that entrepreneurship is the new black. It makes sense: Huge numbers of people are looking for more flexibility in their work life balance and a chance to take charge of their own careers. Regrettably, the statistics of failing businesses can be just as impressive. And while there’s never a guarantee for success in business, there are some great strategies for putting your best foot forward. • Budget beyond the business. Everyone knows that they need to calculate what they’ll need to open the doors for their new venture. What sometimes gets forgotten is the budget for living in the early days of business. Before making the leap into entrepreneurship, estimate how long it will be before you can draw a salary. Now double it, just for good measure. Then, figure out how much you will need for living expenses during this time to determine how much you need to set aside. Finally, make a plan for getting by if the budget or line of credit runs out. Many entrepreneurs make a plan with their spouse or relative to carry the load, while others save their pennies ahead of time. • Plan to get the word out. We’re always surprised when budding entrepreneurs tell us they are planning to market their new business via word of mouth. It’s a great idea – it’s free and can be effective, after all. The bad news is that word of mouth only works once you have a critical mass of mouths. There is no way around the fact that you will most likely have to spend money to acquire customers. In our experience, you have to try a good handful of marketing ideas before you see what will work best for you. A great place to start is to look at what other businesses are doing. Before you throw open your doors, consider your options and the associated costs and timing for spreading the word. • Try testing the waters. In the early days it’s okay to experiment, but always maintain your focus. Before you hang out your shingle you’ll know what it is you want to sell. But it’s often the case that your customers want something a little different. When you’re first starting out you’ll need to hustle and accommodate various demands. It’s a great process – it gets money rolling in the door and it also helps you to determine where you can really shine in a competitive marketplace. At some point, sooner rather than later hopefully, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what your business does. That way, you can focus your marketing on your ideal customers (?). Of course smart entrepreneurs always remain nimble and aware of opportunities, but they also have a clear sense of what they do best. • Ask for help. The smartest people are the ones who can identify what they don’t know and have the confidence to ask people who do. In your entrepreneurial travels you should be asking for help, support and advice from suppliers, colleagues, friends and family and other smart people you know. If you are straightforward and reasonable with your requests, you’ll be amazed at how many people will give you 30 minutes of their time. The worst someone can do is refuse to help you, in which case you are certainly no worse off, and in the best case, you can tap into some great resources. Starting a small business is an incredibly stimulating and invigorating experience. While it can be a roller coaster of a ride, there is a great satisfaction from being in the driver’s seat. As you get ready to go, be aware of the bumps that may lie ahead. Good luck and safe travels! This post content is sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, however the views and opinions expressed herein represent my own and not those of Royal Bank of Canada or any other party and do not constitute financial, legal or other advice.

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